Food, Retail, and Admissions Table Stakes for Cultural Attractions in 2023

As we progress through the new year, our team has evaluated previous trends and innovations in the space to define what is now table stakes for an exceptional guest experience across food, retail, and admissions at cultural attractions. See what we’re continuing to focus on this year from designing for the digital age to the rise of experiential customer retail.

Taking Dining to the Next Level

Guests are just as hungry for connection as they are for the restaurants providing places to gather and eat. That’s not to say that self-service and the touchless conveniences that technology offers are less of a priority for consumers, it just means people also want to eat in person together. And that’s exciting news for the cultural attraction industry.

Here are just a few dining trends we’ve adopted from the latest National Restaurant Association Culinary Forecast: 

Zero Waste, Sustainability, Upcycled Food
Pushing for ‘zero waste’ food service is a massive focus that’s already happening. Increasingly, restaurants are attempting to find ways to make the food they serve go further and be more aware of where it’s coming from. We recently hosted a couple of ‘Waste Reduction’ events that pushed the envelope in this space.
Keep it Local
Experiential dining is going to continue to be huge this year. And that means everything from pop-ups from local vendors to working with super-localized cultural foods and the communities who create them. Think tortillas made around the corner paired with a local BBQ institution. 
But Don’t be Afraid to try Global
That being said, bringing in a global culinary menu is a great way to educate our visitors about food beyond what they’re used to and learn about other cultures from around the globe. Hosting special events or limited menu options can be a way to get in foot traffic for families wanting to educate their children about other cultures. 
Try a New Take on an Old Favorite
People have come to expect certain cuisine at cultural attractions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put a new spin on their expectations. Think elevated bar snacks (creative takes on loaded fries perhaps?) and revamped classics (homemade oatmeal creme pies, deconstructed burgers, etc.)
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Upcoming Retail Focuses

Retail continues to get a rebrand as businesses focus on producing and stocking more sustainable products and creating a better design that supports IDEA + Belonging. Here are a few areas to watch in retail for 2023:

Shop Smaller, Smarter, Better
Similar to the culinary world, consumers and businesses alike are becoming more aware of their purchases both in how they are made as well as how they can better support local and minority-owned artisans. Focusing on mission-related merchandise and inclusivity will help consumers see even more value in the products they buy from you.
Design with the Future in Mind
Retail spaces will need to continue to evolve to integrate both food and retail concepts (think coffee shops, event spaces, etc.). By creating a space for visitors and members to meet, a store evolves into a destination for an attraction as well as an event space for mission and diversity-related programming. 
Convenient Tech will Continue to Improve
Technology that supports a frictionless customer experience will continue to be top of mind for brands wanting to improve upon their retail journey. Similar to the future of dining, this means providing guests with quick and easy checkout options such as self-checkout and mobile cashiers. It also means utilizing digital storytelling to educate consumers and share the stories behind the products in your store. Using technology to push storytelling and education extends the length of your customer’s stay in the store and can help drive revenue by doing so.
The Demand for Experiential Retail will Grow
Focusing on not just selling products but giving free experiences through storytelling, events, and education. In this way, your guests aren’t just buying physical goods, they’re getting an experience they won’t find anywhere else. 
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Where We're Going in Admissions

Admissions is an area particularly ripe for disruption as it’s historically been done one way and not often digitized. This makes how it’s changing particularly exciting because there’s so much opportunity to make the admissions process better. Below are a few examples of how admissions are shifting toward the future this year: 
Start With the Entryway
The front gate serves as a one-size-fits-all destination for guests. 2023 will bring new front entry complexes that will assist in ushering in design for a digital era. With more and more partners showing interest in moving ticket sales 100% online, scanning tickets will increasingly become a more seamless process and help maximize guest experience and efficiencies. Digitizing this process is very exciting because it allows for upselling around all admissions products, such as memberships, or packaged goods, without needing to send the guest to another area.
A More Holistic CRM to Enhance Guest Communication
The cultural attraction community has been leveraging CRM solutions for member/donor acquisition and management for decades, but the opportunities to utilize it even further are virtually limitless. At SSA, we’re looking for CRM solutions that allow us to communicate to all guest segments, from online ticket purchasers to teachers/group leaders to members and donors. Even more, we are seeing a growing trend in smarter guest communications by leveraging guest behaviors captured by the POS solution. In short, data is king and a smarter CRM can help us leverage that data into better guest experiences.
Smarter Ticket Packaging
Updating the ticketing process to include bundling food and retail opportunities such as general admission, events, or limited-time offers gives guests a customized experience and all-in-one ticket purchase. Your ticket doesn’t just have to be one thing, using it to sell several options is how you work smarter, not harder.
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2023 is going to be one for the books for the cultural attraction industry and we’re excited to see what it brings. If you’re curious about building a better guest experience from every angle, we can help you get there. 

Read more about how SSA is changing for the better here. 

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