Many industries are evolving at a rapid pace and the food sector is no exception. What we eat, where we eat, and how we eat is subject to quickly changing trends and technology. While a delicious meal is always a memorable one, companies are now more focussed than ever on giving diners a great experience that goes beyond the food; whether that be designing an Instagrammable restaurant or an app that swiftly delivers takeaways. Here are some of the more interesting developments we’ve seen in food over the last year.
Food courts once had a reputation for being nothing more than an unglamorous pit stop in shopping centres – a place where tired shoppers could get off their feet for an hour and fuel up on fast food. Now, after a bit of a makeover, they’re exciting dining destinations where visitors are spoilt for choice. Interiors feel more like quality restaurants and vendors and menus are carefully curated. The food court at Emporium Melbourne raised eyebrows at its opening in 2014, featuring multiple independent outlets and taking inspiration from luxury Asian food courts. Two years later, $160 million development The Kitchens opened on the Gold Coast, a food court with 40 outlets featuring open kitchens offering food tastings, workshops, and masterclasses. Now, diners going to the likes of Ichiba or Eataly see it as a good way to spend their time.
The rise of online shopping has led to brands changing their strategies when it comes to their physical stores, offering more than just a purely transactional experience. We’ve seen cafés and coffee shops make their way into countless stores but some have taken their dining offerings a bit more seriously. Cycling goods company Rapha has made its cafés a huge part of the brand by integrating them into the culture. They’ve become spaces within the Clubhouses for cyclists to unwind, watch events or look at the displays of memorabilia. Home-furnishing giant RH has been remodelling itself into a lifestyle brand, turning its stores into more than just a place to see and buy furniture. The chain turned heads when it moved to the Meatpacking district in New York and opened a rooftop restaurant, wine terrace, and barista bar. Their new Yountville store has a tasting room in its Wine Vault as well as an indoor/outdoor restaurant where diners are surrounded by olive trees. Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman says the company is keen to create spaces that feel ‘more home than store’.
Haidilao, a hotpot chain in China, recently opened an AI-operated restaurant in Beijing where orders are taken to diners by robot waiters. The chain is well known for its excellent customer service and that extends to its new members of staff; the robots are programmed with responses and can politely ask people to move out of their way when blocked. The robot takeover of the service industry is happening across cuisines with a Korean Pizza Hut trialling a robot server in one of its Seoul branches and Cafe X’s robot barista serving up cups of coffee in San Francisco. Currently, these service machines are a novelty more than anything else. Once technology improves, however, it’s likely we’ll be seeing even more robots at restaurants.
From wanting to know exactly where our food comes from to watching countless documentaries on Netflix, we’re all becoming more interested in learning more about what we eat. An exhibition all about ice cream made waves in London over the summer. The Museum of Food teamed up with Bombas & Parr to put on SCOOP: A Wonderful Ice Cream World, taking visitors through the past, present, and future of the sweet treat. The exhibition featured a huge collection of vintage paraphernalia along with immersive installations, like a luminescent cave where visitors tried glow-in-the-dark ice cream. Brands are getting on board with giving customers learning experiences too. We created a flagship store for Johnnie Walker designed so that visitors can learn more about the brand, the flavours they use, and the craft of cocktail making.
Of course, the SCOOP exhibition didn’t ignore Instagram appeal and made sure there were plenty of photo opportunities for visitors. The social network has caused major changes in the food and retail industry, creating unprecedented buzz for photogenic restaurants and spaces. Thousands flocked to the Museum of Ice Cream when it opened in 2016. Calling itself an ‘experience-first brand’, MOIC created the exhibition with the premise that ice cream is a symbol of joy. Instagram feeds were flooded with images of people having fun in the dessert-inspired art installations. Many other brands are also getting in on the theatrics to wow their customers. If Willy Wonka were to open grown-up coffee shops, they would probably look like Starbucks’ Reserve Roasteries. Created as ‘experiential shrines to coffee passion’, these specially designed branches draw crowds of customers wanting to see the spectacle.
Supper clubs have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. Aside from a great meal, these dinner party/restaurant hybrids offer a social setting with the chance to meet new people. They often take place in the chef’s home, making for a more intimate setting and a markedly different experience to dining out in a restaurant. However, as supper clubs have come back into fashion many now happen as pop ups in cafes, delis, and other, more novel locations. In London, Basement Galley hosts weekly meals in an old tube carriage and UNA serves diners inside the St. Pancras Clock Tower.
What’s especially interesting about the variety of new experiences in the food and dining scene is the shift in perspectives it’s bringing. An upmarket dining experience is no longer restricted to restaurants decked out with tablecloths while an inexpensive lunch could be delivered to your table by a robot on wheels. As the food industry continues to change, we expect to see more and more new experiences that delight customers. It’s an exciting time to be a foodie, that’s for sure.
At Dalziel and Pow, our ambition is to create the world’s favourite, consumer-centric brand experiences. Brand experience is everything that connects people with your brand, defined by a brand’s purpose, personality, people, the places it creates, its product offering and the process of inspiring and serving customers. We work with our clients to define and design brands, bringing them to life as physical and digital experiences using our expertise in strategy, branding, communications, digital and environments. If you’re interested in finding out more, please do not hesitate to contact Celine Bacconi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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