Diffusion Theory describes, quite simply, how an idea takes hold through time. The diffusion, or spread from its original source, begins with "innovators" concocting the idea. "Early adopters" begin using this idea before it is "cool," and "early majority" users follow soon thereafter. "Late majority" users generally comprise the general populace, indicating that the idea has gained widespread acceptance. Finally, "laggards" represent the hold-outs; in other words, those unwilling to change.
Though this theory originated in the social sciences, it is - like so many others from disparate and diverse disciplines - applicable to the world of food. Ideas - in other words, restaurants - do not just gain traction through time, but also through geographic space. This isn't merely a scatter plot of ideas versus time.
Consider a hypothetical city with few independently-owned eateries: it starts with just a few, often within a small geographic area. Through time, though, as the idea of eating at small, crafty restaurants gains momentum, other places open further from the center of activity. Quite simply, these idea-restaurants fan out in both space and time.
Consider the following. (And yes, that is a "Bill Nye The Science Guy" homage) A sandwich shop opens. Yes, there are many other places that make good sandwiches, but how about two acclaimed chefs (Alex Sneazwell and Ben Staley) who man the kitchen? Better yet, why not plunk this joint right in the middle of wind-swept industrial park? Where would this fall on the Diffusion-Restaurant-Theory bell curve?
This is Sandwich & Sons. A glance at the chalk board menu reveals nostalgic sandwich permutations, such as corned beef, bologna or grilled cheese, all dished up with a baggie of house-made potato chips. Grilled Cheese seamlessly blends decadently melted cheddar, smoked gouda, and monterey jack cheese, while a judicious swipe of artichoke spread and tangy sourdough constitutes ingenuity in both inception and presentation. One bite, with eyes closed, sweeps the diner back to happy, gooey, childhood lunches when the world was no more complex than one needed it to be.
Fried Bologna finds the same sourdough background paired, this time, with grainy mustard, lettuce, a hint of mayo and a hearty sprinkling of crispy onions. A good handful of home-made potato chips rides shotgun for both sandwiches. Some chips shatter at the first bite, while others are unabashedly chewy. This myriad of textures sets these crisps apart from the commercial variety, which are too often besmirched by mind-numbing sameness.
Certainly, no mind-numbing sameness exists at Sandwich and Sons. Rather, the kitchen shows a predilection for spinning childhood favourites into something far more urbane, without falling into the trap of making them arcane, deconstructed, or needlessly complex. Surely, this is evidence that our city has solidly entered the "early majority" phase of Diffusion. We are ready for a chef-run sandwich shop plunked right in the middle of right now.