We recently came across this great graphic which elegantly captures the approach of restaurants focused on successfully delivering an enjoyable dining experience. The graphic is notable because it represents food – you know, what people presumably aim for when dining out – as just a part of a restaurant’s strategy, its Modus Operandi. 

Eating Experience Design

Instead, the graphic implies that the food itself is an outgrowth, a manifestation of a restaurant’s concept and dining ideal, in the same way that clothing or home goods are the tangible aspects of a retailer’s style and aesthetic.

This strategy reflects an idea central to our modern commercial experience, and one which retailers, hoteliers, and restaurant owners everywhere are embracing – consumers now hold the balance of power in deciding between merchants, and they’re deciding on factors beyond quality of goods and services alone.

What consumers want, in this frequently digitized and dry world, is an experience. Something, if not momentous, at least memorable (and of course, worthy of being relayed on social media). Experience doesn’t have to be big – it can be small or intimate, down-home or precious.

In fact, food itself has always been theater, a representation of something integral yet aspirational to the way we live. Chefs and diners regularly speak about the presentation of food – the way dishes are prepared and staged to enhance the dining experience beyond the enjoyment of food.

This concept-focused restaurant reality is the logical extension of the deliberate presentation of food. It reflects an era of discriminating diners, a new reality that good food alone isn’t going to build loyalty and sustain momentum.

Rather than intimidating, this focus on concept should be seen as liberating – it frees restaurateurs to explore, design, and make a dining reality which demonstrates what they love about food and delivering a memorable meal.

Bringing that concept to life is where it can get tricky, and where the consultation of interior designers, restaurant veterans, and media professionals is critical. Owners and operators must strike a balance of not only executing their vision, but doing it in a way that is accessible and speaks to their customers.

Colors, tones, sounds, and visuals all play a role in making a vision manifest, and can turn an idea into a reality which guests can freely inhabit. Is your concept based on a historical time period? A revolutionary approach to food? An exotic land or lifestyle? No matter the germ of your idea, sensory elements will bring it to life just as much – or more than – the food you prepare and the drinks you serve.

So, next time you ask a friend about their recent dining experience, pay careful attention to what they say first. Some may say “I liked the food!” But many more will start with their mood, experience, and overall impression of the dining experience. It’s that sensory experience, in which a meal becomes much more than the food consumed, that today’s diners crave.

– Submitted by Matt Mahoney, Marketing