Food is just one element within a much larger dining experience.
According to famed chef Alain Ducasse: “The rest counts as well: the mood, the atmosphere, the music, the feeling, the design, the harmony between what you have on the plate and what surrounds the plate.”
With the experiential dining trend on the rise, restaurant-goers have become more and more curious about the stories behind their meals. And, in an effort to shift with consumer expectations – and differentiate themselves from the competition – chefs and restaurant owners everywhere are working harder to craft a unique dining experience.
Let’s explore the interactive dining trend and how it has changed the way restaurants do business.
What is Interactive Dining?
Interactive dining refers to a restaurant experience that goes beyond just a great meal. Even though eating is already a multi-sensory experience, interactive dining takes this a step further. It aims to experiment with other elements outside of the meal to manipulate the perception of flavors and the overall dining experience.
Considered “experiential” – part of an experience or observation – this form of dining as an experience is not just about entertaining guests and adjusting the lighting. It can be something simple like your unique food plating techniques, boisterous theater-like performances from staff, a “selfie photo wall” that encourages guests to snap a picture and share it on social media, communal seating, or perhaps just a menu that reads more like a story.
Some restaurants go all in and create experiential dining experiences that include eating meals in the dark or pairing each course with a musical performance! There’s no limit to how creative restaurants can get to attract diners, but the goal is to do something that stays on brand and enhances an already great dining experience.
The Growing Popularity of Interactive Dining
This interactive dining trend is continuing to gain momentum, and it’s mainly driven by millennials and younger generations who are looking for more than just a good meal.
It’s important to engage this customer base because, they’re the ones going out and spending money the most. According to the US Census Bureau, the millennial generation now makes up about a quarter of the population, and LexingtonLaw.com estimates that millennials spend more than twice the amount of older generations when it comes to entertainment. Catering to this generation’s spending power is clearly a wise move.
Restaurants everywhere are already taking advantage of the interactive dining experience to increase sales. Not only do they want their guests to remember the delicious food they ate, but they want them to create memorable experiences that will keep them coming back.
For example, a restaurant called “Studio Cellar” in Columbia, South Carolina creates a unique experience by pairing wine selections with painting packages. They can create a self-guided art piece or allow the staff to give them step-by-step instructions to create a work of art.
In London, Soho House and unusual events specialists Teatime Production create an experiential cinematic experience with the help of mixologists, food designers and experimental chefs. As you settle in for the featured film, each guest is given labeled boxes that contain treats and cocktails which correspond with key moments in the film.
The restaurant “Signs” in Toronto is creating an interactive dynamic experience by having servers and diners only interact through the use of American Sign Language. When guests arrive, the host will teach them basic signs, and the menus arrive with cheat sheets to help them order – it’s a fun and memorable experience for everyone.
How Interactive Dining is Shifting the Overall Restaurant Industry
According to the Restaurant Industry 2030 study that was just released by the National Restaurant Association, it’s expected that the experience will likely be the most important part of eating out within the next 10 years.
Whether it’s personalized services or uniquely crafted themes and meals, restaurants will have to differentiate themselves and create an engaging and distinctive environment.
To help solve the taste side of the overall dining equation, Nikken Foods has food scientists ready to work with you and design the perfect, all-natural food ingredients to take your flavors to the next level. Check out our new “Did You Know?” Booklet to find solutions for some of your common ingredient challenges.