There are foodies in every demographic group and they eat in all food service segments - from casual dining to quick-service and even convenience stores, according to new study of foodies conducted by the Culinary Visions Panel. What makes them unique is their culinary adventurism.

In a recent Foodservice Radio interview, Sharon Olson, Executive Director of the Culinary Visions Panel shared key findings of their study with over 2,000 food service consumers.

"We define foodies by their behavior as opposed to what they are simply interested in. We all love food, we talk about it all the time," says Olson. "But the thing we thought would be really meaningful to food marketers was defining foodies by those who tell us that they always or often want to try something new."

What are foodies looking for on the menu? "It differs from segment to segment," Olson states. "So using casual dining as an example, the first things they look for are quality and homemade taste. Price is the third thing. When you look at the mainstream consumer, price is their number one issue. Foodies are going to look for something new on the menu, something that looks delicious, or something that is interesting."

One interesting finding from the study is that foodies are attracted to a different flavor palate. Of the basic flavors, they liked flavors that were sour, bitter and umami, compared to the mainstream consumers who preferred flavors that were sweet and salty.

Foodies are important to a restaurant because of their influence "The mainstream consumer is influenced by the foodie in many cases. The power and influence of the foodie carries well beyond their personal choices," says Olson. "In one sense, they are the best customer. If you have a limited time offer or if you have a special, that's who you are going to appeal to. By the same token, if you are looking to engender loyalty, they are always looking to try something new. They are captivating and a challenge, both at the same time."

Successful restaurants need to strike a balance when it comes to creating items that attract foodies. According to Olson, "It's a matter of putting something on your menu that is interesting enough to captivate a foodie but isn't going to scare away the mainstream consumer. We have found in some of the concept testing we have done, if you take an ingredient that is universally popular like chocolate and you give it bitter notes, like a dark chocolate or an espresso chocolate, it will score amazingly high with both foodies and mainstream consumers."

In conclusion, Olson suggests giving foodies special attention. "One of the things restaurateurs will do is if they're testing a new item is create a small batch and asked the foodie to try the item. They will get excited, feel like they're part of the process, and you'll probably get some really good feedback. Other ways to engage foodies is to give them your e-mail address and asked them to write you about their experience."

For more information on the Culinary Vision Panel, visit www.culinaryvisions.org.

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