Secrets to Capture the Hearts of Solo Diners


Solo Diners Account for 40% of Foot Traffic Now

As the dining style has become more casual, it’s far more approachable for a solo diner to come in and not feel uncomfortable sitting at a table alone. The 2018 Waitrose Food and Drink Report found 8 out of 10 agreed that solo dining is more acceptable than it was five years ago. Reservations app Bookatable reports a 38% increase in requests for a table for one in just three years. The market is changing and operators should consider how they can cater for solo diners from seating arrangements, providing reading materials, to offering half portions.  

 Savvy chefs know it is a huge compliment for the owner and chef when someone comes and eats on their own because solo diners are purposely coming to your venue for your food – not because friends dragged them there. Solo dining has become such a fixture that many places are considering it within restaurant design now, whether it’s fine dining or upper end or more casual.

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 Why Do People Dine Solo?

Some say that with a phone, you’re never entirely alone – and for those who like to record their meal on social media, it may even be a relief not to have to pretend to listen to their partner’s conversation. Perhaps the quiet indulgence of treating oneself to a good meal is about embracing one of life’s greatest pleasures. It can be easier to score a seat in a busy restaurant when you’re solo and bask in the experience, without interruption or intrusion. Dining alone, you can order what you want, no swapping plates halfway, linger pleasurably over a coffee, eat dessert with just one spoon and pay the bill without a calculator.

 Key Demographics

NSW (35%) and VIC (31%) are the largest solo dining markets. Middle-aged, working consumers are the core demographic, 36% are white collar, 57% are between 25-29 years of age, 77% solo dining experiences occur on weekdays, 61% are eating breakfast solo, 50% are having a morning snack solo and 21% are having dinner solo. Lone diners like eating early: 6pm-7pm is the most popular timeslot. Most people go out for steak when eating alone, followed by modern Australian and Japanese cuisines. Japanese is one the most solo-friendly dining cuisines. Food bloggers often dine alone so they can take photos and notes at their own pace without frustrating co-diners.

There are two types of solo diners — those who are keen to participate and others who just want to keep to themselves, and it’s up to the service team to gauge which category they fall under. Train your staff how to talk to solos and teach them how to gauge what experience the solo diner is after.

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Encouraging Solo Diners

One New York restaurant gives a glass of champagne to single female covers in particular, to send the message that the restaurant actually likes, even encourages, women to dine alone. Sydney’s Firedoor provides a surprise guest: a goldfish. A temporary pet for the night is his way of welcoming people who are eating by themselves. Create tailored menus or run special offers that encourage solo diners to eat out rather than order takeaway. Personalise everything: from changing portions to suit a sole guest to adjusting the pacing of dishes. Kindness rules with solo diners. It is an opportunity to spoil them with time and recommendations, to offering them half serves of anything that you can do as a half serve.

Variety and Portion Size

Diners do not want to wade through one large plate of the same thing. The more things people try off the menu, the more they enjoy their meal so aim to offer meals where they can sample something different every night of the week. Smaller options are a trend so even a solo diner can have 5 to 10 different things easily without having too much food. A tasting menu is the perfect option for any guest dining solo.

Experiential & Social

Rather than a table in between couples and groups, a seat at the bar, counter or open kitchen, where the chef’s prepare the dishes would be ideal. Solos can strike up conversations with the staff. Watching them prepare the offerings is a fascinating way to pass the time. Unless they’re doing work or reading, people usually want to connect and find out about what you’re doing. If you see they’re keen to engage, definitely keep a conversation going.

Communal seating conveys to your lone diners that you aren’t biased as to whether a guest is alone or with a full entourage– think long picnic tables, or rows of tables and benches.

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For people keen to work, give them the Wi-Fi password and they can happily download their emails and have a piece of grilled fish and a glass of wine and be extremely happy. A free Internet connection can do wonders for any down time at your restaurant by easily convincing solo business professionals to pop in and answer emails while enjoying a drink or two.

What about the magical capabilities of portable charging stations. Guests stay longer to charge their devices so your staff have the opportunity to offer additional items. A simple, “would you like to see the dessert menu while you’re waiting?” and your customer becomes more likely to nibble on that piece of carrot cake they previously turned down, while they wait to power up.

Sometimes, solo diners do just want to be that: solo. The best thing you can do is make them comfortable by being the perfect amount of attentive so that you’re almost invisible and they can have their down time.

Benefits of Solo Diners in Your Restaurant

  • Providing consistently accommodating service is a sign of integrity in your business practice
  • You never know who you are serving – blogger, new resident, food tour scoping or reviewer
  • Solo diners may return either by themselves or with company
  • A table with one person can be an easy table
  • It’s a compliment. It shows that your restaurant is simply worth eating at.


Marketing Your Restaurant or Cafe Using Email, Free WiFi & WiFi Analytics

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Email is still a highly effective marketing tool for venues. Even if you have a great Facebook or Instagram following, the actual engagement on these platforms will shrink over time as consumers become over-saturated with messages.

Brand loyalty brings paying customers in the door in response to an incentive or offer that is particular to them. Regardless of the style of service – casual dining, fast casual, fast food and fine dining – or type of food, restaurants exist in a crowded marketplace. Communicating frequently with customers via email, whether weekly or monthly, is an easy way for a venue to stay top of mind with consumers.

One-off emails or messages that are not part of a broader campaign, are a great way to promote products, new flavors or offer a special discount to customers. When customers receive messages that are always new and fresh, this gives them a reason to make a return visit to the restaurant.

Email campaigns provide restaurants with the ability to build a local following from the very beginning. When utilised correctly, email marketing helps brands build a personal connection with their target audiences and drive customer traffic even when disruption or construction challenges the access to your venue.

How to Collect Emails:  If you do not offer free wifi in order to collect customer emails and mobile for sms personalized push notifications, leave a sign-up sheet for your newsletter. Have in-store signage to encourage follows on Instagram and Facebook (which should have calls to action and buttons to like, follow and sign up to your newsletter). Make sure your website has a newsletter sign up too. You can run contests and giveaways now to reach a target number of subscribers, which is usually 1,000.

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Offer an Incentive to Sign Up
Offer discount codes for customers signing up to your newsletter and regularly offer specials and exclusive incentives (free appetisers, extended happy hours, newsletter-only coupon codes or 10-15% off purchase) to newsletter subscribers.

Free Wifi is now expected in most modern cities. People like to check their social media or email while waiting for food. You can offer a valid wifi password for a time limited period with purchase of a food or beverage item if a café or takeaway, or for free if a restaurant. Read about How Wifi Data helps Restaurants Produce more Customer Traffic.

Collect Email and Mobile with Appropriate Conditions: If providing free or time limited wifi, ensure you collect the customer’s email and mobile in order to add them to your newsletter email list or wifi push notification marketing lists. Ensure they tick a terms and conditions box which includes the condition that they agree to sign up for your email newsletter and accept sms notifications from your venue. (Your wifi provider should have standard conditions.)

Track returning patrons and allow segmenting of emails or texts: Ensure the service provider you choose has software that can track returning patrons and allow segmenting of email or texts with high precision personalisation based on patron behaviour. Instant rewards can be given for those that come back 5 or 10 times and those who have not returned can be lured back with an incentive. Some WiFi & WiFi  Analytics Suppliers in Sydney here:  Discovery Technology, One Wifi, Wireless Edge Networks

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Email automation: is an automatic workflow of emails that trigger a send whenever a user subscribes. Setting up email automation will result in automatic touch points and is an efficient way for brands to reach their target market.

This might begin when a user subscribes to the email newsletter. Once the information is entered into the system, an automatic thank-you email is sent with a coupon code for 10% off. Then the type and frequency of automated emails can be set according to your brand’s strategy for engaging with its audience.

Hyper-Personal Marketing: Personal events and attributes like birthdays, wedding dates and demographics, combined with radius targeting, or serving ads to consumers who are a certain distance from the business, helps the message resonate better with the audience.

Viktoria Darabi is a Culinary Tourism Whisperer & Crusader, Food & Beverage Trendspotter. She works with Government and non-government organisations with the leadership and vision to champion the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.

Leveraging Global Food Trends for Local Profit

The Cruffin

Think Global Food Trends, Act With a Local Twist

Food trends move and change faster than ever before thanks to Instagram and the internet generally. Someone can be posting a new food trend story on instagram on the Aussie creation of the ‘#cruffin’ in New York and someone in Parramatta can be putting their own twist on the flavour combos and selling it within minutes or hours in their restaurant.    

It is not lazy or a copy out to follow a trend as long as you put your own brand’s twist on it – an Asian & Middle East Inspired buddah or poke bowl. It is smart business, fun and even Michelin-starred chefs do it.

Middle Eastern Inspired Buddah Bowl

What’s Trending Now?Licorice- cured Egg YolkHalal, Vegan Sushi and Desserts, Pokeand Buddha Bowls (pre-assembled combos or build your own), Ridiculous OTT Desserts, Alcohol Infused Ice CreamMatchaUbe (purple yam), Ice Cream, YuzuKombucha (especially house made and other fermented traditional cultural drinks), House made quick pickles, fresh cheeses and breads, non-alcoholic (spirit-free) drinks and cocktails, savoury cocktails (think about plays on gazpacho, vichyssoise, creamy pea, borscht etc), edible garnish cocktails (loaded cocktails where the loading is in fact the bar snack or tapas or meze to match the cocktail theme and flavours), metal, bamboo and paper straws (no more plastic please), anything smoked (think counter top cold-smoked raw egg yolks, ice cream, yogourt, butter, cheese, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cocktails, salt, rice, grains like quinoa, freekeh – go mad experimenting ). Check out these counter top smoking guns

Loaded Savoury Cocktails

Australian Luxury Seasonal Flavours never go out of fashion and we simply do not do enough with them in menus when in season.

Courtney’s Brasserie Truffle Degustation

Using Australian Native Ingredients in Cooking (or Foraged Ingredients) and

Jock Zonfrillo and Foraging Native Ingredients

Camel Milk and Camel Burgers (Also Deer Milk)

Camel Milk in Dubai – Musswellbrook NSW you can get powdered camel milk here – Kyabram VIC – Rochester VIC

Camel Burger

Plant Based Menus and Burgers (Bleeding Impossible Burger) There are also Bleeding Impossible steaks. Plant based only restaurants and menus are growing quickly especially amongst millennial markets. While vegan and vege options may only be ¼ of your menu now it will increase to more than ½ in the coming years. Also think about halal with a growing Muslim population in Parramatta and surrounding regions.

Check out some of the annually released Trending Flavours and Ingredient Reports where you can also find the trending vegetables. I think we are somewhere between cauliflower and Kohlrabi now.

Branded cocktail/mocktail/drink collateral so your brand pops when photographed for Instagram by patrons

Hospitality Branding Drinks and Table Collateral

Find some Instagram profiles of chefs, food and venues to follow that inspire you for plating, menus, garnishes, embellishments, ingredients, décor etc. Check out 50 Foods for the Future Report.

Keep inventing dishes/twists on classics/trends, the more colourful and the greater the WOW factor the better. Check out How to Make Ethnic Flavours More Approachable.

Post your creations on Instagram as an instagram story, a longer video in IGTV and hashtag appropriately.  Experiment, seek inspiration, create, have fun and post it with the right hashtags! 

This article is from a series of Tip Sheets produced to inspire innovation in a dining precinct transitioning urban renewal disruption.

Nature, Food, Art – Unplugging the Tweed Valley Way

As a ‘unwind treat’ for (me and) my post HSC, arty eighteen year old daughter, I took us on a mid-week short break to the Tweed Valley. I’m sure daughter thought “Gourmet Adventure Package” meant good food but not much else to excite her. She was wrong.

Kym from Mt Warning Tours was waiting for us at the Gold Coast Airport. While acquainting us with the region and learning more about our interests, he delivered us to a tasty little cafe in Murwillumbah called Keith. Daughter enjoyed a substantial sausage roll and milk shake while I, a luscious salted caramel tart. I hear the Portuguese Tarts are to die for too.

To our surprise and delight we discovered Murwillumbah is the creative and cultural hub of the Tweed Valley. Upon learning that daughter was arty, Kym called Andy Reimainis, working artist at Caldera Wildscapes Art Gallery and Studio for an impromptu visit to the 20 meter Green Cauldron Panorama painting. While normally closed on a Tuesday, Andy was happy to indulge us and share his story.

A year in the making, incorporating the talents of about eight artists, this geographically accurate masterpiece is a highly detailed painting of the view from the summit of Wollumbin Mount Warning with some of the fauna and flora of the region. Andy invited us to add some tiny ‘y’ shaped tree trunks into the painting for posterity. We dutifully obliged.




In addition to Andy’s works, talented young artist in residence, Amanda Burns of Mandalee Arts offers an affordable range of cards and artworks in a variety of media for sale. They make the perfect souvenir or gift from the Tweed. I purchased a decaled-edged watercolour of a Rainbow Lorikeet for my grandson’s bedroom. All Amanda’s animals have great personality – to wit this sweet little joey amongst gum leaves.


Juju’s was our next stop for a delicious lunch. The chef  sources fresh local fruit, veg and produce. The service is quick and friendly, protein is perfectly cooked, all is simply presented and bursting with freshness. We enjoyed Duck Spring Rolls, Prawn Tempura and Stuffed Zucchini Flowers each with matched spicy salads.


We were then driven to our luxury hinterland Chalet accommodation in Uki for the night Karissa and Peter Ball reside here and run the six fairytale ecOasis Resort Chalets deep in the hinterland forest. We were welcomed like old friends and shown some of the other chalets which each have their own character. We were lucky to have the spa chalet, half way down the valley, aptly named ‘Spa.’

The views of Mount Warning and the sunsets are positively inspirational. You can literally hear your cortisol levels dropping. If you like your solitude and nature 360 degrees, but with every creature comfort – ecOasis will do just fine. Karissa does all the catering herself in her neat little kitchen. She had prepared a ‘snack’ of cheese, fruits and crackers for us on arrival. Around 5:30pm Peter delivered Karissa’s hearty slow cooked chicken and chickpea curry for dinner. Country folk sure love to feed people!







A glorious night’s sleep was had, waking to bird song and sunlight filtering through the trees. Daughter had dibs on the spa bedroom, so I contented myself with a high pressure hot shower over looking the bush and bird-life. Breakfast is plentiful self-cater supplies of bread, butter, spreads, bacon, eggs, baked beans, milk, juice and coffee beans ready to grind fresh. I needed to spend a week here to really blow the city cobwebs away.

After breakfast, we were picked up by Milton, a retired school principal. A very pleasant 40 minute drive and discussion ensued where we ‘set the world to rights.’ We were delivered to Tumbulgum and an outstanding morning tea at the 120 year old, fully restored House of Gabriel. The gift shop and gardens were the perfect place to while-away the time until our Tweed River and Rainforest Seafood BBQ Lunch Cruise was ready to depart.






The chef at The House of Gabriel is keen to show-off the wood fired oven in which he cooks the best pizzas in the region every Friday night between 5pm and 8pm. His latest toy is a Texan-style BBQ cooker. (I’ll be back to try his brisket.) House of Gabriel serves high teas and offers catering and functions. There are plans afoot for a rework of the garden area into an indoor/outdoor area to cater better for weddings and functions.










What really gives a more complete sense of the uniqueness of the Tweed River Valley and the Mount Warning Caldera geology and biome is the Tweed River and Rainforest Seafood BBQ Lunch Cruise.  Nicknamed, The Green Cauldron, it is the only land-bound natural erosion caldera in the southern hemisphere with Mount Warning the remnant plug of a once mighty shield volcano.

Michael Simmons, owner, skipper and guide for the 3 hour cruise offers a narration spanning: volcanology, geology, botany, sociology, anthropology, ornithology, river morphology, history, biology, ecology and biodiversity. His ability to identify bird and plant species at a distance is astounding. What Michael doesn’t know about the natural or man-made environment and history of the Tweed Valley isn’t worth knowing. Every Earth and Environmental Science high school student in Australia should do this tour!!!

Karissa from ecOasis catered for our grazing seafood BBQ on board and there was plenty of wine flowing for those who desired it, soft drink and complimentary bottled water. Every dish was wholesome, generous, well prepared and loaded with fresh local seafood. The four grazing dishes were perfectly timed within our 3 hour cruise.













On our return from the cruise we strolled across the road to The House of Gabriel where we were treated to Husk Plantation’s Ink Gin with Tonic Water. Ink Gin is distilled with 13 organic botanicals. A post distillation floral infusion with an exotic blue flower petal imparts its distinctive purple hue. As you add tonic water it turns a pale pink. Husk Distillers are known for their Paddock to Bottle philosophy and the resultant Pure Cane  and Spiced Bam Bam Agricole Rums. The Husk Distillery will be open for visitors in early 2019.

















After our libation, we were dropped for an hour or so at the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah. The gallery is positioned for panoramic views of the Tweed River.


We enjoyed exploring the gallery’s six exhibition spaces and world class collection of portraits representing Australians from all walks of life. Daughter was particularly taken with the interactive multi-media drawing activity at the entrance to the Margaret Olley Art Centre, which she could retrieve when she got home (results below).








I I loved the recreation of areas of Olley’s famous home studio which features original architectural elements such as windows and doors, relocated from Olley’s home studio at 48 Duxford Street, Paddington, Sydney. The interiors are filled with over 20,000 items Olley collected over many years as subject matter for her paintings.



The kitchen was an amazing time capsule of spices, herbs, ingredients, pots and utensils used over her life.




Just before they closed for the day, we treated ourselves to a little ‘snack’ at the Gallery cafe – rosewater meringue with vanilla bean cream, fresh strawberries and lavish coulis.






Enroute to the Gold Coast Airport Michael showed us the world’s second longest, legal graffiti street-art wall installation. The murals are located along the concrete flood mitigation wall on the western side of the Tweed River bank and run for about 2 kms. As you enter Murwillumbah over the bridge, the river-side of the 2 meter high levee flood wall features the street art of local and international street artists. The Treasures of the Tweed which celebrates the biodiversity of the caldera flanks the township side.


For me, nature, food and art are the perfect trilogy for relaxation and inspiration and the Tweed Valley has them in spades. Check out the upcoming events in the Tweed which can be found here.

Michael tells me there are 2 coffee plantations, 3 cheese makers, a Bay Bug Aquaculture Farm, a character who owns a finger lime farm, a number of other excellent restaurants and of course Tropical Fruit World, all in the Tweed and surrounds.

I am in the throes of planning a small group Culinary Tourism Study Tour to the Tweed in the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2019. If you would like to find our more or join me and other passionate food culture groupies, send me an email or call me on 0415676238.

Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About Craft Beer Tourism Marketing

I have never drunk beer, much less for pleasure.
A lifetime ago, I was ‘prescribed’ a daily
bottle of stout and peanuts by an ancient
baby health nurse in order to increase breast milk supply.
I’m not sure that counts as drinking for pleasure.

I had my first taste of craft beer at Fine Food Australia in September this year. What tempted me was Kansom’s Abalone Beer, the offspring of Kansom Australia Abalone’s partnership with Red Duck Micro Brewery in Ballarat. I didn’t know you could make beer from abalone, much less infuse it with magical ingredients like Samphire, Enoki Mushrooms or Black Truffles.

I was blown away by the ‘nose’ and the complexity. As my senses were awakened to this new experience, gastronomer mind raced with ideas of how to pair these elixirs with different foods. Then marketing mind began to think about the exponential growth in craft beers, craft breweries and craft beer tourism. Life-long learner mind decided to see what scholarly research existed on the whole craft beer thing. Joyfully, most of the papers I found were published in 2017.

Types of Craft Beer Tourism

A study involving UK, Italy and Spain found that these were the most commonly perceived forms of Craft Beer Tourism:

  • Craft beer trails/tours (several visits on the same day)
  • Craft beer/food pairings – craft beer in combination with food
  • Craft brewery visitation in combination with architecture, food, wine, heritage etc
  • Tastings, open craft brewery visits
  • Fairs, brewing days, food fairs and similar events

Italian and Spanish participants were more interested or aware than UK participants in craft beer and food pairings, tastings or visits to the craft beer factory but their main challenge was the lack of a local beer drinking culture. The UK and Australia have no such challenge. My observation is that Australia now just really starting to explore the pairing foodscape but much more can and should be done in this event space.

Profile of a Craft Brewery Visitor in the US’s More Mature Market

A paper on beer tourism in Central Kentucky found that the profile of a craft brewery visitor was: white male, approximately 33 years old, well-educated (40% 4 year degree) (35% graduate training to doctorate), mean income USD83,000, mean number of visits to a particular brewery 3.2, travelled long distances and almost half were staying overnight in the surrounding area.

A North Carolina study found that 38% of respondents were not local and of those 36.7% indicated the main purpose for their trip was the beer. Their profile was male, approx 38 years old, single or married, Bachelor or Master’s degree with income ranging from USD40,000-119,000, 60% staying overnight for an average of 3 nights, with most staying with friends/relatives or hotel/motel and visiting an average of 2 breweries, travelling with friends or spouse.

Experience Preferences of Craft Brewery Visitors

The Kentucky study found the top reasons for visiting a brewery are:

  • To taste new beers
  • To be with family and friends
  • To experience Kentucky beers
  • To buy beer

Males reported a stronger mean interest in tasting new beer, experiencing Kentucky beer and buying beer. Females reported a stronger mean interest for using breweries to be with friends and family, buy beer and get away for the day/weekend.

Motivational Factors for Visiting Craft Breweries

In the Kentucky study respondents reported they were motivated to learn something new and that breweries with a variety of beers, speciality or seasonal beers offered an authentic experience that expanded their palette. There was a strong desire to support local businesses and purchase local craft beer when possible, indicating the participation in a brewery tour is perceived as a true local experience.

The North Carolina study compared beer-focused with other brewery tourists and found the top five motivational factors were related to ‘the craft beer experience’, enjoyment, socialising and beer consumption:

  1. To taste new beer
  2. To experience North Carolina beer
  3. To increase my beer knowledge
  4. So I can be with my family
  5. To buy beer

The study suggests that beer-focused and other brewery tourists should be considered as separate target markets. ‘Other brewery tourists’ are more likely to stay overnight.

Brand Loyalty Factors

A 2015 study in North Carolina compared brand loyalty across two craft breweries found the factors that most influenced brand loyalty were firstly, ‘connection to the local community,’ secondly, ‘desire for unique consumer products’ and thirdly, ‘satisfaction.’

‘Connection to the local community’ or ‘neo-localism’ is the “deliberate seeking out of regional lore and local attachment by residents (new and old) as a delayed reaction to the destruction in [the] modern [world] of traditional bonds to community and family.” According to Murray and Kline, neo-localism is about reconnecting with place (by choice and not necessity) and cultivating a relationship with local identities while boosting local economies.

The ‘desire for unique consumer products’ speaks to our need for uniqueness and how we choose products which are rare and are perceived to help create a unique self and social image. We are drawn to products whose brand personality reflects our own perception of ourselves or how we would like to be perceived.

‘Satisfaction’ as a factor of brand loyalty speaks to consumers’ needs to maximise rewards and minimise costs (or risks) in switching brands. Most obvious of the factors, ‘satisfied’ customers are more likely to be loyal to a product.

Implications for Marketing

Young adults are likely to be active on social media, so creating and maintaining profiles on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook should help to bring in more customers. Breweries should focus on providing a wider selection of seasonal or limited edition beers. Brewery tours should provide information on the beer making process, history of their establishment and expand on the ‘local’ theme such as where the ingredients and inspiration for the beer came from.

Messages to beer-focused tourists should emphasise and describe the experience, (tastes, history, knowledge), consumption/availability, while showing how enjoyment and socialisation needs can be met.

Craft breweries and brew pubs should focus on directly approaching beer-focused tourists through club memberships, events, repeat-visit incentives, product quality and value of the brewery experience to increase consumer knowledge and confidence.

Destination marketing organisation’s marketing to ‘other brewery tourists’ should emphasise the enjoyment and socialising aspects of beer tourism and how it adds to their overall vacation experience.

Tip of the Craft Beer-berg

These are just a smattering of the insights recent academic research reveals on the burgeoning craft beer tourism industry. Let me know if you are interested in scholarly research on craft beer tourism’s role on placemaking, (including rural destination development in Australia), the role of DMOs, collaborators and tourism support.

Viktoria Darabi is a Food Culture Tourism Whisperer, Food & Beverage Trendspotter & Futurist, championing the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.

Riding the Poké Wave

There has been a 76% rise in delivered poké meals
for workers in the US since Jan 2017.

Poké restaurants are all the rage these days and offices across the United States and now offices are enjoying these bowls as,  since the start of 2017, ZeroCater has seen a 76 percent increase of poké meals delivered from poké meals delivered in 2016.

At the end of 2016, industry experts predicted poké would have a significant influence on the restaurant space in 2017 with menu additions and new concepts. One factor may be a focus on health in the workplace. Poké is full of flavor, low in calories and high in protein, with sushi-grade seafood boasting essential fatty acids, which are great for maintaining brain function, cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels.

With clients’ increased interest in poké, ZeroCater brought on five new poké vendors to accommodate demand, including Pokéworks in the San Francisco Bay and New York regions.

“We strive to keep our offerings fresh and exciting so that our clients and their employees enjoy their food programs to the fullest,” said Arram Sabeti, CEO of ZeroCater. “As wellness becomes increasingly important in the workplace, especially among millennials, poké is a fresh, flavorful option loaded with veggies and omega-3s.”

Excerpt From: Modern Restaurant Magazine

How to Poké

Video Credit:

Viktoria Darabi is a Food Culture Tourism Whisperer, Food & Beverage Trendspotter & Futurist, championing the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.

Surviving Urban Renewal Disruption – Ideas for Food & Drink Venues

Tired town squares, neglected ‘fascades’, shabby ‘streetscapes’ and ageing infrastructure. Sound familiar? Many regional and urban centres are currently undergoing renewal and revitalisation in an effort to transform themselves into modern, liveable, visitor attractive destinations. Some cities are constructing light rail to move booming urban populations between home and work, work and play and home to play.

In many cases, this means lengthy construction disruption for the retailers on the high street who rely heavily on foot traffic for their livelihoods. I found myself in a similar situation some years ago. I had just given up full time employment to concentrate full time on an artisanal small business and to have my second child.

We had moved (by design) to a property on a busy arterial intersection. Just six months in and road-widening works began directly in front of the property, affecting visibility and traffic access of the business for 12 months. This was before the internet was mainstream in Australia. With no budget for marketing, I was forced to move outside my comfort zone to survive.

The silver lining to this cloud was that I uncovered every no-cost, low-cost method to market the business and diversified our offerings to include mail order products. These low cost marketing methods became the norm for us and ‘diversification’ products and services subsequently became a significant income stream for the business.

For food and drink venues, I now proffer…

The Four D’s of Urban Renewal Disruption Survival

Digital Marketing Savvy

If you aren’t all over social media by now, you should be. Learn to manage your Linkedin (Owners and Chefs), Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat accounts or get a professional agency to do it for you.

You should have created, be monitoring and managing your profile on TripAdvisor, Zomato, Yelp, Australian Good Food Guide ( and anywhere else diners rate or food bloggers review and rate dining establishments. If it’s all too much, get a professional agency to do it for you. Check them out here.

Once that’s under your belt, take a look at engaging a photographer certified by the Google Street View Trusted program specialising in 360° virtual tours which can be published on Google Maps, Google Street View, Google Search results, Google Earth and your other web and social media platforms such as Facebook. You can get this started for under AUD500. Check out and also Vloggi.


As your foot traffic diminishes, you may need to ‘tool-up’ for offering delivery of some of your more popular dishes. Do your homework on what others are doing, what works and who are the best delivery options in your area: Deliveroo, UberEats or foodora. You may be take the option to partner with online restaurant ordering companies such as menulog, deliveryhero or eatnow. If you are looking for a company that provides combines a dynamic sales force, an online ordering system and logistics in one platform, check out Menulogs founders lastest venture, FoodByUs, a B2B marketplace for Australian foodservice venues and local suppliers.

If you have the capacity and tech savvy in-house, you might start your own Meal Subscription Service. Read more about the UK’s MealPal model here.

If you are in a business or university city, corporate catering is another product you can offer. Start this process by showcasing your amazing board and meeting room offerings on Linkedin to the right geographical connections.


Masterclasses, workshops, pairing and food/drink appreciation events gain cooks, chefs and mixologists priceless marketing exposure. What ticketed masterclasses could cooks or chefs present at your destination to showcase their talents and become a culinary hero? Cold oil spherification? Gold leafing? Chocolate and Sugar Work dessert decorations and garnishes? Multi-cultural dishes? Best Bao Ever? Elegant meals from cheaper cuts of meat? Fermented foods? Preserves and Pickles? Classic Australian Slices? With the growing interest in Australian-made gins and craft beers, what food pairing event could you create to highlight your chef’s talents and your bar staff’s knowledge?

Don’t forget children. Kids cooking workshops and activities bring mum’s in the door for a meal or snack and a natter while their children are being edutained. Check out Death to Nuggets, Kids Cooking Classes and think about reviewing your kids menu.

A little black dress goes from day wear to night wear with the addition of a few clever accessories. Spacious in New York saw that restaurants which were closed during the day could be transformed into an affordable network of co-working spaces and makes them accessible for US$95 per month. Is it possible to partition off the back half of your dining space to be a co-working space during the day? More about how food venues and co-working spaces function here.

Toronto’s got Urban Food Tours nailed. See Savour Toronto. Can your venue become a regular on an urban food or drink tour or trail? If you are in Western Sydney, check out Taste Food Tours. What about creating a small audio walking self-guided food/drink tour using smart phone tech which you and a few other venues chip in together to build? Check out Detour.

Develop Additional Digs

You might consider signing up for a regular stall at your local or out of town Night or Farmers Market stalls. Do your signature street food dish or house specialities which fit the market’s niche to drive food or delivery customers to your venue or website.

Can you do the same street food and rent a fully equipped Food Truck to expose your offerings to a new type of customer? Social media is the marketing tool of choice for food trucks. This means if your venue is struggling to get leverage or exposure with millennials, food trucks are a pathway to ‘social mention by stealth.’ Read more here.

Does your council or can you lobby your council to sponsor a Pop-Up Disruption Diner? A Disruption Diner is made available to affected food/drink businesses on a rolling basis for one week each at a nominal rent. The diner is set up in a suitable foot traffic area that is not affected by construction. The council set up and manage the Disruption Diner Facebook, Instagram etc and promote the variety of food fare available during the course of construction at no charge. (One can only dream.)

Also in the ‘one can only dream’ file… can your council or an entrepreneurial developer make available a space as a temporary Food Hall for those food/drink businesses affected? See about Food Halls here.

Finally, you may just decide or need to move on. Start something completely new in a new space. It is possible. Check out this story about how a Funky Old Gas Station in Napa Valley Is Now a Mecca for Millennial Wine Drinkers to get your inspiration juices flowing.

Viktoria Darabi is a Food Culture Tourism Whisperer, Food & Beverage Trendspotter & Futurist, championing the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.

Why Food Halls Are the Future

An Iteration of the Times and Trends

Food halls aren’t new, they are a 20th century iteration of ancient bazaar markets. I remember my uncle taking me to Fortnum and Mason’s Food Hall in London 30 years ago and standing gawk-eyed, salivating at the cheeses, handmade chocolates and charcuterie, (not much has changed there). Hawker centres are the South East Asian iteration, and cookie-cutter food courts in any mall in Australia are the ‘western consumption spaces’ iteration. The New Food Hall is an indoor market that offers effortless non-design (or sleek design) and mini restaurants hand-picked a by a food-culture insider, (culinary curator).

The New Food Hall’s birth is a product of a number of economic and culinary trends – a stagnant economy, a resurgence in ‘downtown’, urban renewal construction disrupting high street retailers, rising wages and rents, urban densification, the need for employment and affordable small business models for migrants and refugees, start-up and running costs of a food truck, consumer demand for healthy fast-casual food, millennials’ deep pockets and the relentless search for new food experiences.

The Birth of Food Halls in Australia?

While there are logistical headaches for councils to overcome, small business owners and developers in other countries have embraced the lower risk of these shared spaces. Customers queue to buy $10 lunches from local celebrity chefs. Cabravale Diggers club’s 600 seat, journey down the Mekong River, District 8 Dining and Food Hall perhaps demonstrates the beginning of this food revolution in Australia.

In March 2016, Americans spent more money dining out than they did purchasing groceries…The trend has repeated itself every month since.

Food Halls of America

Cushman & Wakefield are the world leaders in Food Hall development. Their 70 page Food Halls of America Report was released in 2016 and provides an account of the research and impetus for the trend plus case studies of their 35 Food Hall projects across America.

More Reading on the US Food Hall Renaissance

Artisanal Tacos on Paper Plates Why America fell for the food hall.

Tons of American Cities are Opening New Food Halls This Year

17 must-visit American food halls and markets

America’s Next Great Public Markets and Food Halls

The trend has only really just begun… projects that are wide in their site selection process… that build resonance with consumers based on the values of authenticity, quality and community will be the ones that experience the greatest success.

Characteristics of the Food Court Vs Food Hall – My Take

Viktoria Darabi is a Food Culture Tourism Whisperer, Food & Beverage Trendspotter & Futurist, championing the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.

‘Taste of Place’ Place Making – Destination Marketing & Development

‘Place making’ is a concept that economic and destination development practitioners are well aware of. Done well, it contributes to the vibrancy, branding and attractiveness of a location for visitors and is an expression of social cohesion in the community. There is now both an economic and social imperative to provide an ‘experience’ around ‘place.’ Destinations that effectively use their food and drink to differentiate themselves from other locations are said to provide a ‘taste of place.’

For destinations that perhaps do not have the financial means for dramatic urban renewal projects or development in their pursuit of visitors or tourists, ‘taste of place’ activities are cost effective tactics to market their distinctiveness and create deeper connections with visitors.

Mature tourism destinations who have successfully leveraged their unique food and drink offerings should be asking, “What and where to next?” Innovation in Taste of place activities develop and extend their gastronomic assets and enhance their gastronomic capital.

Taste of place can play a role in repositioning long-held (perhaps unfavourable or unremarkable) perceptions of your destination’s food in people’s minds. Leveraging these strategies creatively will provide new and constantly changing taste of place activities to capture the hearts, minds and stomachs of visitors, to ensure you are on their ‘revisit list’.

Begin at the Beginning


Start by looking at the latest demographic profile of your region which is available at This site allows you to research your community’s demographic profile by suburb and council area on many different levels. This will help you build a picture of how the community you serve and the visitors and types have changed over the time. The latest 2016 Census data can be a revelation for some.

Many local council websites have information or resources on the demographics, history, heritage, tourist attractions, business mix and community events, activities and classes for various age/interest groups. By discovering what services your council offers and links to, you can get some insight into what the community has deemed important.

Historic Resources

Most local councils have libraries with a wealth of local historic resources. They have a variety of activities and events which relate to the demographics and needs of the area and usually have historical collections for Local Studies, Family History. Some have Oral Histories recordings which may shed light on historical agriculture and significant dishes that were cooked in the past. They may have copies of locally produced cookbooks from the area which will give some insight into historic foods and favourite dishes of the area.

Your region’s historical society may undertake research on your behalf for free or for a modest fee. You might like to research historic agriculture, cookbooks, recipes or infamous or famous characters and photos from your region to build a story around a dish or food specialty.

The historical society or local RSL club may have printed or electronic historical recipes, menus or photos of dishes, tables or special gustatory events. These pieces of ephemera will shine a light on what your community have enjoyed in the past and may provide inspiration for current chefs to reinvent these dishes for their modern clientele. These dishes come complete with your own taste of place back story.

Hidden Databases You Can Survey

Your local tourist information office, destination marketing organisation (DMO) may have a database of members from online newsletter sign ups. Facebook or Twitter followers provide you with lists which you can survey for information about your food and beverage offerings. Online surveys are easy to design in Survey Monkey’s free software and links to the survey can be inserted into your Twitter page, Facebook Page, online newsletter or printed and posted to your older residents. Better still, interview and visually record your oldest patron’s memories of their earliest food memories and experiences.

Food and Drink Narratives

The power of crafting an engaging narrative around your food and drink was driven home to me recently when I volunteered at the joint Feather & Bone/Slow Food Sydney stall at historic Rouse House’s Autumn Harvest Festival.

Artisanal Butchers, Feather and Bone were selling Ark of Taste Bull Boar Sausages on Sourdough with chutney. The narrative went something like this:

“Good morning, madam. Are you contemplating our Bull Boar Sausages? (Big smile) These are no ordinary sausage. They are a unique recipe in danger of extinction which was created by the Italian-speaking Swiss immigrants in the Victorian goldfields around 1850. They contain organic beef and pork marinated for three days in garlic infused red wine with added Christmas spices providing a fulsome flavoured sausage. We are serving today on artisanal sourdough with a bold, spiced, apple chutney for $5.00. So this is an historic sausage.”

We sold a lot of Bull Boar Sausages with this narrative. What narratives can you craft around your food and drink from local and regional agriculture, geography, history, characters and food culture?

Celebrate Your Celebrities

This taste of place technique is about building a narrative around your community’s cooks (domestic and otherwise), chefs and mixologists. (Don’t forget the Grandma’s and Grandpa’s that cook!) What are their cultural stories? What foods and food related issues do they care about? What do they make from scratch or do that is unique? Can they share their recipes or highlight their favourite local growers or producers? Can you encourage a talented local photographer to photograph your chef for a Shoot the Chef photographic competition?

Elevating your community cooks, chefs and mixologists to celebrity status, starting even starting within the walls of a venue or town, can pay off in many ways – not the least of which is your local press and social media exposure.

Carème (1783 -1833) the inventor of French cuisine, named his dishes by ingredients and basic preparation method e.g. shrimp bisque. The variations where named using honorific individual achievement, geographical or historical names. Shrimp bisque for example comes à la française, à la Cornieille, à l’amiral de Rigny. à la princess, au chasseur, à la regence and à la royale.

Branded Cuisine

Jamie’s Italian Trattoria in Parramatta is modern example of branded cuisine. His dishes are his take on his favourite Italian dishes. In his menu, he honours his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and he gives a contemporary nod to his British heritage by using unmistakeably English expressions such as “the full monty.”

Adriano Zumbo signs/brands his dessert creations with a small ‘az’ disk. What dishes could you design and brand after the local geography or history, honorifically after the chef, club’s founders, local food heroes, known characters from the club’s history or present day?

Masterclasses, Workshops and Appreciation Events

Masterclasses, pairing, and food and drink appreciation events gain cooks, chefs and mixologists priceless marketing exposure. With the growing interest in Australian-made gins, what food pairing event could you create to highlight your chef’s talents and your mixologists gin knowledge? What ticketed masterclasses could cooks or chefs present at your destination to showcase their talents and become a culinary hero. Cold oil spherification? Gold leafing? Chocolate and Sugar Work decorations and garnishes? Multi-cultural desserts? Elegant meals from cheaper cuts of meat? Fermented foods? Pumpkin & Lemon Scones? Preserves and Pickles? Slices?

Ride the Trends

Carème’s genius, his “invention” of French Cuisine lay in the way he capitalised on and magnified trends – well in evidence. It is not ‘selling out’ or ‘taking the easy road’ to hitch your star to a food or drink trend. In fact, it is good business sense and contributes to taste of place when cooks and chefs put their unique twist on the trend. Leverage this concept for a ticketed food event around a classic film like Babette’s Feast or new foodie film.

What’s your destination’s twist on Babette’s Rum Baba with Figs?

Viktoria Darabi is a Food Culture Tourism Whisperer, Food & Beverage Trendspotter & Futurist, championing the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.

Discoveries at Fine Food Australia Exhibition 2017 – Darling Harbour ICC

 Pumpkin Seeds and Oil – The Pumpkin House

The Pumpkin House in Queensland creates products and oils that celebrate the nutrition and qualities of the humble Styrian pumpkin seed (pepitas). Slovenian pumpkin seed oil has an intense nutty taste, intense deep green colour and an extra-ordinary silky mouth-feel. It can be used in savoury and sweet dishes for flavour, colour and finishing purposes. Styrian pumpkin seed oil has been around for 200 years. If you love to use walnut oil, hazelnut oil or seasame oil in your cooking then pumpkin seed oil might just be your new favourite. Check out Pumpkin Seed Oil and Ice cream here and Pumpkin Seed Oil spread recipe here. Wholesale enquiries here. Find out more at The Pumpkin House. Veronika and Aleksander tell me the chocolate covered pumpkins seeds will be available soon – a marriage made in heaven.

Charcoal Crispbread, Grissini and Ice Cream

I know charcoal flavoured products have been around for a while, but I still love the wow factor and contrast they provide. The Byron Bay Cookie Company is producing Falwasser Activated Charcoal Wafer Crispbread and as you can imagine they provide a stunning contrast on any cheese board.

Valbuzzi are making a great variety of grissini and mini grissini including a Rye and Charcoal version. The taste is unique and the colours are a joy to work with on cheese, antipasto and charcuterie platters.

Black Hawaii Carbon Black Ice Cream owes its heavenly taste and texture to vegetable carbon, coconut water and raw cocoa beans. It is gluten and lactose free a creamy texture and quite a showstopper. Formulation suitable for gelato and soft serve. I’m struggling to describe the flavour – ‘just heaven’ will do.

Maple Pearls

Canadian Liquid Gold Maple Pearls. These pearls are sweet little spheres of pure Maple Sugar. They provide new texture. as a maple “crumble” to top muffins or breads, sprinkle over icing on cookies. You can mix them into a batter for bursts of maple in baked goods or add to your morning coffee for a maple flavour. An elegant jar makes them a great gift too.

Sugar Cane Fibre Designer Ecoware

Epicure Trading are speclialists in designer eco-friendly single-use disposable tableware. The stylish Wasara eco-range caught my eye with their fabulous organic shapes and clever bamboo cutlery that conveniently slides onto the edges of plates or bowls.

Japanese designed, these are water and oil resistant, sturdy and durable, do not sweat when hot liquids are added, made from sugar cane waste, bamboo and reeds, biodegradable and compostable.

Viktoria Darabi is a Food Culture Tourism Whisperer, Food & Beverage Trendspotter & Futurist, championing the power of food culture activities to celebrate multi-culturalism, promote social cohesion, engender a sense of community pride and to transform or construct ‘place’ to define a destination’s identity and distinctiveness.