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The rise of experience dining

Experience dining is a growing trend in the restaurant industry and it’s proving that it’s here to stay.

Dining out isn’t dead, and as a nation, we’re more passionate than ever about food. With more than 67% of us eating out at least once a month, and 41% of us eating out at least fortnightly.

Year after year, the number of people eating out steadily increases. Yet, the way that we dine out is changing and customers have become accustomed to getting something more with what we eat.

This has been attributed to a saturation of casual dining chains offering the same choices, while a squeeze on consumer spending means customers are looking for more bang for their buck when dining out. Rather than spend less, customers are seeing value in an experience to accompany their meal.

Over the past year, the demand for dining experiences has been on the increase, with exclusive dining events selling out well in advance.

Some of the more spectacular dining experiences include interactive theatre shows, vintage speakeasies, awe-inspiring Cabaret and performance shows, such as The Black Cat Cabaret or even digging for gold, at Django Bango’s, in a mine shaft, in Vauxhall.

As well as shows, dining experiences also operate different ways to entertain their diners while they wait for orders. Inamo Garden, for example, uses projectors to create interactive tables at which your guests can order their food, draw or play games.

Although you don’t need to put on a show, the increase in experience dining highlights a demand from diners for something over and above the traditional sit-down meal.

To help you tap into this trend, here’s a list of insider tips to give your customers the best dining experience possible.

Visuals are important.

With the rise of experience dining, the way your restaurant looks will have a big impact on customers. This not only applies to the décor of restaurants, but also the way that products and dishes are displayed.

To show everything in its best light, bespoke front of house display solutions are increasing in popularity. These units have more design-led features, including bold colour choices topped with finishing flourishes such as bronzed handles, to give an impact and showcase food and drinks to customers while adding to the overall look and experience of your restaurant.

Modern manufacturing techniques mean refrigeration can also be customised to fit into a décor or theme. True refrigeration supplies a number of options, from powder coating to printed wraps, to allow flexible options to fit any surroundings.

Maximise your space.

Visuals and the dining experience are important to customers, but the functionality of space is important to staff. In a busy service, it’s difficult enough delivering dishes in a traditional restaurant, so the addition of experiential elements can mean chefs, wait staff and front of house teams have even more to think about.

It’s important that everything is specially designed to work. Make the most out of space with products, tools and layouts that help improve functionality.

To allow freedom of movement, no matter the setting, a good layout is essential. A great way to create easy to use spaces and improve efficiency is with spot refrigeration, such as prep tables that store ingredients for easy access, cutting down on visits back and forth to the cold room.

Prep tables also allow focal points for open kitchens, giving customers the experience of watching their food being prepared, to add to the dining experience.

Cocktail bars with flair waiters also supply an additional experience for customers, use the area to your advantage with a clever use of display cabinets. This gives an extra opportunity to showcase products to your customers and increase your sales, all while having solutions that allow staff easy access to drinks.

Premium is in.

An experience is in no way a substitute for the quality of the food being served, it’s more about adding value to dining, where the meal on offer is the star of the show. With great dining, customers are more likely to pay for premium or speciality food and drinks as part of the experience.

Experience dining covers the entire spectrum of outlets from small independent start-ups using experiences to gain viral exposure (Peaky Blinders bar anyone?) to global fast-food giants. McDonalds has invested heavily in improving the experience in restaurants to open up a challenge to large coffee chains and enabling the chain to premiumise menu items.

In these settings it’s important to remember that if customers can’t see products, they are less likely to buy them. Entice them with premium products by placing them on display in highly visible hotspots.

Break free from traditional dining.

The essence of experience dining is to offer customers something new and different to entice them into your bar, restaurant or event, and get them to talk about it afterwards.

When it comes to experience dining, don’t try to go overboard. Instead, focus on the unique qualities of your offer and how it stands out.

No matter what experience you offer, you need to make sure the food and drink meet customer expectations. The experience should enhance the dining experience rather than overwhelm it. Without the right dishes, customers will have no reason to eat at your restaurant – and keep coming back for more.

That’s why we recommend focusing on the food, preparation and equipment that lets you be your best. If you’re planning on redesigning your bar, get in touch with a professional to find out the best way to create an interior that works for you while giving your customers something special.

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