Neu: Trends in Innovative Eateries

New concepts that are redefining the dining landscape continue to materialize
We thought we had seen it all, from cafés disappearing as fast as they appear to restaurants masquerading as stock exchanges, but alas, more intriguing new developments in dining have emerged. Just when we decided to give our New Year’s diet another go (yeah right), we found three more excuses to eat out. This time around, however, it’s likely that we’ll be more focused on the uniqueness of these eateries than the food they serve.
Zero-Waste: We’re definitely guilty of failing to fulfill the requirements of the Clean Plate Club, particularly when so many restaurants still serve up unfathomably large portions. Regardless, at Yukako Ichikawa’s restaurant Wafu in Sydney, Australia, failure to polish off your meal – either by consuming it or taking home the leftovers via “acceptable” waste-free means (dos and don’ts are posted on the restaurant’s web site) – is not an option. Hoping to bring the Japanese concept of mottainai to her restaurant, Ichikawa directs customers to her no-waste policy at the door, and only after clientele agree to abide by her rules are they invited to dine. And if they don’t make every last scrap disappear, they’re asked to never return. While the zero-waste policy may seem a bit extreme, Wafu has been able to significantly decrease the amount of food it throws out. Plus, showing a more gratuitous side, the restaurant gives diners who clean their plates a 30% discount on their bill.
Social Network: One of the coolest uses of social media we’ve heard about lately is the new burger chain 4food. The first of 11 planned locations, all of which will allow customers to use iPads to place orders, opens next week in New York City. Diners can customize and “brand” their own versions of the chain’s signature W(hole)burger. Once branded, patrons can market their creations on Facebook and Twitter and create their own commercials to post on YouTube. Customer content, including Foursquare check-ins and DIY commercials, will play on jumbo media screens in the restaurant. For patrons who market their branded burger successfully, a 25 cent store credit will be awarded every time it’s purchased. In addition to being socially savvy, 4Food wants to “de-junk” fast food by serving organic items and printing nutritional information on every receipt. Care for a Trendcentral Slider?
Pay-As-You-Wish: Panera Bread is the first national restaurant chain to employ a pay-what-you-wish concept in one of its restaurants. The bakery-café chain recently transformed one of its stores, located in Clayton, Missouri, into a non-profit restaurant, the Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Café. Here, customers eat for free, but are strongly encouraged to leave a charitable donation. Those customers who can’t make a donation are urged, but not required, to volunteer an hour of their time. While Panera donates the food to its non-profit café, about a dozen other pay-as-you-wish operations around the country – such as SAME Café in Denver and One World Everybody Eats in Salt Lake City – are aiming to break even by relying on customer donations. Given Panera’s plan, the idiom “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” could become an outmoded concept. Indeed, “will work for food” would be a more apt motto for us to live by.

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