'Dinnertainment:' Elevated Menus at Theatrical Dining Concepts Provide the Ultimate Experience

'Dinnertainment:' Elevated Menus at Theatrical Dining Concepts Provide the Ultimate Experience

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

As dining out becomes a daily occurrence, what draws a customer to one restaurant over another? Is it the food, the décor, or the service? Perhaps it’s the overall experience which is then reported back to friends. With the influence of social media, diners love to share what they are experiencing on Instagram, Facebook, Periscope, Twitter, and Snapchat. Usually the photos of a beautifully plated dish will represent the experience. However, some restaurants are taking the dining experience to a more experiential level and incorporating theatrical elements. No longer is dining out simply sitting at a table with your friends and having a conversation.

Theatrical dining is not a new concept. Italian pizza restaurant Miceli’s has the singing waiters and The Magic Castle offers roaming magicians and magic shows. There is also Medieval Times where men, dressed as knights, joust and brandish weapons as diners eat and cheer on the knights. But food is not the primary focus when a diner goes to one of these venues. They go for the entertainment and for the overall experience. Yet, there are experiential dining experiences in Los Angeles that are raising the bar and going beyond performance dining. Theatrical elements are brought into the modern dining environment to enhance, not overshadow, the food. 

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Breaking Down a Trend: Cook-It-Yourself Restaurants

Breaking Down a Trend: Cook-It-Yourself Restaurants

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Once upon a time, eating outside of the home in a restaurant on the weekends was a special occasion. After a week of preparing your own meals, there was something exciting about going out for a good dinner prepared and served by someone else. As the food scene has evolved, eating out is now a daily occurrence for many. Why cook your own meal at home where you have to prep and clean up, when you can go to a restaurant, sit back and relax while being served? If this is the benefit of dining out, why is it a common trend to cook your own food in a restaurant? 

From Korean BBQ and shabu shabu to hot pots and fondue, it is as popular as ever to go to a restaurant where the servers bring you the ingredients to cook your own food. It seems we have come full circle. Now we are paying others so that we can “cook our own meal.” 

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QSR-Plus: The New Threat to Fast Casual?

QSR-Plus: The New Threat to Fast Casual?

By Amelia Levin, Foodable Industry & Research Editor

It’s all about the food. 

At least that’s why many consumers have chosen fast-casual restaurants over fast food ones for the past several years. QSRs have clamored to stay in the game with their consistency, value, and speed propositions. Now, some veterans (Arby’s, Wendy’s) are bumping up the quality on their menus in an attempt to compete, while others already considered more premium (Chick-fil-A, Potbelly), are sticking to their guns. 

Referred to as “QSR-Plus,” this burgeoning segment has to compete with the Chipotles and the Firehouse Subs of the world — and in some cases, against themselves (more on that in a minute). 

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4 Keys to Hosting a Successful Wine Dinner

4 Keys to Hosting a Successful Wine Dinner

By Kaitlin Ohlinger, Foodable Contributor

The experience of food and wine together can be a truly transcendent experience when in the right hands. Giving over the control of your meal to expert hands is an act of surrender and can lead to exciting places. The key to that sentence? Expert hands. A wine dinner is full of minute, critical details that must work together in order for an event to be a success. Anyone who has attended a dinner where something just seemed “off” can attest to the need for organization and proper planning in an almost choreographic sense. Right down to the glamorous task of counting plates, all the pieces matter.

Recently, El Gaucho Portland hosted an ambitious dinner that brought together five acclaimed winemakers who have all worked under DeLille Cellars’ Executive Winemaker and Co-founder Chris Upchurch. A whopping 107 guests were seated. According to General Manager Corey Hightower, it had been at least 10-15 years since El Gaucho had hosted a dinner of this size. The execution, said Corey, isn’t the hard part. “It’s everything that comes beforehand.”

Watching El Gaucho's staff on the night of the dinner, it was evident that every movement, in both front and back of the house, had been practiced. Everyone moved together as if no effort were involved.

Here, we take a look at the four key elements to consider when planning a dinner of this size.

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The Seven Heavy-Hitting Dining Trends for 2015

The Seven Heavy-Hitting Dining Trends for 2015

By Rick Zambrano, Foodable Industry Expert

The prediction of trends for the coming year is just as scientific as it is at odds. In terms of food, ingredient and dining trends– are they gaining momentum and how are they being measured? For food and ingredients, it’s fairly straightforward to gauge consumer interest. Databases and data tools can be utilized to look at both ingredient lists in packaged foods– in addition to penetration on restaurant menus; and that comparison between one year and the next can be a guide. Google Trends can be used to see how popular certain ingredients and foods are in searches.

For dining trends, validating predictions can be based on the contextual and anecdotal using periodicals, books, and news reports. Here are some dining and food trends that I noticed, through a combination of research and observation, that are likely to gain momentum in the coming year. 

Restaurateurs and foodservice operators can take cues from the list to see what’s meaningful for their operations in 2015:

Fluid Dining - Consumers are eating at their convenience and in their own ways. Most of them don’t know what their next meal will be. So decisions around dining that aren’t bound by a calendar appointment or social gathering will be quite fluid. Today, it’s just as easy to grab Pad Thai noodles from a food truck as it is to satisfy a burger craving at the local franchise of a casual dining chain.

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