At the heart of the dining experience is a sentiment we are all very familiar with, togetherness.

In the past three decades this concept has shifted significantly from what would have been declared as “standard” in the 1960s. Emerging out of an atmosphere of ‘meals on the go’ is a return of sorts to group dining experiences, as well as opportunities for groups/families to interact and “play”.

Consumers are increasingly looking to frequent and spend at “slightly higher chains like Chipotle vs. McDonalds”. In light of this, there are few innovations within the restaurant world that intersect with the re-emergence of congregating at mealtime.

Changing the Dining Experience

The rise of public houses and communal dining experiences has shifted how North American’s dine today. The notion of sharing “your table” with potentially two other groups is being promulgated in part, by the trend of “farm dining” or congregating where the food is harvested and feeding the locavore, while participating in events like Brewmaster Dinners found at establishments that cater to expansive beverage menus.

Mobile Amplified

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 10.15.00 AMReward for redemption is not a new concept, but it does seem the restaurant world has been well served by the proliferation of mobile interactivity. Chains have crafted app experiences designed to increase loyalty program members, engage customers and give them a reason to continue to choose a particular establishment. Brands are succeeding through well-thought out gamification concepts, tied to proprietary menu items where points earned within the game can be converted to “cash” in the establishment. Mobile is also a fundamental tool for combining the real and virtual world.

It’s also worth noting the Google pure PR stunt almost unrelated to food itself, instead promoting the ease of use around finding photos through Google search a valuable insight into how restaurateurs could further leverage our every day activities on mobile.

Interactive Table Touchscreens

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 10.14.19 AMOver the past year, Pizza Hut has been testing interactive touchscreen tables, which allow menu customization, payment options when smartphones are left on the table and of course they are fully equipped with game options while food is on order, playing a small role in restoring game-night, adapting to the new notion of “togetherness”.

Going Green

Technomic’s 2014 Generational Consumer Trend Report indicates that sustainability, social responsibility and efforts to reduce unnecessary waste is a key motivator of <35 years olds, when choosing their dining establishment. But what these elements include goes beyond the disposable aspects of dining to include: reclaimed materials in construction and design, energy sources, compostable items and ties back into feeding the locavore.

Moving Forward

Regardless of industry, change is unavoidable. It is imperative to not only be the best at what you do but look to the future at the same time. As consumers grow more and more demanding, it is up to brands to not only match their increasing expectations but exceed them through unique engagement strategies. Look to where consumers are spending their energy and create unique opportunities for the classic but evolving notion of “togetherness”.

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