Top chefs predict the future for eating out

Michel Roux Jr

With restaurants currently closed for business, the industry will have to adapt to new ways of working, say leading experts

The restaurant and fine-dining industry may be down but it's not out, according to a panel of Britain's top chefs and writers.

There will always be high-end restaurants because we like to be pampered,’ said Michel Roux Jr of Le Gavroche before admitting, ‘but how we operate and how we'll be pampered will change for sure.’ The chef was speaking in a live webcast on the future of the hospitality industry alongside Jason Atherton of Pollen Street Social and writer and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

‘We're going to have to be imaginative,’ said former MasterChef judge Michel. ‘We will pull through not all of us will pull through but we'll be stronger for it at the end because we're a resilient bunch.’ Hugh agreed, saying he imagined that fine-dining experiences would need to be ‘curated in a different way’.

‘I think things like private dining rooms, private events spaces ... some of us are
going to have to get out of our kitchens maybe even go to people's homes to give them the experiences they used to expect in a restaurant.’

River Cottage owner Hugh added: ‘We have a number of different spaces - outside, undercover, an old barn, a lovely garden if the weather's good we can arrange things potentially quite creatively but still distanced, and look after people in an exceptional way. That's a challenge we're already starting to think about.’


Jason Atherton, Image by Alun Callender


Jason acknowledged that customers would demand more value for money than ever before: ‘We are absolutely looking at some cheaper options for our a la carte menu. We don't think we can start back with four luxury fish [options] on the menu, for example.

‘We'll probably go for two luxury and two that are a step-down... I think the smart money is coming in on a bit of a better price point. Hugh said he hoped positives would come out of the coronavirus pandemic, including the restaurant business becoming ‘a less wasteful industry.

The environmental campaigner also predicted that consumers would care ‘very deeply about the provenance of the food they were eating.  ‘They're going to want to know who raised this animal, who grew these vegetables - where did they come from and how did they get here?

‘If we can reassure them by telling them that story, they're going to put their trust back in us more than if we're simply serving anonymous food, where they don't really know or understand where it's come from.

Originally published in Waitrose & Partners Weekend, May 2020. Words by Lucy Clare. Read this week's issue online here.