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Is low interaction the future of fine dining?


Automated ordering has changed the way people consume food, and this is especially true of fast food, both in India and abroad. In fact, at a recently held Millennial 20/20 Summit in New York, the fast food industry big wigs shared how Millennials are rapidly changing the way that business is done, forcing QSRs (quick service restaurants) to go mobile. The reason for this change is — Gen Z’s aversion to social interaction. It also explains the immense popularity of Japan’s chain of ramen restaurants called Ichiran.

Eating in isolation

Japanese ramen chain Ichiran, is known for low-interaction dining. Here, diners are encouraged to eat without saying a word. Seated in individual ramen booths, they have to fill out ticket orders, and then receive food from anonymous hands through a window that’s draped with curtains. The idea is to eat your meal without any social interaction (neither seeing nor speaking to another human being). And while you may think that this concept would appeal to a handful, think again! As ramen lovers queue up to have their fill, the chain has expanded beyond the East and has also opened an outlet in America. Instagram bears witness to the popularity of this chain on social media, especially with Gen Z who shies away from social interaction. And while fast foods chains go the distance to please Millennials, we look at whether this is a fad that’s here to stay. For the moment, the ball is in Gen Z’s court.

‘Catering to Millennials looking for exceptional experiences’

Zorawar Kalra, the founder and managing director, Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd, believes today, Millennials are looking for exceptional experiences not just at a premium restaurant, but also in the confines and comfort of their own homes. Thus, food delivery portals and corresponding mobile apps have emerged. He adds, “The components of most fine dine dishes are complex and are presented with innovative plating so as to increase its aesthetic appeal while delighting the palate with its gourmet flavours. If restaurants can manage to recreate the visual appeal of a gourmet dish, as it is presented in the restaurant, and offer a premium fine dining experience outside the confines of five-star hotels, or standalone restaurants, this trend is likely to gain traction.” And while restaurateurs agree that there’s a market for low-interaction dining, they also are unanimous in their estimate of how this concept will take a while to trickle down.

‘Market for low-interaction dining exists’

Low-interaction dining is not a new concept as a couple of restaurants have tried a version of it with diners wearing a blindfold as they eat their meal. Restaurateur AD Singh’s Greenhouse at Olive in Delhi has also attempted to enhance the fine dine experience with this once-a-month event. He says, “We encourage diners to wear a blindfold and focus entirely on the food in front of them. Their experience was startling for them as they felt they had never tasted their food so sharply and acutely. As such, there is certainly a market for low-interaction dining but overall, I feel for most, dining will continue to be about sharing and as a social occasion.” Owner and chef of Soul Fry in Bandra, Meldan D’Cunha agrees and adds, “Millennials have no time for small talk with the restaurant staff. Even when they come in, it’s all about catching up with friends over a few drinks and bar bites. I don’t see them eating in complete isolation for now, as fine dine and dining out is still very much a social occasion, but then you never know when things could change. For now, it will be a couple of years more before low-interaction dining catches on here.”

Source: DNA India

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