7 Innovations of Highly Imaginative Restaurants

Karl Skaslen

Unique practices—presently at inception—may shape the future.

Long before any foodservice trend goes mainstream, visionary chefs, restaurateurs, and mixologists are crafting unique offerings to entice, energize, and entertain American diners. At the point of inception, foodservice trends often gain traction at fine-dining establishments or in authentic ethnic eateries—environments where convention is more easily challenged and imagination can flourish independent of systemized operations.

In collaboration with Datassential, a Chicago-based firm that tracks foodservice trends, FSR highlights seven innovative practices that are entering or moving beyond the point of inception:

Micro-pairing Merges Bar and Kitchen

Like chef-driven menus and house-branded alcohol, micro-pairing—an imaginative cocktail created specifically for one dish—is on the rise as chefs and bartenders collaborate to deliver that distinctive culinary experience.

“Trends can create a web in the industry, in which the growth of one or more drives others,” says Maeve Webster of Datassential. “That’s certainly the case with micro-pairing, a trend whose time has come.”

At Portland’s Clyde Common, an ever-changing chalkboard in the dining room highlights an entrée dish with a specific drink as its suggested complement. Bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler sees immense opportunity for in-house collaboration and says culinary interest from consumers will propel micro-pairing.

“We’re in a cocktail renaissance right now and there’s definitely opportunity for the beverage side and the culinary side to get together and work alongside one another,” Morgenthaler says, excited by the creativity and flexibility micro-pairings allow.

It’s a marketing and up-selling opportunity as well. Webster says, “It’s almost like a combo meal for adults—a cocktail created to make the meal unique and individual.” She also notes that the friendly margins inherent in cocktails, particularly with ultra-distinctive signature drinks well beyond the norm, should compel savvy operators to push the micro-pairing trend toward greater acceptance.



I think all these innovations have been embedded into the 2015 restaurant culture in some ways. Communal dining will still be a slow-to-adopt American cultural issue.


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