Well-spoken events, restaurants as ephemeral as a piece of cake, boiling street food and friendly buzzwords among residents, all spiced up and shared by ingenious bloggers!
In this collaborative economy, where the notions of sharing, discovering others, “good tips” and mutual aid are promoted, cooking has found its place: this is what is known as social dining or food-surfing. Platforms to discover the local cuisine of a destination flourish and are available in different options. Among them, Voulezvousdîner, EatWith, VizEat or Feastly put a stranger in contact with a resident who cooks at home. The meal often takes place in small groups. Platforms are trying out new concepts by offering themed meetings.
If cooking, and more broadly food, has become a societal phenomenon, it is also thanks to the advent of social networks. We now speak of “citizen journalism”, where everyone can express themselves on a subject and become an actor in communication on the Web. Thus, many Internet users and bloggers give pride of place to food by sharing their discoveries and preferences, especially with photos that promote meals on social networks such as Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Tourists like to try new dishes and take pictures of them.
Given the increasing number of thematic events on culinary products and local cuisine, the event is an indicator that stimulates food tourism. Cooking is more than ever recognized in the culture of societies. As a result, interdisciplinary events are emerging. Some who at first glance had no particular connection with gastronomy now combine it with the world of music, art, literature, comics or start-ups. Local kitchen outlets (in the form of tents, containers, street kitchen trucks, etc.) create real added value for the visitor. In France, the SlowUp of the Alsace Wine Route elegantly combines cycling tourism, oenology and local gastronomy, with growing success.
A new approach to the restaurant where the consumer wants to be surprised by local cuisine, in an unconventional way, is emerging. Undermined by the arrival of new actors and concepts in the restaurant landscape, professionals, including major names in gastronomy, are converting to these new practices.
Ephemeral restaurants flourish everywhere and are nowadays called “supper club”, “underground restaurant”, “pop-up restaurant”, “secret restaurant”, “guerrilla dinner”, or “anti-restaurant”. These establishments come to life in an unusual or original place, for one or more evenings. Frequent places are lounges, private apartments or art galleries opened by private individuals. Participants, mainly invited by word of mouth or via social networks, must book and pay for the meal on site. Although it is illegal, since it is not controlled in terms of hygiene, taxes, etc., the ephemeral restaurant has boosted the careers of several great chefs whose talent has been recognized through this type of event.
In order to promote their culinary heritage, a group of Finns launched Restaurant Day in 2011, the principle of which is as follows: for one day, anyone can set up their own restaurant, bar or café. Building on its success, the concept has spread well beyond Finland’s borders to 75 countries and cities around the world, including Montreal and Switzerland. On the Restaurant Day website, participants geolocate their ephemeral restaurants, map menus and publish their event schedules.
The phenomenon of street cooking trucks is in full swing. The concept, which originated in the United States, is particularly well established in North America. It is estimated that revenues generated by the street cooking industry will reach US$2.7 billion by 2017 in the United States. Food trucks are gaining in popularity in Asia, Australia, Mexico and some European countries such as Belgium, the United Kingdom and France. However, they are not always well received by the restaurant industry.
Originally, the meals served, intended for busy employees in business districts, were delightful because of their convenience and quick service. They are increasingly distinguished by their gourmet or eccentric character. In some cities, they become tourist attractions. In Portland, the 500 vans have changed both the urban landscape and the culinary offer of the destination, while in Austin; guided tours are dedicated to them. In September 2014, the Australian Tourism Office decided to use a street cooking truck as a tourism promotion tool in Paris. The van crossed the streets of the capital for about ten days to showcase Australian cuisine.
This phenomenon is now emerging in rural areas. These machines have a new look to win over ski resort customers. The latest innovation to date, the first snow groomer in France arrived this winter in the Pyrenees, at Le Grand Tourmalet, and also in the Alps, in Val Thorens more precisely. This mobile kitchen on a ski area is supposed to seduce a young clientele. The ski resort of Bormio in Italy also offers a gourmet snow groomer, the snowlicious.
In short, there is no lack of boredom on the gastronomic tourism scene and it is likely that its popularity will only increase.