Back in 2002 (yeah, that was a long time ago), Richard Florida wrote about The Rise of the Creative Class.
“The author estimates that this group has 38 million members, constitutes more than 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, and profoundly influences work and lifestyle issues.”
— Mary Whaley, Booklist
We consistently hear from brands and big business the merit of tapping into the Creative Class as a way to engage with their target consumer. While I think there is validity to this tactic — and a shout out to all of those working tirelessly to pursue their creative ventures — I’m here to talk about the reasons why the Creative Class matters for growing and scaling your food business. In this assessment, I am particularly focusing on the food and beverage scene of Washington, D.C.
Obama, what have you done?
“In 2011, nearly 67 percent of people who moved to the city within the past year were ages 18 to 34, up from 57 percent in 2005.”
Over the past decade in which I’ve lived in D.C., I’ve seen a sizeable cultural shift in the fabric of this community. I first starting noticing the change when I worked for the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration in 2010, and began encountering food industry professionals who I now refer to as “neighborhood change agents” (here’s looking at you, Paul Ruppert and Brian Miller). I’ve defined a neighborhood change agent as someone who enters into a pocket of a city (“micro-community”) and completely alters that microcosm by opening a community-oriented locale, such as a bar/restaurant/club.
So why headline this section noting Obama? It is clear that his administration is filled with young millennials who moved into the city in droves.
In prior administrations, people lived outside of D.C. and transitioned out of this town every 2-4 years with Congressional and Presidential cycles. Since Obama, however, people have taken root in D.C. proper fostering a new culture in D.C. Why? Because with more DINKs (dual income no kids) and HENRYs (high earning not rich yet) moving into the city, there is more money to be spent on cultural activities such as dining, drinking, theater, etc. Greater disposable income has fueled dining cultures and D.C., over the past decade, has seen an influx of money spent locally.
But, what does this Creative Class have to do with… what’d you say, DINKs?
I’m a big believer that the reason New York City and Los Angeles had a leg up on D.C.’s food scene for quite some time has to do with the amount of Creatives inhabiting said-cities.
Think about it. Creative Hustle + Flexibility in Work Days = Perfect Storm for Food Industry
New York and Los Angeles are chalk-full with creative types (actors, artists, etc). These artists, while pursuing their own dreams of Broadway or Hollywood, enter into the food and beverage industry as a way to make money in the interim. You need these Creatives in order to staff your food operations, but it’s not that easy…
Why not? Don’t people need jobs?
Because the Creative Class is particular about the communities they join. Millennials in general are brand-loyal, so it’s increasingly important for you as a food business owner to define your “why” and your core values from the get-go. People want to work for businesses they believe in. You may think that you have a pool of people to choose from to staff your food operation, but to attract people who will grow your business by exuding the hospitality you desire, it’s important to create and communicate a culture that one can buy into and feel as though there is mission-alignment.
If you have team members that culturally match the type of target customer you’re attracting, then you’re bound to create a stable base of repeat customers because of the team member/customer alignment. Once you have a solid base of repeat customers, there’s opportunity for growth and scaling.
At Cure[ate], we work with food and beverage business owners on how to define their “why” and how to create systems for attracting customers and team members that align with your core values. The Cure[ate] team see this as an unshakeable part of your business foundation — so much so, that the first class for our year-long educational curriculum for food entrepreneurs in Baltimore begins with a “Defining Your Mission” workshop.
We’ve also been working with Beefsteak, the latest José Andrés fast casual concept, on this exact premise. We want to work with you to define your mission and core values, and show you how this will seep into every part of your business growth from hiring to customer acquisition.