How Gastronomy Impacts Place Branding

How important is the gastronomic offering of a place in attracting tourism and new residents looking to relocate?

We offered our panel of place branding specialists a chance to ask any question to their colleagues in the panel, and Gunter Soydanbay has picked this topic that is dear to us all.

Among the many attributes worthy of choosing a city or country for visiting or relocating, food is one of the many drivers influencing decisions. Food has a lot of sway over people. It has the ability to rekindle memories, and places can bank on this advantage to attract people.

Many cities use this cultural capital in their branding strategy to attract food lovers as well as aficionados to indulge and make the most of what the place has to offer.

Below are the key takeaways of what our panel of place brand specialists feel about gastronomy and place branding (highlighted respondents are available for consulting, research, or as speakers).

Our key takeaways:

  • Food cements the image of a place with happy memories and is hence a positive force for the place
  • Most gastronomy rankings tend to have a Western bias
  • Food transcends borders and is seen as a unifying element and not competitive

Highlighted answer – editor’s pick:

Hila Oren

Israel | On the one hand, food is truly the most basic universal language. You don’t need any skills or prior knowledge to experience and enjoy (or dislike) it; just let your senses do the work. Yet, at the same time, food is always very much rooted in its origins. From the national food to what our parents made us when we were children, food always tells a story passed down for generations.

Food, and the gastronomical experience, give us a sense of place – connecting us through the senses. Food creates memories, be it the new hottest spot in town with an international staff, or the oldest traditional restaurant in the city, with a rude, yelling owner. Those memories are at times stronger than any visit to a city monument, creating a real connection to the city and its people.

Efe Sevin

Researcher profile

USA | Let me just pick two points that I make every now and then from a critical perspective. Gastronomy is good, people travel for food. But still, there is a structural element to it. A Fettuccine ai Frutti di Mare is a luxury plate that can get upwards of $40, whereas Jjamppong cannot.

First point, the existing “rankings” of place brands are reflected in how we approach the foods coming from other countries. There are also the global rankings of foods – like the Michelin star system that tells people to go to places. This particular system is heavily biased towards French / European cooking techniques.

So the second point, we also have gastronomy-based rankings that value Western gastronomy over others.

Natasha Grand

Natasha Grand

Speaker profile

UK | Gastronomy is a superb vehicle for expressing place identity. Quiet places have subtle food; boisterous places have lavish food. We work with local chefs (and external if needed) to create signature place recipes, which apart from everything else is enormous fun.

Robert Govers panel

Robert Govers

Advisor / Speaker / Researcher

Belgium | Food is an important ingredient of place brand initiatives – like any other aspect of identity.

Sebastian Zenker panel

Sebastian Zenker

Researcher profile

Denmark | In many place brands, local cuisine is a part of the brand (for example in Copenhagen). But of course, there needs to be a relevant offer in this regard.

Ed Burghard

USA | Anything that can create a positive experience, consistent with your place brand promise, is a good thing. Gastronomy is certainly an area that impacts both residents and visitors. The better the food experience, the stronger a positive association is made with the place. Gastronomy experiences will have the greatest impact on people who are considered “foodies”. Efforts in this area should be preferentially targeted to that population.

Stella Kladou

Turkey | Gastronomy can be the base for cross-border cooperation for place branding – by nature, it extends beyond national borders.

Previous questions answered by the panel here.

More on gastronomy and how it can be used in place branding in our interview with Joxe Mari Aizega of the Basque Culinary Center.

Enjoyed this snapshot of expert views on how gastronomy impacts place branding? Thanks for sharing!


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