Fine dining revival?

I thought this article from Kate Krader discussing a trend back towards fine dining was timely.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-01-11/the-new-formal-casual-dining-loses-out-to-fancy-fun-once-again

Curious how the community generally feels and what you are finding in your market? Following the broad reaction against super fine dining (the top spots did just fine), it seems like the pendulum is swinging back.

As I see the more casual trend as a reaction to some of the fine dining extremes, I hope some of the excesses of both are considered. I'm more of a fan of a classic dining experience than what has become a fine dining experience. Obviously, we should praise the places that do both 5-star dining and communal casual at their best, but I am referring to how I want to eat on a regular, not once a year, basis.

Most of my favorite restaurants are ones that would have been equally successful in their format 50 years ago. I love places like Boulevard or Jardinière in SF, and I could see more of a return to this style of restaurant...or maybe I'm just getting old.

A few things I would like to see in my imaginary "classic dining" trend:

  • Traditional menu format with appetizers and mains - I don't always want to share a ton of expensive small plates and I also don't typically want 5 or more courses.
  • Enough space to have a good dinner conversation and not have the table next to me be part of it.
  • A professional waitperson but not being hovered over by a small army.
  • No need to impress me with luxury ingredients, fancy plating or newfangled culinary techniques.
  • Quality wines at a variety of pricepoints where I can find a standby or something I've never heard of without the likelihood of the wine being flawed or not widely enjoyed by the table.
  • Eat, tip and drink for two for under $200 unless I splurge on wine.

By saying this, I am not criticizing the places that are more or less formal. All styles have their place if they do it well.

What do you want to see more of?

  • Read an article this morning backing this up as well: http://www.nrn.com/finance/restaurants-achieve-first-quarter-positive-sales-growth-two-years

    " The best performing segments based on sales in the fourth quarter were fine dining and upscale casual. This was the recurring trend throughout most of 2017." 


    I want to see more technically correct service that is personable instead of stuffy. I want guests to feel comfortable and be acknowledged as a human beings by other equally important human beings, while still being treated to an experience that makes them feel like royalty. 

  • Vancouver is a notoriously casual city as evidenced by locals wearing yoga and sweat pants in public - thank you Vancouver founded Lululemon. We have very few restaurants that carry staff solely dedicated to wine service. Most Sommeliers in the city have management or service duties. With few if any restaurants offering true fine dining I fear the sommelier community cannot indulge in the finer points of proper wine service.

    I share a love for classic fine dining as exemplified by Geoff's bullet points and hope that this is a style of service that is on the rise again. I fear that if we lose the desire for top end service and dining that we will also lose the ability to serve guests to the highest possible standard. If I'm shelling out $100+ a head for dinner, I would like to be served elegantly and to a standard worthy of the cheque price. Unfortunately I don't frequently find this to be the case in most of the acclaimed restaurants in the city.

    When studying Culinary Arts at CIA one chef instructor encouraged our class to target the highest praised fine dining restaurants for employment and internships. His theory being, if you could hold yourself to the kitchen standards of a 2-3 Michelin (or equivalent) then you would have no problem stepping into a more casual environment while still incorporating skills and professionalism learned in more regimented workplaces. 

    Jeremy puts it, "technically correct service that is personal instead of stuffy." That hits the nail right on the head. It is not hard to put cutlery down parallel, in proper position, silently and with a sense of style, regardless of the ambiance, price and clientele. 

  • I would like to see the humans coming into the restaurant excited and dressed in more than flops and baseball caps if the concept warrants it. I always picture going to dinner at a nicer classic restaurant like being in a movie scene...indulge, dress up, be merry or mysterious but don’t ignore the whole of the experience.

  • I think there's tremendous opportunity for us as wine professionals in a return to dining that goes beyond casual. I think the most vocal parts of the wine community have (understandably, from a press perspective) been the ones who've said "we're throwing out all the rules," but I personally would like to see more lists that better balance the new frontiers of wine exploration with what we already know are truly great wines.

  • I'm a big fan of casual dining but I'm tired of seeing waiters wearing plaid. Is there a safe space for me?

  • I just want real plates to come back.

    For those that don't know my pain, take a gander at reddit.com/.../wewantplates

  • I think we need a variety of restaurants. There seems to be this pendulum swing from high end to low end, with everyone following the trend. We had all the $200+/tasting menu restaurants pop up followed quickly by the "fast casual" cookie-cutter restaurants. It shouldn't be one or the other, and there's a lot of room for growth in between.

    Instead of trying to wow people with something gimmicky or a beautiful over-designed space, I would like to see more of a focus on hospitality. When's the last time you went out and really felt welcome? It seems rarer and rarer. When it comes to returning to a restaurant I want to go to a place where people smile and seem genuinely happy that we are joining them for a meal.