June 20th, 2019 | Updated on June 25th, 2022
From 2017 to 2018, the number of Americans on a specific diet grew from 14% to 36%. That means more than twice as many people are looking for new dining options when they go out. For some restaurants, the clear answer has been to provide more and more new choices.
From lab-grown meat to gluten-free beers, non-traditional cuisine is on the rise. This doesn’t mean authenticity is dead, though, and some in the hospitality business are setting themselves apart by focusing on tradition and authenticity, instead of taking a scattershot approach and just jumping on every new food fad.
This renewed sense of focus is not only helping these restaurants rise above the fray in a complicated market, but it’s also driving creative approaches to what authenticity means for food.
1. Credible Food Can Be Creative
Standing out has always been crucial in the hospitality industry, but with 93% of millennials dining in at least four times a week, it’s more important than ever to find new ways to connect people with food. Pushing back on the trend toward transactional eating experiences – think fast casual dining and automated payment systems – is one way some restaurants are overcoming this challenge.
By refocusing on the emotional connection we have with food, industry leaders are bringing authentic cooking into the modern age. One great example is Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, operated by the Ryan Hibbert Riot Hospitality Group. Rather than focusing on traditional food, the Riot Hospitality group created authentic dining experiences by working closely with cultural icon Dierks Bently.
2. Creating Real Connections
New ingredients don’t have to mean a lack of cultural connection. Instead, a close association with new icons and important subcultures – like country music fans – creates an authentic, yet modern dining experience. While the food may be new, it’s still connected to an authentic culture in a real way – Dierks Bently himself worked closely with the team to design an experience that really represents the culture of country.
Authentic connection to cultural forces is one way to create a warm and impactful dining experience, but the actual dining environment can help too. Farm to table operations foster local connection and can create a sense of authenticity. Communal dining layouts too have enjoyed some popularity when they’re able to create real connection.
So, while food culture may be changing more rapidly than ever, the standout restaurants will continue to offer culture, community, and authenticity. Pushing back against the trends toward speed, automation, and expansive menus, these restaurants are preserving some of the most timeless aspects of good food: the company you share it with, and the emotional connection to what you’re eating.