Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Culinary Tourism Trends: What’s In and Out

Eat With ; Hummus Brunch with Naama Shefi & Noam Bonnie ; Photo By: Eilon Paz

Make no mistake about it, culinary tourism is booming. It’s now a mature special interest category which brings with it higher expectations for novelty, creativity, and innovative offerings. Cooking and mixology classes, food and wine pairings, and food festivals seem so, well, yesterday. Here’s a look at what was and what’s now.

 

THEN NOW
Cooking classes Behind the scenes with the chef
Wine tastings Hot sauce or other specialty food tastings
Eating local Eating with locals in their homes or outside venues (e.g. mama cooks, eat with a local)
Group food tours Personalized dining itineraries based on food preferences, traveling configurations, budget
World’s Fair with Food Courts Food themed world’s fair (Milan Expo 2015)
Chef driven menus Crowd sourced menus
Dining as party Dining and conversation (“silence is the new luxury”)

 

And in the category of dining trends, it’s important to not leave out gluten free. Any major restaurant has to cater to the needs of gluten free diners. Not only is it expected, but the absence of sensitivity to these special needs loses business and also makes a statement about service.

It’s interesting that in two restaurant visits in Miami in the past 45 days, one to a multi million dollar upscale restaurant operated by an international group, there were only two items on a multi page menu for gluten free. I was with a group of 8 and the diner walked out. In another case, another high-end restaurant, the waiter and kitchen staff had obviously not been trained about this special needs group. Take note!

Photo courtesy of Travel and Leisure

 

Food Extremism

blog-heart-attack-grill1

It seems extremism has hit the food and restaurant industries. I happened to watch the new show on Showtime, the “Seven Deadly Sins”  episode on gluttony and learned about the Heart Attack Grill. The medically themed restaurant’s goal is to offer everything that’s as unhealthy as possible. Think hamburgers named for four levels of bypass surgery with the most intense, the quadruple bypass weighing in at close to 10,000 calories. It can be accompanied by lard fried French fries and jello shots with vodka. And how about some unfiltered cigarettes? If you weigh more than 350 pounds they give you a burger on the house. Two people died in the restaurant.  I can’t help but wonder what percentage of the diners are of moderate weight, just trying this for the experience, and how many are obese, this just a step further in the way they usually eat.

And then there are the Paleos whose diet mimics that of the cavemen — eat only meats, fish, nuts, vegetables and seeds. There are Pinterest boards interesting to look at that feature Paleo snacks and entertaining. (There’s also a group of Paleos that eschew soap and shampoo and still others that smear bacteria on their body). So you hoteliers out there — don’t see Paleo hotels as a niche concept for a dedicated hotel,  but maybe for a themed weekend getaway? It’d certainly generate a lot of press coverage!

In between the extremes are all of the dietary restrictions that are now expected to be addressed in restaurant menus, from peanut and lactose allergies to gluten free, vegetarian and VEGAN (have I missed some?). Oh yes, organic is desirable. Not easy being a restauranteur these days.

 

4 Trends in the Business of Restaurants

kwe blog le locamerchant-1Not much has happened in the business of restaurants in recent years. I’m talking about innovations other than in the cooking itself or culinary approach, to increase revenues. With the tremendous competition now and rising rents and food costs, we’re finally beginning to see some new, creative ideas that are worth noting. Expect to see a lot more in coming months, especially with Priceline’s recent purchase of OpenTable.  Here are several restaurant trends that have a lot of promise:

!.How to increase covers in the downtimes of 5:30 to 6:30/7? Fine restaurants are trying to make diners feel as if they’re special, going out of their way with attention and service. Restaurants realize they need to overcome the traditional stigma of diners feeling like second class citizens, part of an “early bird special” group.  In addition, all matters of special incentives are being offered, from smaller portions (and prices) of signature dishes and a small bites menu to unique menus such as New York’s Le Cirque offering what they call a heritage menu with items like Dover sole and wild Burgundy Escargots. Read more in “No Shame in a Table at 5:30” in the Wall Street Journal.

2.As the top 1% get richer and the stock market continues on an upward trajectory, demand at the top restaurants in peak hours has been off the charts. New apps have sprung up like Zurvu and Resy that cooperate with restaurants sharing revenue for the most in demand dining times  and access to prime tables (a “commission” from $10 a person to $50 a table).

3.Restaurants hosting a visiting chef from out of town or out of country has been around for a long time. But now there’s a new twist – a visiting local chef.  Harry’s Pizzeria owned by star Miami chef Michael Schwartz hosted a series of themed dinners with Miami colleagues. We’re also seeing several chefs team up to do special dinners at a colleague’s restaurant. The idea? Copromotion which makes a lot of sense.

4.Reservation websites are providing incentives for early bookings. Members of Opentable get more points for booking early time slots and another app. leloca, gives last minute discounts at participating restaurants to users (like the restaurant counterpart to Hotel Tonight).

Entertainment Returns to Dining

kwe blog crepes suzette

In the 70’s I fondly remember restaurant tableside preparation of Caesar salad, guacamole, and flambes. The flambes always added elements of entertainment and glamour to a meal, so I lamented their passing from style. With the advent of Spain’s Ferran Adria, his molecular gastronomy and disciples, tableside food preparation came back into fashion, but it just didn’t seem the same.

Now, restaurants across the country are bringing back some of the traditional dishes and with them, tableside preparation sometime by the chef himself. It makes sense. It offers a culinary experience for the diner at a time when travelers and the affluent want new experiences. For the restaurant it  not only creates a buzz, but also, helps justify higher price points and adds value. The Wall Street Journal recently described what some of the more innovative restaurants are doing. Leading the pack is New York’s Eleven Madison Park which has made their signature entertainment, justifying the $225 prix fixe dinner. For instance, a raw carrot is put through a meat grinder clamped to a table. Voila, carrot tartare. Michael Lomonaco, chef and partner at Porter House New York has brought back the duck press. In the $110 roast duck dish for two, bones are crushed in the French press at the table. The duck comes out on a gueridon cart and disassembled at the table. Duck’s legs and thighs are served in a salad for the first course, and the breast with the juice from the crushed bones is second.

Other dishes that get the tableside entertainment treatment are a 40 oz, 14 in long rib eye carved before the diners’ eyes at Urban Farmer in Portland, tea smoked oysters at Desnuda ceviche bar in Brooklyn, and tableside cloud preparations for pasta or rabbit with a mist of truffles at Marc Forgione in New York. And then there are the traditional dishes of the 50’s and 60’s like steak au poivre, crepes suzettes and flambéed drinks. Brennan’s of Houston has even created a new job description: flambé chefs. Glad for the return of this nostalgic element of dining.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera

New Twists on Eating Local

 

Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

The eating of eating locally grown food continues to gain steam with new variations on water, land and sea, and novel ones at that.  Road warriors weary of the all too prevalent chain restaurants in airports and on interstate highways, will be delighted to hear that airports across the country are turning to leading hometown chefs for new eateries on the casual side. As reported in the New York Times,  at LAX airport, Michael Voltaggio of Ink and Ink Sack is opening an upscale sandwich shop and Suzanne Goin of the highly regarded Lucques will open a high end deli next month. Chicago’s Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), Houston’s Bryan Caswell (Reef) and Denver’s Justin Cucci (Root Down) also have new dining spots on tap with extensive menu items to go.  Approaching local from a sustainable transportation model, Vermont farmer Erik Andrus launched the Vermont Sail Freight Project , a low tech approach to both food and energy,that features a 39 foot sailing barge, Ceres, that plies the Hudson River with produce from 30 new England farms. Produce is destined for sale in port towns from Hudson to Yonkers – farmers markets, dinners and parties. In an earlier post on the new phenomenon of the “hobby farmer’ we wrote about urbanites having their own chicken coops for fresh eggs. In the latest twist, a company started a business called “rent a chicken”. For $350 customers can rent a pair of egg laying hens, a supply of food, coop and water dish for a several month period to try it out. All the rewards of backyard chickens for much less responsibility. Sounds like an intriguing idea, but what do you do when you travel? How about a new business idea, hen sitters!?

Young Foodies, your Devoted Customers-to-Be

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network's "Chopped".

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network’s “Chopped”.

More on millennials marketing. Remember you read it here first – teenagers and offspring of affluent parents will be a food focused generation. All of the signs are there. Teens favoriting the Food Network and other foodie shows, then trying out what they see in the kitchen. Even toddlers have become adventurous eaters and think nothing of eating sushi, sashimi and “Babe-a-ccinos” (a coffee free cappuccino).  We are, indeed, a food obsessed population. Look not only at the proliferation of cooking schools, growth of culinary tourism, tourist board food and wine festivals, but social networking sites, blogs, and review sites. Youngsters are eager to join their parents in cooking classes at the pricier resorts around the world. I have a 13 year old niece whose best friend gave her a ring that was inscribed with the words “kale” in honor of her obsession with the dark green leafy vegetable. Where does this come from? Their parents’ foodie culture.

Now we’re seeing exhibits honoring the world’s leading chefs: early next year will be an exhibit of the drawings and diagrams of master Spanish chef Ferran Adrià at the Drawing Center in New York.  And then there’s the Food Hotel which we’ve written about before. What does this all mean to marketers? Capturing the imagination and interest of these young foodies can create indelible memories that can translate into a devoted customer-to-be.

 

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

Connecting through food

Creating emotional ties and helping people connect through food is going strong. Communal tables, small plates, food halls, farmers markets, bar dining (today’s bar food is on par with the best restaurant kitchens) and Yelp.com meet-ups have all play a role. Above all, sharing is a common link. Conversations and communities are created when people seek out others with similar tastes and outlooks on sourcing, cooking and serving food.

[more...]

BYOF (Bring you own food)

Are you ready for the next food trend? First it was organic, then local. Now, a new culinary movement is sprouting: urban foraging. As expected, this trend has been hot among foodies in California and New York City for years.

[more...]

Food pop-ups continue to flourish

Restaurant and food pop-ups are flourishing in every shape and size. Intimacy and hipness is the attraction: the ‘I-know-something-or-somebody-you-don’t-know’ feeling. We’ve seen numerous examples of pop-up restaurants in recent years, including those with strictly three-month seasonal menus. Others use guerrilla gourmet dining clubs: strictly word-of-mouth, unlicensed, underground restaurants in unmarked buildings, blind alleys and urban caverns.

[more...]