Restaurants in a flat world are mostly the same.
In today’s world, most of the restaurants you end up going to are mostly offering you the same kind of dish and taste. It’s maybe time to kick start more innovation in the restaurant business and offer more variety.
Like many people, I love to eat, go out for dinner and try new restaurants. I just feel that too many places I visit always serve you mostly of the same.
We can divide the restaurant business in 4 tiers. You have the fast food type such as McDonald’s or even its healthy equivalents which offer a cheap and quick option to eat. Usually, you go there knowing exactly what you are going to eat. These different chains do a good job in differentiating their offerings and specializing in one type of food (burgers, Chinese, pizza…).
The second tier is the multitude of single-owned restaurants you can find around the block such as the mid-level Italian or the restaurant chains which are a little but more upscale than our first tier (such as California Pizza Kitchen). Here, you will take more time to eat, spend a little bit more money, have a good meal but you are not expecting something special. You just go to eat.
The third tier is the more upscale restaurant. This is the type of restaurants where you take a date, have a business lunch or where couple of friends want to have a good and trendy dinner on the weekend. The prices are much higher, the decoration is more refined and every of these restaurants try to create a different concept to lure in consumers. You usually eat well or even very well depending of the spot.
The last tier is the gastronomic or Michelin stars restaurant type. There you usually don’t go very often, only for special occasions as the restaurants are prohibitively expensive and the meals are too special to just have a regular meal. You need to dress up, etc…there are not many gastronomic restaurants around.
Most people eat most of the time in the middle tiers (in the restaurants around the block or in the slightly more upscale restaurants). And here is my problem: in most of these restaurants, you end up eating exactly the same dish. Yes, the menus and presentation are slightly different from place to place but in reality you will eat the same recipes. For example, most Indian restaurants will serve you the same Chicken Tikka Masala, most Chinese will offer you the same dim-sums, most Japanese will offer the same tuna tartar and edamame. I could go on and on. It’s mostly the same.
For sure, restaurants are always trying to improve their menu in order to maximize their sales and make sure they offer a menu which is suitable to their consumers’ target. Nothing is done in a well-managed restaurant only for the sake of taste. For example, if many weight-conscious people come to a particular place, the restaurant will make sure to offer a large varieties of soups and salads or other light dishes. But what about creating a different experience? Offering unique dishes?
Obviously, there are a some restaurants who come with very creative dishes in their particular category (I am excluding here the gastronomic restaurants which are always looking to create unique combinations). Still, in the vast majority, they just replicate what seems to work for other venues. Decoration and marketing might be different but at the end, you won’t remember specifically a single dish that you have there. It’s “just” good or very good which is clearly important but overall the experience is the same.
So when can we start to have restaurateurs take a different, more startup kind of mentality and offer us at every corner a truly different experience? Probably this can never happen as it would be too costly and risky to experiment new tastes for each new restaurant but I believe that in the future, we will see much more innovations in this business as consumers are increasingly seeking new experiences above anything else.