New restaurant trend “Fast Fine” is changing the way we dine – but what is it?

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First, there was the “fast food” phenomenon. Restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC capitalised on the need for convenience food by serving up cheap, quick takeaways. Following the junk food backlash in which consumers expressed a need for healthier food made from better ingredients, we then saw the rise of the “fast casual” trend.

In the USA, chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Five Guys charted their success by serving food made from better, healthier, carefully sourced ingredients, and doing so just as quickly as the fast food outlets they were competing with. In South Africa, Nando’s has plucked out a path from “fast food” status to “fast casual” by investing in better looking restaurant environments that feature local art and design.

The rising popularity of fast casual outlets the world over is propelled by relatively-cheap-but-good meals that can be taken away or eaten in a slightly more attractive restaurant environment than a fast food counterpart. The spread of the trend has been further aided by the global economic downturn, which has reduced spending at expensive, upmarket restaurants.

Of course, this has by no means curbed the consumer’s desire to experience and enjoy flavourful food. So this need has prompted yet another innovative response from the market. Enter the new “fast fine” trend, the latest movement to shift the way we eat.

The fast fine concept marries the best of fast food and fast casual with all the things we love about fine dining. It does away with all the negatives – struggling for reservations, overly extensive and complicated menus, waiters, long waits for food and/or service, expensive bills and tipping – and retains all the positive aspects in order to serve up Michelin-quality meals, quickly.

In essence, then, fast fine hits the foodie sweet spot with excellent food at a lesser price and quicker turnaround time! The focus on fresh ingredients, culinary finesse, and menus that change regularly, are perfect for the new millennial mindset which wants every meal to be an “experience”.

But the trend isn’t just good for patrons. The restaurant owners benefit, too. Fast fine establishments don’t cost as much to set up as fine dining restaurants and the simplicity of the concept makes them easier to operate. No wonder food critics and pundits are heralding the trend as a way to give the restaurant industry a new lease on life.

Here in Cape Town, which is considered to be one of the foodie capitals of the world, a restaurant that fits into the fast fine category has been three years in the making, from concept to implementation, and launched recently to the delight of quickly converted fans. Known as Chefs, the progressive eatery has a respected chef, Jenny Ward, at the helm, who was previously with fine dining establishment, Bistrot Bizerca.

Chefs is easy to access. You can just walk in without having to book, either for lunch or dinner. You can even choose your meal in advance, by checking out the menu beforehand via the website. The Chefs concept sees all barriers between the chef and the guest removed. Seating space and kitchen space are one and the same. The team of chefs takes your order, prepares and brings you your meal in next to no time after you’ve viewed the three daily options via iPad. The food arrives quickly and all at the same time, thanks to a stylish tray, where all the elements of the meal are assembled and presented. There are no waiters.

With carefully sourced, fresh ingredients going into only three daily rotating dishes, and a directional approach to the customer journey, Chefs has met the challenging task of streamlining a restaurant experience into a new and progressive dining concept. It is indeed both fast and very fine!

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