One of the things that has been a little difficult around Australia (and the world of course) for a little while now is that old fashioned notion of going out to eat. That less old fashioned notion of getting takeaway is doing just fine thank you!
As things get a little easier (we live in hope) there might be a few changes to dining out compared to how it was say two years ago. These are the sorts of things that people in the know (or at least claiming to be) think will change in 2022 and beyond…
Gone are the days of the huge restaurants – tiny is the way to go. The main driver here of course is cost – rent and staff costs are the two biggest expenses in any restaurant, so it makes sense to cut down where you can. One of the other benefits of a small restaurant is that once you have 6 or 7 customers you look full. With a bigger restaurant passers-by might think ’empty’ with that number and humans – being the social animals that we are – always want to dine in a popular spot. These newer smaller venues often rely on a booking system so they don’t leave diners permanently disappointed. Successful operators let people know about cancellation availability on social media, generally filling these at short notice.
Most restaurants offer quite literally a smorgasbord of choice on their menus. This is tough to maintain – how many times have you heard ‘we don’t have that at the moment’ (your editor was once told this three times in a row at which point the question was then ‘well what would you recommend?). An alternative is to have a much smaller set menu, which makes things a lot easier on the chefs – a much smaller ingredient list and an ability to change the menu to suit what’s in season. The added benefit is that food waste is minimised as fewer ingredients mean less stock to go off or out-of-date.
A smart look (plus merch for diners)
The casual look in restaurants is changing a little. That’s not to say everyone is going back to the stuffy restaurants of old, but many are now introducing uniforms of sorts, or at least an item like an apron or shirt which is branded with the restaurant name. Some outlets are even adding merchandise like t-shirts, bags and hats emblazoned with their name for sale to fans. You’ve gotta get your name out there!
What if a restaurant wants to test out a new dish or new drinks offerings? A secret menu can be the answer.
Secret menus originated in fast food outlets in the US and seemingly have not made it over to Australia but in the US there are – allegedly – items not on the menu that can be ordered. Examples we’ve found on the interwebs include a Starbucks ‘cold buster’ which is half and half steamed lemonade and hot water with a mix of mint green tea and peach herbal tea. McDonalds for example (allegedly) can do a Choc Chip Cookie McFlurry if you ask them nicely – half a choc chip cookie mixed into a plain snack size McFlurry.
Secret menus in conventional restaurants are more likely to include recommended slight changes to standard menu items. Restaurants that are happy to ‘bend the rules’ for individual diner requests can test these out and maybe add them as full menu items if they’re popular enough. Plus regular customers get to feel even more special.
A trend definitely led by the pandemic, many diners are now much keener to dine outside rather than inside and this is reflected in a relaxation on outdoor dining permits by many councils around Australia. One report early last year indicated that over 80% of diners would like expanded outdoor dining to become a fixture.
Paper and plastic waste a no-no
Another report indicates that, again, over 80% of diners want to see a reduction in plastic and paper packaging, in favour of more use of recycled products.
Meat free menu options
Also referenced in our last article, there’s clearly not just a global trend but one specifically here in Australia. Australia it turns out was the second most popular country for vegans in 2020 after the UK and apparently has one of the largest vegan communities in the world, despite the fact that Australians eat more meat per person than most other places. Go figure!
Let us know if we missed any dining out trends!
Check out our sources