How to Create an Experiential Restaurant

Your restaurant is your baby, but it’s hard work to make it matter to your intended audience the way it matters to you. More and more, customers crave a unique restaurant experience; “eatertainment,” or experimental concepts that breathe excitement into plain old dinner.

75% of Millennials prefer an interesting, all-encompassing experience to just enjoying good food; although that can mean anything from a dinner show to games to anything else that turns the regular restaurant experience into something more entertaining. It’s become an increasingly popular trend in recent years. If your restaurant is looking to add a little spark to its meals, there are a few just things to keep in mind before you launch an experiential, entertaining restaurant concept.

Sustainability

While searching for the next big hit, keep in mind that Millennials and all your other customers have certain values which you need to prioritize as much as you need to cater to their enjoyment in order to become relevant and remain a worthwhile haunt for them to spend their hard-earned time and money. Sustainability is one such factor; consumer trends increasingly favor eco-friendly restaurants that treat employees with respect, among other things. Emphasize your commitment to doing good and watch your customers grow more loyal as a result.

When building a conceptual restaurant, take advantage of everything you have at your disposal: If your location is well-suited for foot traffic or you have good curb appeal, lean on those advantages with storefront advertising. Take time to find your niche, explore your advantages and then exploit them into a successful experiential concept.

Themes

People enjoy a good time, a break from their day-to-day lives, no matter how brief. Sometimes, the sillier the better. Take advantage of the space in your restaurant and play around with the decor, the design or even consider putting on some themed events to add something extra to the atmosphere.

If you are going to put on some sort of “experience,” be it dinner theater or something else, make sure it starts from the second that customers walk in the door so as to really make the most of it. Staff should stay in character from the greeting to the customers’ exit to get the fully immersive experience. Get creative and make it unique if you want to really outsell your competition.

Community

It’s good to come together to eat; people crave it, and it’s a tradition as old as time. Studies show 69% of Millennials like to dine out partially as a reason to connect with friends, family and people in general. Experiential dining is a great way to encourage these connections: Drive toward a common goal, or enjoy a show together, or something of the sort.

A creative restaurant concept is a chance to cultivate a space where people are encouraged to come together. Drinks, food and activities invite interconnectivity with little distraction, and that will lead customers to take a night off now and then to come back to your restaurant with their favorite people.

Appeal

For the best restaurant experience, of course, you need to take just as much care with the restaurant aspect as you do the experience. Neither should be sacrificed, even a little, for the other. Appeal to all the senses: Sight, smell and taste especially, though the other two shouldn’t get left by the wayside. All of this will draw customers in and make them want to come back for more.

77% of customers find food one of the most important aspects of any event, so it’s safe to assume that goes at least double for your restaurant—even an experiential one. You can trim your menu down to focus on the more lively aspects of this particular business but the food needs to be just as compelling as the fanfare or folks will find something else to entertain them on their nights off. Remember, you’re trying to push the envelope of traditional food service…but it’s still food service.

Yes, creative experiential restaurants are the big up-and-comers of the hospitality industry. It’s not the only new trend, though, and you can incorporate other popular facets into your concept to really make it shine. Technology, for example, is increasingly being used to deepen customers’ experiences too. If you can integrate that into your concept then it’s more likely to succeed, and continue succeeding exponentially over time. Convenience and speed are also majorly important for consumers, so emphasize these factors too if it works for your business.

The blessing of an experiential concept is that you can, well, experiment. Find what works for you, draw in your targeted customer base and then hit the ground running in that direction. “Eatertainment” is a vastly unexplored but massively profitable industry, so get in while the getting’s good.

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