Restaurants are continuously trying to differentiate themselves from the competition by creating not just a meal, but an experience for their diners. In this socially-driven culture, it’s no surprise that memorable experiences inspire word of mouth recommendations.
One way restaurants are looking to create a memorable experience is through tableside theater. Tableside theater is a coordinated presentation that goes beyond just taste and arrangement of food on the plate and is intended to leave an impression on the customer.
What started with ‘60s-era high-end eateries flambéing Banana’s Foster is now being reinvented in numerous ways to excite and engage restaurant guests.
Tableside theater can be brought to life in simple forms like chopping a Caesar salad tableside, or it could become extravagant and inventive with items edible helium filled balloons for dessert. These presentations can create a “wow” factor for guests, leaving them wanting to share their restaurant experience before they are even asked.
Even the flambé technique of the ‘60s is being re-energized with appetizers, desserts and even beverages. Flaming coffee, as part of the service at Canlis in Seattle, combines the show with the flavor. “It’s always one step away from absurd. But, made properly, it’s a genuinely delicious drink,” said third-generation co-owner Mark Canlis.
The expansion of tableside theater can also be seen with the growth of the Brazilian steakhouse, a dining experience where various meats are carved tableside. One of the largest chains is Fogo de Chao, which is “part spectacle, part gluttony and mostly red meat,” according to Larry Olmsted of USAToday.com.
Simply keeping menu trends isn’t always enough to stay top of mind, as people search for new adventures. Some restaurants, like Fogo de Chao, revolve their entire menu around theater. This wouldn’t work everywhere, but restaurateurs should think of ways to add flair to their menus. Whether that would be the addition of a new item or changing the preparation method of a current favorite.
Check out these recipes that will earn your restaurant some style points and think about how you would develop your own Broadway twist: