Everyone is talking about restoring the magic of retailing. A closer look reveals that, above all others, eating out is the sector in which brands have been able to restore magic to the everyday experience…
Mobility: or when the retailers come to you
Mobile restaurant concepts are emerging around the world. One example is Müvbox: a container that transforms into a restaurant for thirty or so people in 90 seconds. This solar powered mobile restaurant has been moving around the streets of Montreal’s Old Port for the past few years.
Munch Truck is a similar concept. With almost 2.5 billion people eating street food every day, but reluctant to compromise on quality, Americans have launched a gourmet food truck concept: ready-to-use trucks provided to restaurant chains, chefs, or simply cooking enthusiasts. The company offers people who hire its trucks the option of customising the vehicles in their corporate colours, provides promotional tools via social networks, helps them select sites, etc. A true turnkey concept that allows them to increase their ROI and visibility while reducing investment costs.
The connected restaurant
Some restaurants are using new technology to retain customers, surprise them and offer an increasingly better service. Following New York's JFK and La Guardia airports, which have installed iPads allowing travellers to order their food remotely from participating retailers, it is now the turn of restaurants to offer touch pad menus: the so-called E la Carte Tablet. These allow customers to read the menu, order and pay for their food. During the meal, they can not only play games and do quizzes, allowing them to accumulate points that give them a discount on their bill, but also give their feedback on the restaurant.
In a similar vein, take a look at the Izkaya restaurant in Rotterdam, which offers interactive touch screen tables.
Experiential restaurants to create surprise
Some are pushing the customer experience further by creating an amusement park or treasure hunt atmosphere! One example is a restaurant in the chic district of Ginza, Japan, which immerses customers into the world of Alice in Wonderland. Diners are plunged into an imaginary and dreamlike world in which different rooms recall the environments of Carroll's tale with psychedelic decor.
In Italy, a travel agency, Link Tours, organises Street Dinners. These travelling gastronomic events offer ephemeral dinners in the form of a treasure hunt for 60€, including: pre-dinner drink, table, 2 chairs, 2 menus to choose from, 2 Street Dinner T-shirts (so that the organisers can recognise you) and instructions on the evening programme with a street map. All this information is drip-fed by text messages, stating the place where the pre-dinner drink will be served and the establishment where you collect your table, chairs and meal. An hour before dinner, a further message finally reveals the location of this chic and informal picnic.
Sustainable and social restaurants
Sustainability is a requirement that no retailer can now escape. Acorn House, in the Shoreditch area of London, has been described in The Times as the most important restaurant to have opened in London in the past 200 years. The restaurant consists entirely of organic and recycled materials. It composts and recycles 100% of its waste, avoids buying from industrial farms, requires the highest livestock farming standards for its meat, uses green energy, buys fair trade products, never uses air freight for deliveries but has environmentally friendly containers running on bio-diesel, waste water purifiers, and its ingredients are for the most part produced locally! Real action taken seriously, with no details left to chance.
Some entrepreneurs are more interested in the individual and conduct more social activities. Restaurants like Lentil as Anything in Melbourne, SAME (So All Might Eat) Café in Denver, or Der Wiener Deevan in Vienna have established the “Pay as you want” concept: by appealing to their customers’ conscience, these restaurants advocate generosity and altruism, with some customers even spending a little more to buy meals for those who can’t afford them.
To conclude, beyond the examples mentioned above, a business cannot simply create surprise for the sake of it, develop technology for the sake of it or be sustainable for the sake of it… Any action, any concept, has to support a real, strong and unique brand vision.
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