The last three decades have seen a transformation in restaurants driven by guest expectations, aspiring chefs and waves of investment in new concepts. This has been a fast-moving and exciting world where Michelin star chefs have become household names, signature designers have created fantastic settings for their food and fortunes have been made – and lost. The experience of dining out has been democratised and, in theory, there is now something for everyone.
However, I do wonder if this intensity of change hasn’t been wearing thin over recent years. At the top level of fine dining, many new restaurants and bars have been launched while, at the other end of the scale, plenty of “mom & pop” eateries remain. The big problem, it seems to me, has emerged in the middle where customers are frequently left disappointed. Even before Covid slammed the brakes on, many restaurants were feeling stale. Now, as we emerge from the pandemic with certain priorities and values reinforced, it is time, I suggest, for new F&B concepts that respond to the challenges and opportunities before us.
Concern for both physical and mental wellbeing now touches every aspect of hospitality. Clearly, in a restaurant this equates to healthier food options and locally sourced ingredients. However, wellbeing is not only about the food; it also has a great deal to do with the total experience – the space you are dining in, the view you are looking at, the chair you are sitting on, the acoustics, the lighting and – the backbone of any experience – the sense of a holistic narrative across all customer touchpoints.
With this in mind, I have recently formed Husk. Bringing together leading chefs, hospitality advisors and design specialists, Husk will devise and deliver F&B concepts for restaurants, bars, hotels and resorts. Our approach will be both strategic and hands-on, innovative and financially informed, based on years of experience and fresh market research.
The backbone of a great F&B experience is the sense of a holistic narrative across all customer touchpoints.