As far as I’m concerned, the most you do with a bagel is toast it and smother it in butter and Marmite or, very occasionally, peanut butter.

That was until a couple of weeks ago, when I was treated to a ‘bagel bonanza’, courtesy of Warburtons. Intent on celebrating the launch of its new bagels, which are advertised by Robert De Niro, the brand held an immersive four-part experience with bagel-themed courses and cocktails to match. It’s a hard life being a bakery journalist.

With experiential events such as these, it’s hard to know what to expect. Done well, guests leave with full smiles and even fuller bellies. Done not so well, it all feels a bit naff.

Warburtons (in partnership with Gingerline’s Flavourology) hit the nail on the head, and here are some of the lessons I took away from the event.

  • Attention to detail is everything: The saying all publicity is good publicity doesn’t ring true when it comes to experiential marketing and events. The nationals are filled with horror stories of people forking out for events, only to be left with a soggy sandwich and a crying child. The attention to detail at the Warburtons bagel bonanza shone through.
  • The food must be delicious: It’s rule number one for anything food-related, but make sure the grub is up to scratch. Everyone always remembers bad food at a wedding…
  • Interaction leads to engagement: Sure, it can be a bit cringey being asked to high-five strangers, cheer when told and generally look enthused but, hopefully, the sort of people signing up for this type of event will be well aware of what to expect in terms of interaction.
  • Make it Insta-worthy: People are living for the ’gram these days, so make sure there are plenty of photo opportunities throughout the experience – whether that’s stunning food, interesting settings or the chance for an envy-inducing selfie.

From the faux-Bolton accents (at least I’m assuming they weren’t all real) to the over-the-top actors, immersive settings and delicious grub, Warburtons’ event was well worth the 90 minutes spent.  

Guests were treated to a sweet bagel ‘eggy bread’ (right) – a pan-fried cinnamon & raisin bagel in vanilla custard with poached plums, stem ginger syrup, honey granola and cinnamon cream – in what can only be described as a ragingly 1960s living room, complete with orange and brown décor.

For ‘lunch’ we headed to the Warburtons canteen, where bagels with crispy cod, parsley & lemon mayo, pea shoots and homemade pickles were on the menu and ’80s classics were on the radio. Post-lunch, we indulged in a spot of bagel tossing, although my skills left a lot to be desired.

Next up was play time – by far my favourite part of the experience.

Our host was full of energy, reminiscent to that of a children’s TV presenter. There was a small ball pit to play in, blow-up bagels on the walls and, most importantly, arts and crafts. Everyone was given the opportunity to decorate a picture of a bagel. Naturally, I created the finest drag bagel the world has even seen.

All this excitement was hunger-inducing and we were presented with Lemon Meringue Iced Gems – bagel bites topped with lemon ice cream, lemon curd and torched lilac meringue. Delicious!

As home time drew near, it was only appropriate the experience ended in a more grown-up setting of a Bolton pub. Last orders consisted of half a pint of Toast Ale, made with surplus Warburtons bread, served alongside mustard seed bagel crisps with a chicken Balti topped off with a swift game of darts. Lovely.

Who knew you could do so much with bagels? Not me, that’s for sure.

While the bagel bonanza was only open to a privileged few (it was available to the public for one day), it highlighted how an engaging experience can change the perception of a brand or product.