In an interview with Skift Table, acclaimed chef Thomas Keller, founder of one of the premier destination restaurants in the country, French Laundry, defined a destination restaurant. He says that it’s all about when a guest leaves, “they’re going to really have a memory that they’re going to be able to embrace for a long time.” Thanks to this chef with two Michelin three starred restaurants, Yountville, California is now a serious culinary destination.
Creating Long-Term Memories
What story can a restaurant tell to evoke that kind of long-term and closely held memory for a guest? How do you create a sense of place? A sense of history? How are the servers dressed? What design cues develop the story you’re building? Everything that touches all five senses makes its mark. Of course, both food and service must be exceptional.
A destination can be one stellar restaurant or a collection of 25 different dining concepts in one Manhattan space like the development at Hudson Yards. One of the most enormously ambitious projects in the country, it’s designed to attract a steady flow of guests, both locals and tourists, with a mix of retail stores and unique dining spaces at a variety of price points.
City and Country Destinations
And just as city centers are becoming destinations, so too are out-of-the-way hotels. Chefs who have done their time in the city are uprooting their lives and falling in love with being the star at a country inn. The pandemic nudged this along. There’s also experimentation with pop-ups with rotating chefs offering guests radically different menus. This model that keeps diners engaged and coming back to the same destination regularly to see how everything’s been reinvented.
For serious food lovers, vacations get planned around restaurants. The table reservation comes before the plane or hotel reservation. It’s what’s called “foodie tourism,” according to a Dandelion Chandelier article on the best destination restaurants in the world. For visitors who want to go way out of their way, trying authentic foods in their natural environment is a big draw. Some of these special destinations are only accessible by boat. Others are farm-to-table on a real working farm. Europe’s first underwater restaurant called “under” sits 5.5 meters underneath the Norwegian coast. You’ll want to book that reservation 6 months in advance. And for every down, there’s the ultimate up. The highest restaurant in the tallest building in the world is in Dubai. This vertical feast happens at atmosphere, 122 stories in the air.
Nature Goes Center Stage
The more out-of-the-way a restaurant becomes, the greater the connection to nature is possible. Guests linger when they feel comfortable whether beside a forest or on top of a skyscraper rooftop. They want to know that a magical eating experience includes a controlled climate. We help our clients do this with enclosed patios. A custom project allows you to add warmth or cooler airflow as seasons change. When colors can be finely tuned and materials matched, it adds to the overall design, seamlessly creating ambiance. These touches are felt by guests on a subconscious level. Yet, it’s all very deliberate. If you’d like expert design advice, we’re happy to share it anytime. How far would you go out of your way for a meal? Across town or to another time zone with passport in hand? Today, the possibilities are incredible.