It’s 9:36 a.m. on Election Day, and I’m sitting down in my home office to write an article that will hopefully add value for food and beverage marketers, but I find myself generally overwhelmed, anxious, a little excited but fundamentally drained, wishing to be on the other side of this week… or two. 

So instead of fighting those feelings, I decided to lean right in, because hey, WHY NOT?  And this train of thought led me to examine how the food and beverage industry is helping consumers cope with these heightened emotions and stress during one of the most contentious presidential elections in history during a raging global pandemic.

So, let’s begin. According to CNN, the fast food industry has stepped up to the plate with several chains offering beaucoup deals and free food on election day. The list is long with McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Krispy Kreme, Pret-a-Manger, Boston Market to name a few. Many of the deals are featured through Grub Hub and most serve as an entry point to boost sales, but nonetheless it is convenient comfort food to the rescue.

VinePair created an election day drinking game featuring a news coverage bingo board. The company wrote “It’s been a chaotic election season to say the least, so we’ve done what we can to ease the pain — designed a bingo card to quell your anxiety and liven up your election night.”

And, Babe Wine, a brand of sparkling canned wine, sold out of its “Election Night Survival Kit”.

Not only are brands offering comfort through food and drink, but a variety of initiatives popped up across the country aimed at feeding poll workers and voters for free as they withstand the long lines.

From José Andrés’ Chefs for the Polls to Uber Eats and Pizza to the Polls to Fuel the Polls in Philadelphia, the purpose gleans more altruistic and patriotic, seeded in honoring and motivating our civic duty to vote.  

So, what can we learn from this? Well the numbers speak for themselves. According to the U.S. Elections Project data cited by Reuters, more than 150 million people are projected to vote this year, that’s 65% of eligible voters, the highest since 1908.

Tapping into this heightened awareness with culturally relevant content, offerings and on brand forms of comfort is a strong way to reach, engage and endear customers.

And for a little bit of fun, I decided to ask some of my Food, Beverage and Nutrition colleagues at Padilla their plans for election night. Here is what they had to share:

“My wife and I are embracing the multicultural aspect of this great nation by dining on Mexican food from Frontera and washing it down with a California Cabernet. Depending on how the election breaks, I’ll close the evening with either a celebratory dram, or a mind-numbing bottle of single malt whisky.”

“I was thinking of making a lasagna for distraction, but then I was warned about planning a favorite dish for tonight in case things do not turn out well and it is ruined for the rest of my life. Oh, and vino, lots and lots of vino.”

“I discovered this (Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Rye Reserve) limited-edition bourbon on my birthday two years ago. Since then, it’s become nearly impossible to find.  My best friend surprised me with a bottle of it on Saturday, so we’d have it for election night.”

“My ‘bubble’ and I are watching the results tonight and doing a potluck. We’re most likely going to watch bad reality TV or an old Disney movie to distract periodically while waiting for some results to come in!” 

“I’m having dinner and drinks with a small group of friends, where I’ll be indulging in my favorite comfort pairing: diner-style macaroni and cheese and a glass (but probably closer to a bottle) of Malbec. I have a mix of hope and fear for tonight, so hoping carbs, wine and good company will ease the anxiety.”

“Well, comfort food of some kind will be on the menu tonight… a squash soup or spaghetti and meatballs. Most likely wine or anything that will help me unclench my jaw. Will likely watch election night coverage since I have the benefit of being 3 hours behind on the West Coast but trying to prepare myself for potentially not knowing the outcome until later.”