When is a restaurant not a restaurant?

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From restaurants that offer one-of-a-kind experiences to eateries that are challenging the meaning of fine dining, one thing’s for sure, the term ‘restaurant’ is not a one-size-fits-all. Here we look at some of the ways restaurants are changing the dining scene and putting their own stamp on what it means to be a restaurant in an ever-adapting dining industry. 

For centuries, restaurants – in some shape or form - have been a staple in society, a cornerstone for the community. So it comes as no surprise that restaurants are opening at all hours of the day to accommodate our busy, metropolitan lifestyles and our desire for personalisation and originality. As well as becoming more flexible with their opening hours, some restaurants have become multi-functional to make better use of their resources throughout the day and to establish themselves further within the industry. 

An example of this is offering the venue as a place for freelancers during the work day when tables are unoccupied and service is slower. Tom Wordie, Head of Partnerships at AndCo, a company dedicated to helping people find their perfect work spot, explains: “Flexible workspaces are leading the way in adopting designs which mirror hospitality venues rather than traditional offices. Capitalising on this development, restaurants and bars can turn the trend on its head by offering their own spaces for flexible workers and freelancers to use during the working day.” 

“Many venues are already well set up for this dual use, with private dining rooms perfect for meetings, and open-plan dining space providing an excellent alternative for local workers to expensive co-working locations.” 

Tom says that another way restaurants are ‘reprogramming’ their space is by collaborating with artistic projects and displaying art on the walls to attract a wider and more diverse audience. “Such partnerships also include working with fashion brands to use the space in a new way, whether displaying collections or using the venue as a set for a photoshoot. 

“Venues not only benefit from increased footfall but from also wider marketing through word of mouth, which is still such an important tool for restaurants and bars.” 

It’s not just the arts that can benefit from these spaces also, says Tom. “Plenty of pubs are letting local groups – from book clubs to amateur film screenings – meet weekly in their venues during the day. Using spaces for seminars or talks in the middle of the day is another way to establish a venue as somewhere to get a culture fix.”

Image credit: M Restaurants

Repurposing venues is just one of the ways restaurateurs are setting themselves apart, but some have taken it to the next level by creating a new fusion of dining and entertainment – and I don’t just mean having an inhouse DJ. From bars and eateries offering escape rooms to a wine shop having a renowned inhouse restaurant (such as Martin Williams’ M Restaurants), I’m seeing more and more restaurateurs in London merging entertainment and dining in uniquely creative fashions. 

A great example of this is Swingers, a crazy golf venue in London. Play a few rounds of crazy golf with your friends and then relax with some dinner and drinks. Both halves of the venue can work independently from one another, but together they create a powerful dining and entertainment experience. Another example is Fortnum and Mason - both its department store and restaurant are well-regarded by consumers, and both elements can be enjoyed autonomously or together to create a unique all-day experience within the comfort of just one venue. 

This combination is more than just an entertainment venue having a small café to grab a coffee and a pre-wrapped sandwich after all the fun, these are businesses which have established both elements of their business and merged them to create a truly unique and experimental fusion of dining and entertainment. It’s this kind of innovation and originality that makes these restaurants stand out amongst the rest, and encourage a wealth of consumers through the door that are looking for that one-of-a-kind experience.