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Has fine dining as we know it's had its finest hour?
Ian Caulder our Creative Director explores the changes affecting the
restaurant scene as a new
generation of consumer shakes things up.


With a huge growth predicted in dining out we asked the question, what will be hitting the restaurant market next? The big mood change in consumers will ultimately alter the landscape of this industry. With a major shift in people wanting to have a dining out experience more frequently it has brought a whole new level of expectation.

The affluent millennial generation is a lucrative target market that is no longer prepared to wait for that special occasion, but want to have a quality dine-out experience on a more frequent basis. They are smart, with much greater social media awareness to multi task researching, and selectively engaging with those brands and experiences that align with their own values. They have an environmental, social awareness of how food is made and sourced, a key factor in influencing their decision making process.

A decade ago we experienced the gulf close between high-end luxury and high street when we collaborated with ‘masstige' brands such as Jo Malone, The White Company and Hotel Chocolat. The launch of these brands into the retail market aimed to offer a slice of affordable luxury for aspirational consumers to enjoy on a more frequent basis.

We are about to see a completely new breed of restaurant experience more aligned with a new millennial consumer. It’s a new generation of non-elitist diners with a refined palette wanting to discover flavour and taste at its very best in a relaxed and social atmosphere.

Chef Stevie Parle is a good example of his generation, turning the tables on mass produced chains and fine dining by merging the two together both at his Rotorino and Dock Kitchen restaurants. More recently though, Parle opened new triumph venue Craft London, focusing on quality roasting of coffee, smoking of fish, bee keeping, fermentation of vegetables and the creation of a contemporary kitchen garden. It’s all about quality, being creative with food and honest simplicity.

This area for growth is being labeled as ‘premiumisation’ where people are looking for added value within their experience. Everything from the provenance to story telling of where it comes from, how it is put together to the unique flavours and taste combinations.  It’s the personal informed service, which makes the visit valued, memorable and lasting in consumer’s minds.

The formality of fine dining no longer fits with the aspirations of the new generation. We will see a growth of places where the focus is on quality of the food and social atmosphere that almost becomes a ‘local’. A good example of this was how Soho House broke the formality of the country house, offering an environment where the discerning can have time off relaxing and just being themselves. One of our clients Café Paradiso, an iconic institution in Cork are ground breaking in re-inventing vegetarian dining by focusing on vegetables fused with local cooking culture rather than typical brown rice and lentils. They have taken hospitality one step further by providing bedrooms for their diners above the restaurant, extending hospitality to this iconic destination.

There is still new life and growth in the fine dining market, but this new breed of diner sees it differently. They see pressure on the quality of our food, and the way we grow it is under serious question, they want to know the provenance and be able to taste the difference. A recent article in The Guardian by Tony Naylor addressed the issue of Fine Dining having an identity crisis and went on to pose the question – is this the end of posh restaurants?

Not so for The Ivy it seems with their new Chelsea Garden spot on the Kings Road, which focuses on produce, provenance and a more rustic experience. Crucially this relaxed incarnation of the stars favourite restaurant is cheaper and also probably easier to get a booking too. They are calling it ‘approachable sophistication’ which seems to sum up a new take on fine dining. Marcus Wareing has also adopted a more relaxed vibe in his latest re-openings with a simpler menu, called ‘Marcus’.

We have helped many start up businesses over the years and are very excited to be working with Kitchenette, an incubator business for innovation within the restaurant market, who are working to help these new breed of restaurateur establish themselves.

We have chosen to mentor Perilla, who we believe are the right kind of business to radically change the perceptions of fine dining. They have already created two very successful pop ups in London lasting three days and are planning to do a third, eight week summer residency in 2015.

We hope you can join us in following their journey on our blog. And it seems the route to the renewed success of fine dining in general is to adopt an atmosphere of quality, rigour in produce sourcing, value in terms of time and money, all in a less stuffy environment.  Bon appetit.