Gourmet Food Store Reaches New Customers Through Cultural Outreach

Thirty years ago Dearborn, Michigan, was as white as any town could be. Its ethnic diversity was under one percent. Three decades of immigration has changed that and today the City of Dearborn is one of the most diverse in all of Michigan. Unfortunately some merchants have not been able to bridge the cultural divide. Middle-Easterners represent the fastest growing segment of Dearborn’s growth. The once English-only landscape of their downtown is now dominated by Arabic signage and motifs with the Arab-American National Museum at its heart. A nationally franchised chain of gourmet food stores had caught the eye of a longtime resident. She reviewed operations of the chain throughout southeastern Michigan and saw the economic indicators were ideal for a store in Dearborn. Anticipated success was elusive as the business was unable to attract customers. Contemplating closing the shop completely she turned to a cultural consultant for help. Studying the community and the store it was quite evident to the cultural experts that the store needed to make some immediate and drastic changes if it would survive.

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This gourmet food store was the style where patrons would come into the store and prepare gourmet meals using the best ingredients. The store’s problems included Signage, Menu assortment, Cleaning procedures, Background music, and Ingredients. In short, almost every aspect of the store needed some form of change! Franchisers are very reluctant to allow a single outlet to stray from the corporate model in anyway. Because of this it was important to work closely with both franchiser and franchisee to develop changes aligned with corporate philosophy and community needs. International franchiser McDonald’s had already allowed for changes in the local menu. The changes were very subtle but significant enough to spell success for the hamburger fryer. Less significant were the changes made by the family dining chain Ram’s Horn Restaurants. Their Dearborn outlet thrived with its supplemental menu loaded with special cuts of meat and an understanding of Middle-Eastern food handling norms. Fortunately the gourmet food franchiser realized the need for the changes and allowed the local to “test” the new concept.

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