For some time now it has been fairly common to find synergies between the F&B and retail sectors. The trends and solutions in these two worlds have been escalating, so it is about time we stop and think about what awaits us in 2022.  

One phenomenon that hasn’t stopped growing is the genderless construct. It refers to people who do not respond to the way that society defines how one should look, think, or act according to  your  sex or the label  you were given at birth: man or woman. These days, we are all free to define our gender, beyond just masculine or feminine, and to forge our identities according to how we express our behavior and appearance.  Because sex is purely biological, but gender is a mere cultural construct. 

Today, gender is something we can choose, even more so if you belong to generation Z, considered the least heterosexual generation in history and the most committed to diversity [1]. Deemed the current and future generation with the highest consumption habits, its members have a broader vision of gender, and the guts to define their identity based on how they feel about their inner self and how they express their outer self. 

When getting ready every morning, an outer self will reflect and amplify who they are through the expression of appearances and clothes. The fashion industry listened and took action by  making it a must to offer gender neutral options, and forgoing any aged constraints when picking colors, materials, textures, and shapes. Its goal is to simply design clothes for humans [2]. It’s about focusing on the needs and feelings of the consumers rather than designing clothes specifically for women and men.  Feelings are truly genderless, and that is where brand values can be found.

Given this global societal phenomenon, F&B is one of the industries that has already started to adapt to the lifestyle. But how can you translate this into something that goes beyond the fashion industry? Quite simply, in degrees and nuances.  In retail, the genderless concept tends to be applied mainly to products. In F&B, it should be conveyed through the  guest experience

So, what defines a food & beverage brand as genderless? 

First, a list of attributes that will define the brand’s personality, as if the brand  was an  inclusive, positive, disruptive individual who is both brave and open minded. If a brand defines itself as genderless, it will essentially be  a brand without preconceived notions. The food, which is its driving force, will discard any core beliefs regarding traditional techniques and will champion courage and creativity to break rules and stereotypes, all without losing sight of the quest for efficiency and profitability in its processes.

An excellent example is chef  Noam Kostucki’s restaurant  in Costa Rica. According to Kostucki, his “cooking is like himself, an unconventional blend of ingredients and styles that don’t usually go together, but for some reason work and the people like it.”  In this signature cuisine, which according to OpenTable serves one of the top 25 dishes in the world that are worth traveling for, Kostucki challenges all stereotypes and brings his eclectic style to every corner of his restaurant, from serving haute cuisine dishes at a picnic table, to cooking and personally serving tables in his own kitchen. All because he is the brand, and the restaurant is a complete reflection and expression of himself [3].

So how can one  express these values and this attitude to what is visible to guests in F&B?  Easy. By working the elements through which guests interact with the brand, whether in their physical or digital environment;  from the brand’s tone of voice to the plating and/or packaging of the menu heroes, to the design and distribution of the physical space.

If food is inherently genderless, then why should we label it? Why should we limit its consumption? If a uniform is clearly genderless attire in its purest form, why not dress staff in clothing that, without writing off its functional design, is also unisex? If we can design gender-neutral restrooms, why not make the most of this space opportunity? The sum of all these details is what makes the difference.

Benefits? There are multiple and varied: simplification of the design processes, reducing the number of suppliers, showing equal treatment towards staff and customers, increasing space for diners, showing commitment to society…

With the understanding that freedom of expression is non-negotiable in the journey to genderless, how would you imagine your brand in this scenario?