The Rise of ‘Premium Casual’ Dining

What is it? And how can you capitalise on it at your venue?

It’s no secret that Australians like to eat out, but the way they do so is changing. Australians are increasingly seeking out casual dining venues, but expecting the menu, style and service of a high-class restaurant. Because of this many restaurateurs have reinvented their venues, creating causal, welcoming physical spaces, but adding fine-dining influences.

These restaurants are blurring the lines between fine and casual dining – we like to call them ‘premium casual’ and they are popping up all across the country. Marrying the convenience of fast casuals with the food found at fine dining restaurants, these restaurants typically have a full bar and large menu but cleverly price their food between the two. Premium casual specifically caters to millennials – a generation that is placing increased value on experiences rather than larger purchases (like a house).

You don’t have to look far to see examples of savvy restaurateurs taking advantage of this trend. Neil Perry, typically associated with fine dining in Australia (think Rockpool) has launched Burger Project and explained it as ‘fast food with slow food values.’

Shannon Bennett of Vue de Monde has done the same with Benny Burger. And George Calombaris with Jimmy Grants. All three chefs are following the adage of the best possible ingredients, made and served by professional staff in a venue that is architecturally designed and an experience in itself. 

So how can you capitalise on the trend in your venue? Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to make the shift to premium casual:

·       Ingredients. Focus on high quality (preferably local) ingredients, with an emphasis on the ‘healthier’ side, even if it is burgers.

·       Décor. Make sure you restaurant is a nice place to hang out in (and order ‘just one more’ cocktail)

·       Menu. Consider a ‘feed me’ option to attract large social groups

·       Price. Consider your inventory and ensure you are competitive on price, but still making a profit for each meal.

It is a fine line to walk but success can be more lucrative than an attempt at fine dining. Those restaurants that get it right now will be in a strong position as millennials grow up, start having families and are looking for a trusty local. 

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