With Casual Dining rapidly fragmenting into an ever-increasing number of subcategories (fast casual, fresh casual, healthy casual), experience based dining is now coming into its own… again.

Trends are never entirely new: Just like fashion, they’re simply re-invented, re-packaged and hopefully improved upon for each generation. Experience based dining is back and this time, it will be bigger than ever.

Experience based dining is a casual dining category that’s built all around themes, experiences and giving the consumer something a little more different and fun…Our own recent project F Pigalle is right on the money here.  A fondue dining concept inspired by the Parisian red light district of the same name,  F Pigalle is a step up from casual dining, leading its customer into an intriguing, bordello style ambience, where the fondue experience is being gastronomically elevated (by Chef Sam Marvin) along with world class cocktails, lighting, music and interior design and value for money to give a unique experience to every customer.

To put experience dining into context, you need to look at the concept of a the “Experience Revolution” and the current feeling of “Stuffocation”.

The material desires of Millennials and Generation X are becoming exhausted and saturated, and leisure and travel markets are now outperforming traditional retailers. Millennials may be leading this in terms of overall spending power, but Generation X are also part of this mindset and shift.

Consumers feel that they ‘own enough already’, and are looking to experiences for fulfilment and to create memories – ‘collecting experiences instead of things’.

Bloomberg Business stated that in the EU and US this year, the out-performance of leisure (airlines, restaurants and pubs) against retail is at its highest since 2011. Retail is aware that it needs to evolve to regain market standing. Urban Outfitters’ acquisition of Pizza Verki is a market example of this shift.

Experience-based dining has varying levels of definition: From a memorable restaurant experience to an immersive, theatrical, theme-based drinking and dining experience and everything in-between.

What makes a memorable restaurant experience? On a very basic level, this means engaging interiors, an innovative menu and an invigorating and cohesive brand voice.

As discerning consumers these are the restaurants and levels of quality we expect and return to. Examples from some of our own UK clients, would be Za Za Bazaar, Filthy Cow, Kua’Aina and Bluegrass.  Consumers are looking for delicious food, a brand we can engage with and a memorable dining experience. These are the brands and restaurants we can emotively connect with.

Delving further into the immersive aspect of this dining trend, there are the ‘event or party casual’ restaurants that offer unusual and memorable interior themes. In the USA you have hugely successful brands such as Heart Attack Grill.  Our own client, F Pigalle is also a great example. Mystery’s founder, Dan Einzig (based in LA), supported Chef Sam Marvin in creating his Parisian bordello-themed fondue restaurant F Pigalle.

Together they created a restaurant with a vintage bordello reception and an interior that meshes urban street art with French boudoir influences. Following the tradition of the venue that inspired Marvin’s dream, drinks are served in baby bottles and the menu hero is their grass-fed beef fondue.

In London, a popular immersive dining experience is The Ginger Line.  It offers secret dining adventures that are located in proximity to the ‘Ginger’ Overground line that runs throughout London. Would-be diners find out the exact location by 6pm on the day of their dining event, and after food and theatrical adventures are done, the expectation is that where, what and how is kept a secret.

Previous venues and themes have included submarine suppers, Victorian feasts at the Brunel museum and a Puppeteers Workshop. Their popularity has gone from strength to strength. The drinks, food, setting and theatrical elements are approached by chefs and designers with the overall aim to create truly captivating eating experiences.

Experience Based Dining (EBD) is fast becoming an integral part of The Experience Revolution and you’ll see a lot more of it over the next couple of years.