In a landscape where there is little to be happy about, Italians do not give up on restaurants. A fact also demonstrated by aindustry, that of commercial catering, which in the opening of the Merlata Bloom shopping centre, opens 43 restaurants in one fell swoop: old flames and new loves, a lot of the East, but also new interpretations of tradition, an example “As you wish – Bread and condiments” which proposes the customization that made Poké famous but applied to the sandwich (or salad). The ability to keep up with customer desires is not easy but possible.
And i starred restaurants? The answer comes from Jörg Zipprickco-founder and publisher of La Liste, the ranking of the best restaurants in the world: “Economic difficulties have led to the closure of 16% of the restaurants in the Silver category of La Liste”. In recent years, restaurants that were at the top of the lists have closed world rankings such as Noma, Le Gavroche, Deanes Eipic and Ernst thus exposing the difficulties of the haute cuisine sector. Analyzing the “culprits” of the starred debacle, according to La Liste, at the top we find theincrease in operating costs which, as consumer spending declined, created that perfect storm that derailed many businesses and especially gourmet restaurants with limited seating. The path to the high end of catering goes towards one simplification of menushowever, the proposal of unique menus or with few variations safeguards costs but does not seem to please customers very much.
At the same time, we observe a change in consumer behavior: There is a trend towards shorter and more informal dining experiences; even the “instagrammable” dish seems to have had its day and preferences today go to traditional and rustic cuisines, rediscovering classic traditional dishes. In fact, “economic recessions favor traditional and classic cuisine, while prosperity stimulates avant-garde gastronomy. Currently there is a demand for comfort food“, explains Zipprick.
Furthermore, hand in hand with trends in commercial catering, Asia has returned to its pre-2019 pre-eminence, overcoming the impacts of Covid by 2023. Finally, also gastronomic criticism is no longer what it used to be: new influencers come from social media and blogs, think of Eater in the United States, and new gurus and rankings emerge from the East such as Tabelog Restaurant Awards in Japan, Black Pearl in China of the Meituan platform.
What to expect for 2024? In the meantime, we’ll see increase plant-based menus also with dedicated concepts, in this wake arrives in Italy, from De Gustibloom, the food & leisure experience of Merlata Bloom, Neat Burger, the chain of 100% plant based restaurants founded in 2019 and famous for being owned by Leonardo di Caprio and Lewis Hamilton. Even for those who are not only veg, there will be no shortage of vegetarian, vegan and flexible menu options based on ingredients such as legumes, nuts, vegetables and whole grains.
Another trend to watch will behyperlocal sourcing, already applied by some restaurants, names and sometimes faces peek out from the menus, the origin of the meat and vegetables highlighted to reassure a customer who is attentive not only to the preparation but also to the supply chain that is served at the table in the form of a dish. In both of these trends, the sustainabilityan increasingly important topic to prepare for.
To overcome the price issue, it will be necessary to aim forexperience: Unique experiences that go beyond the simple meal are a top priority for consumers today. Restaurants should involve customers, put chefs at the table, offer mixology lessons or wine and beer tasting courses, practical cooking demonstrations and engaging culinary events. The experiential dinner makes visits memorable and shareable on social media.
Finally, let’s not forget the delivery: the take-away dinner must taste the same as the one eaten in the restaurant. If the restaurant is starred (or aspires to a star), the delivery and packaging must also be in line and, for more pop deliveries, let’s remember the attention to sustainability also involves the choice of packaging and delivery. Without forgetting the channels on which to be found, beyond the classic home delivery apps, social channels can have their charm (also because they are more adaptable to the style of the restaurant); what is certain is that, at the base, there must be an adequate presence on social media, with targeted campaigns with and without influencers.