Are dinner parties coming back? They are, according to the AmericaJR news and entertainment website. AmericaJR contributor and table linens expert Jane Birdwell says that millennials are embracing the old-fashioned dinner party as a way of connecting with family and friends. They are doing things a bit differently, but the main principles of the dinner party remain intact.
Should restaurants be concerned about the reemerging dinner party trend? Yes. Moreover, they should seek to understand why dinner parties are once again a big thing among people who would otherwise take their communal dining outside the home.
Restaurant Business is Falling
For the record, restaurants are currently in decline. Sales have been dropping for years, and now more recent research shows why. Simply put, customer satisfaction is falling. People are going out to eat only to discover they are unhappy about doing so.
One of the big reasons for the decline in guest satisfaction are perceptions that the drive to be more economical has created restaurants that are no longer interested in the customer experience. The more restaurants look to save money, the more they give the impression that they are willing to cut any expense to increase the bottom line. Many cost-cutting measures put a bad taste in the customer’s mouths.
What Dinner Parties Teach Us
The emergence of the old-fashioned dinner party demonstrates that people aren’t necessarily looking to give up communal dining. In fact, people seem to want to get together more often now that social media has done a good job of keeping us apart. If nothing else, the dinner party suggests that communal dining is still on the radar.
What people want, according to Birdwell, is a connection. The dinner party provides that connection. With that in mind, here are some lessons for the restaurant industry:
1. Environment is Important
People holding dinner parties today do the same thing their parents and grandparents did: they strive to create a welcoming environment. The definition of ‘welcoming’ may have changed over the last 20 years, but the fact that people want to create it has not. Restaurant owners would do well to understand that the modern trend toward industrial spaces may look absolutely stunning, but it’s not welcoming. People don’t consider an industrial warehouse warm, cozy, and inviting.
2. Table Linens Are a Big Deal
Millennials may be doing dinner parties a bit differently, but they still decorate. They still cover tables with linens; they still choose other decorative items that go with their table linens; they still seek to dress up their dining space more formally than they do when guests aren’t there.
The lesson for restaurants here is one of bringing back table linens, according to Utah-based Alsco. Yes, bare tables and paper napkins are easier on the bottom line, but they add to the cheap feeling that tells guests restaurants don’t care about their experiences. Alsco says that good quality linens say the exact opposite.
3. Time is of the Essence
Finally, dinner parties are more about spending time with family and friends than just eating. The meal is simply the vehicle for doing so. Restaurants should take this into account. Patrons don’t like being rushed; they don’t appreciate being shuffled in and out so that a restaurant can keep its turnover rate high.
It’s no secret that restaurant sales are in decline. As competition for smaller numbers of diners heats up, it seems like many restaurants are looking to the wrong formula to bring sales back. They might do better to emulate the old-fashioned dinner party instead.