It’s no secret that Austin’s food and drink scene is one of the most exciting in America. Beyond the BBQ, customers have numerous choices with venues taking inspiration, including deconstructed food, from around the globe.
Restaurants are increasingly stepping up their game to keep up with the competition and constantly changing customer trends. Traditional offline businesses can’t afford to not be online, and this is particularly true for the hospitality sector.
Here’s two key statistics that perfectly summarize what is happening in this industry: One study found that millennials are 99% more likely to use online sources to help to choose where to eat. Another found that 53% of this generation said that originality was also important on deciding the venue. Some restaurants are creating unique, social media-friendly experiences to help them stand out, but that’s not always a good thing.
Melbourne, Australia is a great case in point. It has the highest number of cafes and restaurants per capita than anywhere in the world, and the market is saturated with high quality, multicultural cuisine. It is famous for its excellent coffee culture (you won’t find filter coffee here) so venues really have to get creative to capture their piece of the market. This city is a great source of ideas and successful trends in this industry, but there is one that has caused quite a storm: Deconstructed food.
Having a meal served up on a chopping board or a slate tile is nothing new. We’ve all seen it. But being served your morning cup of coffee in three laboratory beakers – unmade – is something else. Customers pay their barista because they can deliver a better cup of coffee, so arguably being given separated ingredients defeats the purpose. This is certainly an experience that customers won’t forget though, and which the owner claims have been overwhelmingly positive.
The internet disagreed however, generating a whole conversation about how ‘hipsterism’ had gone too far and branding the concept ridiculous. The post went viral and was viewed over 2 million times in less than 2 days. The story was even picked up by the BBC. In this day and age where originality is key, is this free publicity better than none? Regardless of your stance on this, it’s certainly a talking point.
Here we have a serving of deconstructed avocado on toast, and this is not the only café to take on the idea. This caused another stir online and one website even called it the most annoying food trend ever. It might not be practical, but you can’t argue that it doesn’t look more aesthetically pleasing.
There seems to be a fine line between a café and a contemporary art gallery these days, with some venues going a little too far. Many will agree that it defeats the whole point of eating out when you have to construct your own meal.
The owner of this café, however, openly admits that it’s because deconstructed food photographs better. Instagram is a powerful tool that accelerates the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing thanks to the high visibility of photos and posts. If your meals are ‘Instagrammable,’ it is a very effective method of attracting new customers for free.
Fixe Southern House here in Austin is an example of this trend done right, with this carrot cake they recently had on the menu. This was more focused on a culinary experience and a complex combination of flavors rather than a cheap shot at hipster fame.
Deconstructed cocktails are trending across the country too, and for good reason. Customers get to understand the balance of the ingredients, which takes the experience to a whole new level.
Social media is often quick to point out ridiculous trends, and people love to laugh at other’s expense. It’s easy to forget, though, that’s still a positive emotional response.
Despite these two small venues in Melbourne being mocked for their ideas, people have had fun discussing and sharing this story. While online they’re quick to jump on the bandwagon, statistics show that this is exactly what customers are looking for in reality.
And often, it works. Getting the balance right can be hard, but it never pays to sit on the fence in fear of losing customers. Controversy can be a good thing.
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