Are We Defined By Our “Charleston Food Brand”?

By Mark A. Leon

By Mark A. Leon

For generations, we have been defined by the brands we carry by our sides.  From Louis Vuitton to Prada, brands address other’s perceptions of our place in society.  That is why advertising is a multi-billion -dollar industry where creative and often neurotic minds sit in rooms thinking of ways to convince us of what to buy and what it’s implied value is to us.

Charleston is a foodie community.   There is no denying it.  In fact, we flaunt it with every chance we get.  With each new restaurant opening, an unofficial holiday is launched.  We treat dining like the rest of the country views weather.  Food is a form of celebration in Charleston.  It is our opus.  With that, we pose the question, are we defined by our Charleston food brand?

Yesterday, I went to The Bearded Café.  A friend raved about this new hip new coffee shop on Spring Street and the word in the Yelp community was a huge thumb’s up.  My experience overall was wonderful, with its quaint interior, heavenly aroma and great customer service.

I entered and the very energetic barista asked me what I like.  I said naturally black coffee.  I like good black coffee.  He recommended the drip.  I ordered a 10 ounce due to the fact that this was only a quick stop on my way to brunch.

The bill:  $3.54 before tip.

This is 48% more than a 16 ounce Starbucks coffee.  Was the coffee amazing.  It most certainly was.  As I walked with that Bearded Café sleeve and thought about Black Tap, one of my other favorite coffee havens, I realized, I was walking around with a Charleston Food brand.  Were others observing my refined taste in java?  Was it worth four dollars for a ten-ounce cup?  I don’t know the answer, nor am I ready to debate it.

Then I took a deeper thought and remembered those nights at the bar.  Laughing at Halls Chophouse, parading on The Stars rooftop, lingering outside of Husk or dining outdoors at Leon’s Oyster Shop.  Being seen is important.  Where you are seen is social status critical.  With the explosion of social media, a post from one of the top Charleston restaurants can put you on the map.

Are we aware of the importance of the Charleston Brand?  Do we consciously put on our best dress or sports jacket and enjoy an extended happy hour at the finest restaurants in town?  These are viable questions.

As this city continues to evolve into a high end dining mecca, we must stop for a moment to reflect on this.  Can this Charleston brand phenomenon affect food and beverage prices?  If you are observing the rate of food price increases vs. inflationary growth, it is already happening.

Is a shrimp and grits breakfast with a mimosa and coffee worth $32 – $36 dollars per person for Sunday Brunch the right value?  I will let you decide that.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the implied Charleston brand.

Are we being praised for our linkage to certain food brands or violated?

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