Likely visitors to cultural organizations generally appreciate good food and unique dining and beverage experiences. Here are five fun facts about these cultural organization-attending foodies, and why they matter.
At IMPACTS, we have a lot of data about the preferences and behaviors of people who have interest in visiting cultural organizations. We know some strange things – like that the kind of person who owns a horse for amateur use is 12x more likely to be a cultural organization visitor than the average American. We also know some things that are not likely to surprise cultural executives at all – like that people who have visited any cultural organization in the last two years are 3.1x more likely than the average American to have a college degree. We know that people generally trust museums whether they visit them or not, folks who visited as children with their families are more likely to be adult attendees, and audiences use the internet as a primary source of information. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Folks often ask us what current and inactive visitors like to do in their leisure time, and one preference keeps standing out in our research:
They’re foodies! Or at least, they generally enjoy food and beverages.
Active visitors are folks who have visited any kind of cultural organization within the last two years. Inactive visitors have interest in visiting cultural entities but have not done so in the last two years. Here are some fun facts about active and inactive visitors to cultural organizations when it comes to food. And while they are fun facts (in our nerdy opinion), they may have some critical implications for cultural leaders to digest if they’re looking to entice and satisfy visitors. (Pun intended.)
1) Likely visitors to cultural organizations are 2.5x more likely to appreciate fine dining compared to the average American.
This finding includes both active visitors who have attended a cultural organization in the last two years, as well as inactive visitors who are likely to attend but have not done so in the last two years. In short, folks with an interest in cultural organizations appreciate fine dining.
2) Recent visitors eat out of home more than 2x/week.
One of the most shared characteristics among people who have visited any kind of cultural organization in the last two years – from a historic site to a theater performance to an art museum – is that they dine out of home more than twice each week. These folks go out to eat, and that means that these folks are choosing to spend money on food and/or drinks.
3) 60.8% of recent visitors are “very interested” in food and wine as a preferred leisure activity.
We regularly ask folks what they like to do in their leisure time via open-ended questions. We don’t tell them to choose from a list. Instead, we just ask them what they are very interested in doing in their free time… and 60.8% of active visitors in the US explicitly say something related to food and/or wine and beverage experiences. This is one of the most popular answers alongside going the movies or a sporting event! (A top indicator that someone may be the kind of person to attend a cultural organization? They choose to leave their homes for fun. Increasingly, not everyone does.)
4) 69.9% of inactive visitors say that they are “very interested” in food and wine as a preferred leisure activity.
Okay, okay. You probably already know quite a bit about current and recent visitors from your own audience research. But what about broader market research which includes people who have interest in visiting cultural organizations – or are similar to those who do in important ways such as educational attainment – but have not visited recently? At IMPACTS, we call these folks inactive visitors, and they are our pathway for engaging new audiences and changing up the “type of person” who visits cultural organizations. Nearly 70% of them are very interested in food and wine as a preferred leisure activity. This is a high percentage and a big deal! In fact, being “very interested” in food and wine is the single most popular answer regarding preferred leisure activities among inactive visitors.
5) Inactive visitors to cultural organizations eat out of home 3x/week.
While current visitors are an active bunch, inactive visitors are even more active! They leave their homes even more often, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, these folks eat out even more often than current visitors. They are actively choosing to spend their money on food and beverage experiences. The top reason inactive visitors do not attend cultural organizations isn’t that they don’t want to – it’s that time is precious, and they simply prefer an alternative activity. These folks are eating out of home, and they are doing so even more frequently than current visitors.
6) “Unique dining” is a top factor in determining where inactive visitors spend their time.
For someone to visit a cultural organization, they need to venture into the city in which the cultural organization is located. For someone to decide to go to the National Aquarium, for example, they must also decide to go to Baltimore. Research shows cultural organizations are not strong destination motivators in and of themselves. Their surrounding environment matters when it comes to motivating a visit. In other words, visiting a specific museum isn’t generally a sole motivating factor in determining where someone will spend their time. They may also care, for example, about the friends and family they have in the area, the desire to visit a certain major metro, its proximity to the waterfront, and the ability to take part in outdoor activities. (Maybe a certain museum is your primary motivator for visiting a specific city on the whole. My near-exclusive motivator for vacationing in Spain last week was to visit the Museo del Prado and I don’t regret it. That said, fellow culture fiends, we do not represent the average person). For inactive visitors, “unique dining” is the third biggest motivator for travel destination after visiting a major city they’d like to see and visiting friends or family in the area. A notable 39.9% of inactive visitors stated that unique dining experiences played a role in motivating their decision to visit a specific area.
More than just fun facts…
Knowing information about current and potential audiences – such as their interests in food and wine and/or unique dining experiences – can inform program development, strategic ongoing operations, and changes in internal culture. Understanding that food and beverage experiences are generally of interest to visitors also aids in the creation of partnerships – not only for specific programs or ongoing onsite offerings but also for leveraging your organization’s macroenvironment. Making folks aware that there are unique food and beverage offerings around your organization may play a meaningful role in motivating visitation. Your cultural organization is not likely to be the only part of the experience. If someone is going into the city and will be visiting the museum, for instance, what will they do afterward? Will they eat lunch or dinner? Where? Where will they park? These are all important parts of the visitation decision-making process. People generally need to eat. Current and inactive visitors generally like eating tasty things. Understanding this may inform how entities help potential visitors plan for a great experience.
Remember, though, there are no magic bullets. If people aren’t interested in the content of your experience, then “dressing up” a program by serving local craft beer may not change their minds. We sometimes see this misunderstanding come into play in the development of after-hours events for millennials. Some leaders may want to believe a fun theme + cocktails + after hours = millennial engagement forever and ever without a second thought to long-term strategy. This approach can overlook the fact that in order to secure long-term support, the content and how the event is approached matter. It’s beneficial to remember that just having an event isn’t always enough to motivate attendance on its own. It must also be appropriately conceptualized, programmed, marketed, and targeted to be most successful.
A key to motivating attendance and satisfying attendees is understanding their motivations, interests, and expectations. Research shows that likely visitors are generally interested in good or unique food and beverage experiences. Our charge is to leverage this information to help audiences enjoy the unique and meaningful experiences we provide.
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