What is experiential dining and why is it taking over restaurants?

(Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images for Atlantis,The Palm)
(Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images for Atlantis,The Palm) /

Food trends often make people hungry as they cannot stop talking about the latest and greatest bites that are front and center on the table. Whether it is pickled flavored snacks, food mash-ups, or another take on plant-based proteins, the reality is the “new” continually sparks an interest. In the restaurant world experiential dining seems to the hottest table to book.

According to Yelp, experiential dining is on the rise, and it appears to be growing. While the term might not appear in a website description, the concept is broader than what people think. Although every restaurant is different, the concept seems to tell a story about the whole experience. The food on the plate is one chapter in the overall story.

As restaurants look to set themselves apart from others, the uniqueness can drive reservations. Beyond the Michelin stars or the celebrity chef draw, the concept needs to excite people. It might not be like joining a special club, but those pictures that are shared both in and after the moment have everyone gawking and longing to have that experience, too.

These concepts are not necessarily new. Chefs have offered dinner perched high in the sky or in unique locales. Now, the ante goes bigger, higher, bolder.

experiential dining
(Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images for Atlantis,The Palm) /

Underwater restaurants offering the serenity of the water are the backdrop to stunning multicourse meals. Even though the view captivates, it does not distract from the deliciousness on the plate. It only enhances it.

Cruise ships have embraced that concept of “eatertainment” with bold strokes. From restaurants like Celebrity Cruises Le Petit Chef to Royal Caribbean’s Wonderland and Mason Jar, the concept is just as important as the course progressions.

On land, concepts like Vanderpump Paris transports guests to the City of Lights with all the grandeur and romance that people expect. As the quaint tables create a vibe, each cocktail unlocks another layer to the dining mystery.

It might not be the dinner theater from decades ago, but there is a theatrical element to the experiential dining. That uniqueness etches a memory, makes diners talk, and has them longing to enjoy it all over again.

The local restaurant might not jump on this food trend, but it could influence the dining reservation on that next vacation or special occasion. Why just have dinner, when dinner and a show can be impeccably combined?