Who would have thought that experiential dining in Northern Norway would be a case study in regional branding?
The turn of the century marked a new era of the experience economy and has been especially interesting for those in the field of marketing research. An example of an industry that relies heavily on personal experiences is the tourism industry. The myriad of tourism-based activities from nature explorations, festivals, shopping, and local dining, have the capacity to cater to both local (domestic) and international travellers. 1
I discuss how a seafood dining event offered to both tourists and locals, in the Arctic city of Tromsø in Northern Norway, is studied and used in illustration of how home-bias or home-preferences can be cultivated through the innovative use of nature-based contexts and short food supply chains (SFSC).
An important characteristic of the experience economy is a service dominant logic (SDL) that introduces a new way for synthesising exchange and value creation in markets. In a process that characterises experiential marketing, customers are viewed as a resource and as co-creators of all socio-economic exchanges. Research in the experience economy has grown considerably in the past two decades 2-4 and a five-dimension framework distilled from current experiential marketing literature is used as framework of analysis of how entrepreneur chefs can create product-service value for their customers and help seed home-bias seafood dining experiences through regional branding and using SFSCs.
The findings are based on a qualitative analysis of personal interviews conducted with chefs who are also entrepreneurs in Northern Norway. Entrepreneur chefs have been acknowledged to be key actors in culinary movements, seeding home-bias for local food ingredients and eating local, particularly in the New Nordic Cuisine (NNC) context. 5
The Unique Maritime Setting
Boats are a coastal Nordic lifestyle. One respondent described how he decided to invest in a sturdily constructed double-ribbed passenger ferry built in 1954. He also described how he drew in his customers into a “bubble of a dining experience” by sharing narratives and stories about the boat of how it was used during the 1960s as a passenger ferry to service the coast of Møre in Western Norway. Drawing upon regional history and heritage, he explains how the name ‘Møre’ literally means ‘coastland’ in Old Norse. The region is known for its shipping and shipbuilding industry reflected in its regional symbol. Our respondent’s experiential marketing strategy seems supported by other scholars who have studied the use of storytelling in destination branding. 6
The Personal Narrative of the Entrepreneur Chef
Many respondents related how they took responsibility in creating authentic dining experience by sharing their own personal narrative and journey as Chef de Cuisine. One respondent for example, was born in the coastal town of Stenungsund along the west coast of Sweden. He leverages on his Swedish heritage by speaking Swedish to his guests and relating similarities and differences between the southern west coast of Sweden and Northern Norway.
Leveraging Short Food Supply Chains
“I think there will be greater focus on local food in the future, as well as the use of cleaner ingredients;
organic and green.”—Norwegian Chef One
Eating in season, kortreist (regionally sourced) food characterises the cuisine of Northern Norway. What is served in restaurant menus changes with availability. As far as possible, raw produce is sourced locally and is a prime example of seeding interest in both locals and tourists for a home-based dining experience. Fresh caught migrating cod, or skrei (Gadus morhua) for example is a seasonal dish. Skrei can be sustainably caught between winter and spring each year in the traditional spawning grounds that line Norway’s coast. Every part of the cod is used while preparing the food, from head to tongue and liver. The traditional manner of cooking skrei is to steam or broil. As one chef explained, the broiled cod is served plain, with a side of cod roe and cod tongue.
The idea of “zero waste” extends to the use of locally sourced vegetables. As one chef related on the use of potatoes sourced from a regional farmer: “You have to make sure that you use the whole raw material so that nothing goes to waste. Take, for example, a potato. First you could cut out the potato in a round shape, boil them, and serve them as boiled potatoes. From the odd cuts, you can make mashed potatoes. Finally, from the thinly sliced potato peels, you could make the potato chips. Then you have three things from a potato.” —Norwegian Chef Two.
Natural Wine List
In alignment with the use of locally sourced produced, a challenge that might face a complete Experiential Dining event for the gastronomic scene in Northern Norway is wine. This challenge is addressed by stocking up on regionally sourced wines, sometimes from southern European neighbours. The unique selling point however is the pivot towards serving natural organic wines. In a restaurant known for their pink velour seats and the use of good humour in food presentations, a respondent otherwise known as Norwegian Chef Three relates: “Guests can settle in or stop by for an interesting menu of small dishes and snacks, a good wine selection seasonal cocktails and our own draft beer. We have a big natural wine list for guests to choose from.”
Creating a Feeling of “Dining at Home”
Behind the scene of serving up good food and exclusive natural wines, one respondent related how it is important that the dining atmosphere makes customers feel completely at home. Some respondents have invested heavily in designing the interiors of their restaurants in order to create a cosy, relaxed feeling for their customers. Norwegian Chef Four shares: “The wine and cocktail bar has been designed to look like an apartment. There’s a living room, which is the cocktail bar and a kitchen, which is the wine bar. The idea behind it is to make you feel at home and relax. If you just want to hang out in the kitchen and drink wine, that’s fine.”
Experiential dining is a concept that is often discussed not only in the food industry but also among culinary interested academics. While scholars can debate the numerous frameworks of successful operations, what could be agreed upon is that having a list of “ingredients” to a good dinner setting is no guarantee of a successful execution of a fantastic dining experience.
This funded study by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries which is part of a larger project titled Market Access, has illustrated how entrepreneur chefs from Northern Norway leverage on SFSCs and the nature-based context of Northern Norway in order to co-create a valuable dining experience for their customers. Their innovative use of context and local produce, combined with personal narratives and experiences could also be seen as a method to seed and create momentum towards a home-biased preference for dining out.
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2 Rather R (2020). Customer experience and engagement in tourism destinations: The experiential marketing perspective. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 37(1), 15-32.
3 Tsai C & Wang Y (2017). Experiential value in branding food tourism. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 6(1), 56-65.
4 Goddard N (2006). Andrew C I (ed.), The Nature of Cities: Culture, Landscape, and Urban Space. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
5 Byrkjeflot H, Pedersen J, & Svejenova S (2013). From Label to Practice: The Process of Creating New Nordic Cuisine. Journal of Culinary Science & Technology: Creativity and Innovation in Haute Cuisine, 11(1), 36-55.
6 Mossberg L (2008). Extraordinary Experiences through Storytelling. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism: Strategy in Hospitality Management, 8(3), 195-210.
Cheryl Marie Cordeiro is a Scientist at the Department of Marketing Research at Nofima, The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, located in Tromsø in Northern Norway. She has a PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her current projects include EU-China-Safe, working on food safety and traceability for the EU-China food partnership; TastyKelp studying how novel seaweed products can be brought to market and Market Access, studying non-tariff related barriers to global trade for Norwegian seafood.
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