Customer Experience

Experiential Dining: When Food and Fun Collide

By Zesty Pear

customers sipping wine while making a painting

Each time a customer decides to go out for a bite or grab a drink, the options on where to bring their business are endless. The place around the corner? Maybe that new restaurant that was just featured in their favorite food blog or the bar that their friend can’t stop talking about.

You know how fierce the competition is in the restaurant industry, so it’s key to differentiate yourself. Draw them out to your fine establishment in a new and exciting way: create a unique experience!

That’s right. We are calling for you to stand out. Be that 80 year old, iPhone-using, sportscar-driving grandma. Be unique. Be different. Create a buzz.

How? One way is to join the experiential dining movement. Bars, coffee shops, breweries, and restaurants across the globe are taking advantage of the experiential dining trend by pairing their menu with truly memorable and unique experiences. Does eating Moroccan food while watching a professional belly dancing performance sound good to you? Intrigued by rib eye steak ordered and eaten in the pitch dark? What about being waited on by restaurant staff who are actually supposed to give you the worst service you’ve had in your life? Today, restaurants are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their guests remember their visit for more than just the the great eats.

Here are a few of our favorite places that are showing that dining can be about way more than just good food on a plate.


At a busy intersection on Yonge Street in Toronto, an unassuming restaurant from the outside is using a truly unique quality to draw customers in.

Signs is a restaurant where patrons and servers interact using American Sign Language.

We’ll be honest. Although the premise of communicating using solely sign language when we both have no experience signing was intimidating, we heard about this place and said “Sign us up!”

Patrons enter, are taught a few basic signs by their host, and are provided cheat sheets (great for people with allergies!). Their menus include pictures illustrating how customers can sign their food orders, for each menu item that they offer.

It’s interactive. It’s fun. It’s informative. It’s inclusive. And it’s so unique.

As Ace of Base would say, these folks saw the sign.

For groups or date nights, this restaurant creates an automatic conversation piece. Communication is a whole different ball game and new relationships are built through commonplace activities like ordering food.

The food is great, with a variety of dish selections from pad thai to NY steak. But the reason guests will tell all of their friends about Signs is simply because it is like no place they’ve been before. (Sarah still does the sign for “pad thai” each time she orders it somewhere else!).

Studio Cellar

Studio Cellar in Columbia, South Carolina is another great example of creating an experience for your clients.

The Studio Cellar pairs a variety of painting packages with a selection of wine, craft beer and non-alcoholic beverages.

Once inside this converted red brick factory, the wall-to-wall canvas paintings open a faucet of creative juices for all ability levels.

Patrons can even enjoy their favorite appetizers from another downtown gem, Blue Marlin.  Food can be ordered in so customers can enjoy the unique flavors of the South Carolina low country while creating their own masterpiece to take home as a souvenir.

Still using stick men in your drawings?  Owner Charlotte Gaskins and her staff offer reservations for step-by-step instructional evenings that will make every painter feel like Picasso.

Want to really show off? Or, forgot to make a reservation? No worries! Patrons are able to walk in off the street and sit at the Paint Bar to create a self guided art piece.  

If you’ve bit off more than you can chew, the staff are always eager to give pointers at the Paint Bar as well.

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by Zesty Pear

Sarah and Scott (aka The Zesty Pear) are newly-weds who love exploring hot spots across North America and discovering the latest and greatest in food and drink. Their favourite moments occur when they are enjoying a new dish or sipping on drinks while laughing away with friends and family. In their eyes, the simple things are the special things.

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