Illustration by Jessica Gómez.
Restaurants as urban phenomens
Imagine a modest and hidden French bistro with 15 tables in the heart of the city, the entire site has been booked for days. Who are the people that picked that place in advance and what are they celebrating?
Going to a restaurant has a lot to do with the social experience and the stimuli around it, more than it does with the actual food served. Having a third space to go to is the bread and butter of contemporary urban society, according to urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place, which refers to this place as anywhere people meet informally to generate community: parks, squares and for two centuries: bars, restaurants and today more than ever: coffee shops.
Oldenburg says that the first place for a human being is home, the second: work, and the third space serves as a shared canvas for leisure and entertainment, which means, boiling points that counteract on the demanding everyday life, for example: are we going to have a drink after work? Where should we go?
Invisible points to measure an experience:
When choosing a restaurant the conscience side of your brain thinks imminently in the gastronomic profile, however, according to the Experience Design department of Mero Mole there are four factors that stimulate our unconscious to measure an experience in a restaurant:
1. Unique hospitality gestures
Those points that enrich, differentiates the brand from others and make the public pass the word. For example, at the El Nacional de Barcelona gourmet market there is a bar with a food auction: the chef shouts out the tapas he has just prepared and the highest bidder takes it.
Another example is a disco inspired by the eighties in L.A.: Breakroom 86 in Koreatown where you can find the menu inside a VHS vintage movie box.
2. Personality of the staff
A restaurant is like a play: the captain, waiters and cooks are representatives of the brand and points of direct contact with the diners, it is typical for old school fine dining to offer a formal treatment towards the diner, which ends up being too rigid and creates a tense environment.
It is noted when the staff guides the experience and treats its guests like old friends. At the Salón Ríos in Colonia Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City, a member of the team passes by with a basket of tacos to start out before the menu arrives. This place’s service is inspired by old cantinas that had the goal to extend customers seat at the table the rest of the evening, so a hard working yet down to earth staff is a key element.
3. Quality of the gastronomic offer and value vs. money
What determines whether a restaurant is overvalued or expensive has to do with the expectation vs. reality relationship. When we talk about value vs. money, we link the variables of: quality of inputs, portions, presentation and complexity of preparation.
For example, the famous La Guerrerense toasts in Ensenada are located in a nine-square-meter space, however, each toast is made with fresh ingredients from Ensenada with a disruptive culinary proposal and haute cuisine from the sea: hedgehog ceviche with clam or fish paté with ax callus – fine dining quality at an affordable price.
The objective as a restaurateur is to make the diner feel that he wins. The same thing happens at the Sonora Grill Prime chain; there is a 2×1 flagship promotion in distilled liquors: which ends up generating traffic and a prolonged experience. This chain of restaurants is one of the strongest generating businesses nationwide.
4. Environment, interior design and architecture
The above responds to the vibe of the place. Environment responds to: density of capacity – the more people there are, the more hustle and movement, therefore: life. The music’s genre and volume, and lighting are also involved. How many times have you entered a nice but empty restaurant and gone away?
The space’s design should be related to the emotions you wish to provoke in the people coming in, each chosen material is more than an architectural element, they are means of communication, an armchair says: make yourself comfortable, a bar without armchairs says: eat and go fast.
Restaurants from the past versus restaurants today and digital natives
Restaurants in the past were designed to culminate celebrations exclusively, today, there are plenty of reasons to turn to them. Here are some examples of why people choose restaurants in this postmodern era:
- Restaurants to break up with someone.
- Restaurants to talk about business.
- Restaurants to go after work and after dinner drinks.
- Romantic restaurants for a first date.
- Restaurants to go to breakfast with in-laws.
- Restaurants to eat healthy and fast.
- Comfort clean food restaurants.
- Restaurants to go with children and pets.
- Restaurants to work on your laptop all afternoon.
The previous points were generalized from different markets, but where do we leave the digital natives?
Here are six points that are essential to consider for this online public:
1. Instagram Account
World prizes: World Restaurants Awards reward the best emerging restaurants in different approaches; as a trend there is the category: best Instagram account, among the nominees we see names like Joan Roca, René Redzepi.
This social network is a way to taste the restaurant before visiting it: researching dishes, atmosphere and architecture, in other words: craving, craving and craving.
2. Are you in Uber Eats or Rappi?
One of the key words of this era is convenience, delivery platforms make our lives easier. From 2014 to 2016, online orders worldwide have grown 300% according to the specialized Quick Service Restaurants page.
3. What culinary or special events exist?
We live in the era of experiences, if your restaurant is a destination, how do you get your audience to return more often?
An important trend in recent years is the synergy of chefs to create duet events, from a special brunch to a taco happening. For example, Tachinomi Desu has Taco Tuesdays, and invites chefs from other restaurants to do their take on tacos. So any given Tuesday you can get to know other chefs from restaurants like Masala and Maíz and taste their taco reinterpretation.
4. What is your input ethic?
Knowing the history behind the products is fundamental for a consumer that supports the locals. For example, restaurants like Cicatriz and Pizzas Felix are enthusiastic about supporting projects like Yolcan and the proteins they offer are of organic origin.
5. Comments from other users
Since its introduction in 2008, the Open Table review program has created more than 76 million restaurant user evaluations. OpenTable generates more than 1 million reviews.
This phenomenon is similar to what happens when you buy a product on Amazon or choosing a house on Airbnb,there’s more trust in client ratings than the actual brand.
*Our specialty is the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry.