Lord knows I understand that marketing is about responding to stereotypes because “data shows a certain group of people will always act a certain way.” The thing about good marketing is that you’re not supposed to admit to those terrible stereotypes; you’re supposed to find a way to stereotype without being a complete fucking asshole.
In this week’s City Pages, a local restaurant consultant named Jonathan Locke comments on “the Veto Vote” or the “picky eater” in the construction of a restaurant’s menu, and it turns out that this “picky eater” is the lady— the woman in the party, in general.
Locke explains that restaurants often can make concessions to the “veto vote”—the picky, hard-to-please diner in nearly every party who will rule a place out before setting foot through the door—as long as they don’t go too far and alienate their core customers. He uses the example of one of his early clients, Buffalo Wild Wings. When the local chain got its start, the restaurants were all about dude food—even the management referred to it as “gut luggage”—being inhaled by a demographic of young men ages 25 to 35. But they were losing business when the guys’ wives and girlfriends weren’t able to find things they wanted to order. So Wild Wings now serves five types of chicken-topped salads and a list of what they dub “You deserve it” desserts.
Locke explains what he calls the “lady food” logic, which pairs lighter, smaller-portioned items such as entrée salads, fish, and chicken breasts with voluptuous, high-fat desserts. “Because a lot of your customer base is going to order something really disciplined for their entrées simply because they’re looking for that dessert, and they won’t be able to reward themselves otherwise,” he says.
SEE LADIES BE ALL LIKE EATING CHICKEN AND FISH SALADS BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO GET FAT BUT REALLY THEY DO BECAUSE THEY LOOOOOVVVVEEEE DESSERTS. YOU DESERVE IT, GIRLFRIEND.
Usually I’m better at channeling my annoyance beyond sarcastic capital letters, but the article’s author, Rachel Hutton, chose to print that fine example (without commentary? do you really eat grilled chicken and fish and desserts every time you go out, Rachel?) as the sole example of the picky eater. I understand they’re not saying “all women” and just the “lady” stereotype, but there are better words for it, like “the person in the party who doesn’t want to eat chicken wings because it could be a man or a woman.” And, you know, keeping the “lady” wording wouldn’t be so terrible except:
But, Locke cautions, a restaurant like Wild Wings doesn’t want to court women diners so hard that the guys won’t come in. “You need to appeal to as broad a swath of potential customers as possible, while still maintaining a lean and distinct identity,” he says.
So you are, actually, talking about all women and not just “ladies” and controlling them on your menu via grilled chicken salads. You are saying that you can manipulate the number of female diners in your restaurant by featuring “you deserve it” desserts. Because women are such picky eaters that they go for chocolate every time (ack!).
And men are such awful, wing-eating pigs that they don’t go to places where there are a lot of women because god forbid you dip a celery stick into blue cheese right next to a table of single ladies having cosmos. Buffalo Wild Wings’ diners are so frightened of being emasculated that they would never go into a restaurant with too many women!
It would have been so easy to make a point about picky eaters without including the gender stereotype, but Locke and City Pages ran with it and now if I ever step into a Buffalo Wild Wings (I won’t) I will wonder if I am too many women for the guys.
Fightwithknives hits it out of the park with this one.