Off The Menu: Restaurants pushing ‘dining experience’

Jun 12 2018

The rise of “the experience economy” is an article of faith for marketing practice in the 21st century. Today’s consumers, marketing experts assert, are now less interested in acquiring things than they are in enjoying experiences. Buying stuff is out; having adventures and creating memories is in.

Of course the restaurant industry has long been in the business of selling experience. Serious dining is not just about fueling up; it’s also about entertainment and enjoyment.

But in today’s crowded restaurant marketplace, good food and competent service aren’t enough. In order to be successful in the years ahead, restaurants will have to be in the “experience” business. Anyone who doubts that’s the case need only look at the latest versions of fast food restaurants, with their oversized video displays and cozy, lounge-style seating.

Recent studies published by The NDP Group, a research firm that specializes in restaurant and retail customer dynamics, reveal that consumers of all ages are putting more value on the experience part of the dining occasion.

The NDP Group suggests that three different factors can contribute to the sort of experience today’s customers crave.

The first is truly unique food – unusual ingredients, artistically presented dishes, and big, distinctive flavors. It’s an aspect of dining out that’s synonymous with highly developed culinary artistry.

Technology can be a driver of experience, whether in the form of mobile devices, robotics, or social media.

Most important of all, however, is the role human interaction plays. What defines this aspect of a great dining experience is a guest feeling he or she has been appropriately acknowledged and taken care of, from first contact to the moment of walking back out the door. In a world that’s increasingly dominated by the impersonal, the human touch, skillfully and sincerely delivered, can be a powerful way to earn and retain customer loyalty.

Side Dishes:

Eager to capitalize on the Father’s Day holiday and tempt families into taking Dad out for a celebratory meal, restaurants are offering special menus and deals on the weekend of June 16 and 17.
Some are focusing on meat-and-potatoes “manfood,” such as the Father’s Day weekend special being offered by the Farm Table Restaurant in Bernardston.
That operation is promoting a “Chef Conlin’s Father’s Day Weekend Prime Rib Dinner” on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings of the weekend. Priced at $35, the three-course experience includes an iceberg wedge salad, a prime rib entree, and a dessert of New York-style cheesecake with strawberries.
MAX Group restaurants in Massachusetts and Connecticut are taking a different approach, offering dads and granddads dining at MAX locations on Sunday, June 17 a free future dinner in the form of a voucher worth up to $25. The voucher must be redeemed at a MAX location by July 31 of this year.

The Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox is, on June 16 starting at 5 p.m., partnering with the Comical Mystery Tour of Greenfield to present an encore performance of “Murder in the Land of Lost Pages”
Cost to attend is $40 per person and includes a full course dinner.
For information or reservations call Ventfort Hall at (413) 637-3206.

James Mazzaferro (“Jimmy Mazz”) is returning to the Carriage House at Storrowton Tavern in West Springfield on Tuesday, June 26.
Mazzaferro will be performing in his “Love Italian Style with Dean Martin and Friends,” a show that incorporates a variety of romantic songs made popular by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, and others.
The luncheon will begin at 12 noon with a three-course menu that will include a summer salad starter, chicken parmesan, a side of pasta, dessert, and coffee or tea.
Mazzaferro will start his set at 1:30 p.m.
Cost to enjoy “Love Italian Style” is $30, a price that includes tax and gratuity. Tickets may be ordered by calling the Jimmy Mazz ticket line at (413) 374-5890.

Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.¬†will be hosting its first-ever spirits and cocktail tasting event, “The Wonder of the Cocktail,” on June 20 through June 22.
Open to the public, this three-day celebration will provide food and beverage aficionados, whether they are amateurs or professionals, an opportunity to taste the finest spirits and wines, attend master class seminars, and meet some of Connecticut’s most talented chefs.
The Wonder of the Cocktail will begin with a Kick-off Welcome Cocktail Reception on Wednesday, June 20. A Chef Dine Around Tasting will be held in the Foxwoods Grand Ballroom the next evening.
The three-day experience will conclude with a “Grand Tasting” on Friday evening, June 22.
Tickets for the event, which is only open to those 21 years of age or older, start at $35. For additional schedule information or to purchase tickets, go to
Foxwoods information can also be obtained by calling the resort’s general information line at (800) 369-9663.

Max’s Tavern at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will be presenting “Real Argentina” on Friday, June 15. An homage to the classic winemaking traditions of South America, the dinner will feature selections from three Argentinian vineyards.
The five-course menu created by Max’s Tavern executive chef Michael Touranjoe will feature dishes such as sumac-dusted scallop, lamb Bolognese, vanilla-braised short ribs, and grilled blood sausage.
Tickets, which are $90 per person not including tax or gratuity, can be reserved by calling (413) 746-6299.

The Munich Haus German Restaurant in Chicopee will be convening its June Munich Hops Club “session” on June 20 at 6 p.m.
This month’s featured beer is a limited edition Weihenstephaner & Sierra Nevada’s Braupakt, an unfiltered Hefeweizen (wheat beer).
The session’s agenda will include a glass of Braupakt, a buffet-style dinner, a discussion with Weihenstephaner representatives, prizes, giveaways, and more.
Tickets are $15.95 and do not include tax or gratuity. Advance purchases can be made online at or by calling (413) 594-8788.

The 1761 Old Mill Restaurant in Westminster is again hosting Brickroad Productions of Monson in a performance of that theater company’s original whodunit “Trial and Error” on Friday, June 22.
A “semi-legal” thriller that features audience participation, the show is paired with a buffet dinner, which will be served at 7 p.m.
Cost to participate in the dinner and drama is $40; a cash bar will be available.
Call (978) 874-5941 for more information or to purchase tickets.

Denny’s, the casual dining chain that styles itself as “America’s Diner,” has announced a limited time offering – the “Super Slam,” an enhancement of its signature Grand Slam breakfast.
The new Super Slam, which is being offered at a suggested price of $5.99, includes two eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausage links, two buttermilk pancakes, and an order of hash browns.
This breakfast deal is not only available on a dine-in basis; it can also enjoyed through the chain’s new Denny’s On Demand mobile ordering and delivery program.
There are Denny’s locations on Boston Road in Springfield, Memorial Drive in Chicopee, Northampton Street in Holyoke, and in Enfield.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has over 40 years of restaurant and educational experience. Please send items of interest to Off the Menu at the Republican, P.O. Box 1329, Springfield, MA 01101; Robert can also be reached at¬†




Apr 2024