Andrew Sheivachman, Skift
Apr 04, 2017 2:00 pm

As more travelers have realized that dining is truly an experience in its own right, more restaurants and travel companies are pursuing innovation and creating unique dining experiences around the world.

— Andrew Sheivachman

Why close down your world-class restaurant and opt instead to open a series of global pop-ups in a diverse series of destinations? Because dining has become a crucial part of the experience for travelers, and food tourism has truly entered the mainstream for a wide swath of destinations.

Famed Danish restaurant Noma opened a pop-up restaurant in Australia last year, following an experiment in Tokyo in 2015, and is set to soon open another in Tulum, Mexico. This move away from the traditional paradigm in dining speaks to the power of building a global community around a restaurant, and the risks some of the world’s boldest restaurateurs are taking to reinvent the global dining experience.

“The most overused word in TV is the ‘journey,’ but there are people who want to follow the experience of [head chef Rene Redzepi] and 60 other chefs coming from Copenhagen,” said Ben Liebmann, chief operating officer of Noma, at Skift Forum Europe. “[They want to] see and experience a country through the eyes and hands of a Danish restaurant and chef, and learn what he has experienced. We are a business, but we would do [the pop-up restaurants] differently if they were driven by commercial outcome. It is about building a culture and community of the restaurant, and a community of the guests that dine with us.”

A shift in traveler behavior led to this experimentation in dining. According to Liebmann, Noma’s research shows that more international travelers are choosing destinations based on food, restaurants, and access to fresh produce. They expect 95 percent of their Tulum customers to hail from outside of Mexico.

“One thing we found in Australia is [that travelers] used our home base of Sydney as a jump-off point,” said Liebmann. “Guests were coming to dine at Noma and using that as an opportunity to explore the city. Tulum is such a small town; we’ll see a large number of guests using it as a reason to come to Mexico… millennials are now viewing food as important to define their character as the clothes they wear. We are seeing something that is a fundamental shift in people’s food and dining.”

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