What year are we in? Is this 1903? Pepsico is creating snacks exclusively designed for women. I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast where the CEO of Pepsico (who is female) claims that women don’t want their Doritos to crunch “too loudly”, they don’t like licking their fingers in public, and they want to be able to carry their snacks in their purses. Apparently, Pepsico is getting ready to launch several lady specific snack ranges very soon. The backlash in the media has been swift and brutal. #ladydoritos. I’m assuming women would like equal pay, not crunchless crisps!
I feel like we’ve taken an enormous step backward and this got me thinking, the F&B industry has a terrible misconception of women – for all our advances in technology and ingredient trends, food provenance, and ethical farming, it is embarrassing how the industry communicates with the female audience, even in Dubai.
Reese Witherspoon created a film company which came out with some pretty big hits, amongst them are Big Little Lies and Gone Girl. She created this company with the desire to create films that not only have female characters in them, but that have female leads that are mysterious, deep, confusing, brave, controversial… all the things that a regular woman is. Why can’t we communicate to all the nuances of the female gender instead of assuming all she wants is pink, sparkles and unicorns?
Almost twenty-five years ago, back in 1994, a company called Six Continents asked the question, “how do we make the British pub more accessible to women?” Surprisingly, they asked a bunch of women, and the answers were simple and effective. Improve the bathrooms. Put hooks under the bar counter for scarfs, jackets and handbags. Provide more comfortable seating. Improve the food. Have lots of windows so you can see the atmosphere before walking in. Ban all football shirts, to eliminate “tribes” and conflict. These are pragmatic, respectful and obvious considerations and in hindsight apply to both genders. This is how All Bar One was born.
Fast forward quarter of a century and we seem to have gotten worse. How restaurants talk to their female customers is downright embarrassing at times. I’ve seen many ads that have gentrified the eating experience, or the food, or the ambiance, to attempt to appeal to a female audience. The thing is, women are far more nuanced than needing to gentrify anything.
Traditional steakhouses trying to appeal to the female audience use tag-lines “Not your daddy’s steakhouse.” Really?
They use adverts that highlight the legs and lips of the women who are supposedly the restaurant’s target customers. If anything stimulates a woman’s appetite for a piece of meat, it’s seeing another woman being treated like one.
Restaurants give cocktails names like “French Kiss” or “Pink Elegance” because those will clearly make their female audience feel cute and sexy and asking a bartender for a French Kiss is totally not awkward. It gives the term “switch and bait” a whole new meaning!
Dubai’s ladies’ nights probably allow for the best/worst examples. Close-ups of women’s lips, pictures of red lipstick, handbags and high-heels adorn most of the promotional flyers. Three free drinks and discounted food seems to be what the entire market has agreed it will take for women to act as bait for men to visit a venue. Bonus points for pink champagne and super sweet cocktails.
Check out a few of these real ladies night names.
Lipstick Ladies. Gossip Sundays. Leave Your Boyfriend At Home. Pink Elephant. One for the Girls. 12-inch Tuesdays. Friends with Benefits. Pin Up. Lost Angels. Mile High Club. Sparkle in the Sand. Go, Geisha. Her Night. Dollified. Boom Boom. Berries and Bubbles. Miss Independent. Lady Liberty. Guilt-Free Ladies Night. Ladies on Top.
Come on Dubai – can’t we do better than demeaning names and free pink drinks?