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Informal eating vs. fine dining

London is one of the world’s greatest cities with a vast array of quality dining options for every palate. Whether you are looking for traditional British cuisine or a taste of the Caribbean, London is limitless in offering a food gateway to the rest of the world.

Dining options have grown and diversified over the last 10 years, and perhaps the strongest trend to emerge is the casual dining concept, which has firmly established itself in London as a real competitor. Casual dining options, whether from an established brand such as GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) or a new pop-up at the end of your street, provide customers with that quick, hassle-free experience that is both flexible and reasonably priced. A lot of these options also refuse to take table reservations, such as Spuntino or MEATliquor, which has queues around the street every Thursday through Saturday night. Dining decisions also are more spontaneous and social than ever before. Whether it’s a post-work dinner with colleagues or simply an excuse to catch up, casual dining offers an array of choices for those last-minute meals.

There is no doubt informal dining is here to stay. Well-known brands with a signature food offering in great locations, coupled with a competitive price set, will continue to thrive. Even some of London’s best-known chefs are lending their names to the informal dining concept.

With all this demand, you have to wonder, are fine-dining restaurants still going to survive? Michelin-starred restaurants once used to have that air of exclusivity, yet today they have never been more accessible for everyone to enjoy. Lunch specials and set menus will keep these in business and introduce new customers to their base. Some Michelin-starred restaurants are thriving with a more relaxed approach — waiters now offer to leave the wine on the table, and some will not have a tablecloth in sight. One of the most successful examples, Pollen Street Social, definitely argues that fine dining is still in demand. Where PSS succeeds is by delivering exceptional food in casual and relaxed surroundings.

But are people still looking for that elegant fine-dining restaurant? I truly believe guests will always want that great service, and there is a reason why establishments such as Le Gavroche will remain as permanent fixtures in our city. Not only do they deliver the highest levels of food, but their service delivery is flawless. There will always be that demand to impress your clients, to pull off the best surprise or simply enjoy, and these places guarantee you the ultimate in food hospitality. That refined luxury will always be in demand.

As much as I believe informal dining has an even bigger future ahead, fine-dining restaurants will still continue to attract new customers seeking that guarantee of quality food and service. What do you think?

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