Despite the title of this blog, it is fair to say that there really is no perfect eating out concept. We all know that where we want to eat out depends entirely on the occasion, location, mood, our food preferences, company you are in, how long it is until pay day and a myriad of other factors. However, that said, we thought it might be interesting to distil the latest MCA Eating Out Report findings to hypothesize the perfect eating out concept based on what currently seems to be hitting the mark.

Above is a Venn diagram of all the factors we have incorporated into our dream outlet, which for the sake of argument let’s call ‘Utopia’ (after all this is the utopia of concepts). We all know that you can’t be all things to all people and you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but suspend reality and take this for what it is, an exercise in simply applying the theory to a tangible entity. It’s by no means perfect and there will always be the ‘but what ifs’ but what it does do is stand as a crystallisation of what good looks like in 2019’s eating out market, which may not be what good looks like in 2020 or 2025, but hey, that’s life!

So, first off our concept has to be different, no me-too’s here. We need to create something that delivers an experience millennials and Gen Z’s will leave the sofa for and want to post on their Insta Stories, from the food to the décor it should be hard to ignore. It has to be environmentally and ethically responsible, from food sourcing and its use of single use plastic to the way it treats its staff. Ideally the concept should, although new, be simple for consumers to ‘get’ – think Nando’s ‘piri piri chicken’. It should tap into the current trends of healthy eating and plant based diets (but not exclusively – we still want to indulge) offering good quality food and drink at a reasonable price (using evocative descriptors on menus and menu price engineering to drive margin). The cuisine should be on-trend and popular (not too niche) but offer something that bit different. It should be licensed in the evening, offering craft beer, artisan gins and cocktails, as well as an excellent range of ‘grown-up’ soft options.

It should be open all day to ‘sweat those assets’ and maximise takings (as we all know business rates and rents are a killer) with a menu that is simple but customisable and can stretch to all day. Ideally it would be a small food to go concept with a seating area (for dine in) in a high footfall site, for example near a station or tube, preferably in London (where eating out over-indexes compared to the rest of the UK). It would be tech-enabled to both ensure customer service is fast and frictionless (with click & collect / iPad ordering etc.) and encourage loyalty though promotions to their customer community to drive up-sell, cross-sell into lower footfall times and word of mouth recommendation. The community of customers would also be used to glean insight through digital comms and social media enabling the concept to be nimble and adapt to feedback. It would use social as a key marketing tool combined with PR, digital, influencer marketing, brand link-ups, etc. It would also have a delivery option tapping into this fast growing market through Just Eat (the most widely used platform).

So, what you ask is this ‘Utopia’, well quite frankly if I knew I’d be doing it, but for any aspiring restaurateurs out there, if your dream meets the above criteria then it sounds like you might be on to a winner!

I for one would like to see an egg wrap concept, as I still mourn the demise of the Waitrose egg wrap and live in hope that it will return one day – but that’s just me and also Laura D (unintentional rhyme there sorry!).