What can the dining industry learn from The Great British Bake Off?

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The Great British Bake Off, or more fondly known as just Bake Off or GBBO, is treasured by many TV watchers all over the UK, with 6.1 million viewers eagerly watching the this year’s launch of the amateur baking competition. But what is it about The Great British Bake Off that warms the hearts of so many Britons? And is there something restaurateurs could learn from the show?

One of the first things you can’t help but notice about Bake Off is that it is everywhere on social media. This is likely because Bake Off has two angles: reality TV and food. It’s no secret that us British are lovers of reality TV competitions like Love Island and Big Brother, so throw in a chocolate orange gateau and a cherry Bakewell traybake and you know you’ll be on to a winner.

When it comes to Instagram, one thing is for sure: we love talking about food. The Great British Bake Off hashtag #GBBO has an exposure of 1.5K per hour (even while the show isn’t on!), with racking up a whopping 885,400 tweets over the course of the series. What’s more, research has found that Google searches for specific Bake Off cake recipes increase while the show is on our televisions.

We really are a nation who love their food, and this social media buzz doesn’t just stop on Twitter, either. According to research undertaken by Zizzi, “18-35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram”. This is a staggering, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those photos were influenced by Bake Off? A quick Instagram search of the hashtag #GBBO and #GBBOBakeAlong hashtags returned a incredible 309,993 and 1,092 posts respectively. 

Another thing I couldn’t help but notice about Bake Off was how well people respond to bakers’ recipe inspirations and stories. “Rahul bakes to make new friends HE MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS” tweeted one user about Rahul Mandal. “Kim-Joy is making a wedding bread for cats. I love her, she’s so pure” tweeted another about competitor, Kim-Joy. 

Of course, customers love a delicious and well-presented dish, but what if I told you that the inspiration behind the chilli chocolate dessert you enjoyed was because the chef and his grandmother used to bake it together in the ‘70s? Or that the Thai curry dish you tried was inspired by the chef’s trip to Phuket a decade ago? Having this personality behind your culinary successes is what makes your dishes stand out amongst the others.

Another thing we can learn is that baking is not one-size-fits-all. What I mean by that is, baking is not just for the stereotypical housewife that’s portrayed in the movies and it’s also not just for the great, Michelin-starred chefs either. Bake Off has had a wealth of contestants over the years with all kinds of backgrounds and distinctions. Take 2015 Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain for example, she admitted she was worried people would have preconceptions about her abilities: “Perhaps people would look at me, a Muslim in a headscarf, and wonder if I could bake”. But her hard work said it all, and the cultural influences in her dishes won the judges over as well as the nation. 

Spin-off shows like the Junior Bake Off are also paving the way for younger chefs, inspiring young bakers-to-be to pick up the whisk and give it a try. These juniors are chock-full of fresh creativity, and their young attitudes and influences bring some interesting stances on already well-established dishes. 

This is what is key in the dining out industry: a diverse talent pool. Baking traditional British treats to a high standard is always going to please the taste buds, but what about if you can pull ingredients from other cultures and create fusions that have never been tried before? Perhaps there is a new flavour combination someone younger than your typical chef has suggested trying? The possibilities are endless. 

The Great British Bake Off has shown us that cooking and baking are art forms, and the dining industry will never move forward if we stick to the same old recipes and stereotypes. There really is so much we industry professionals can learn from The Great British Bake Off.