Dish-tination Vacation, Visitors hungry to eat local

Hospitality has always been in my blood. After many years in kitchens and restaurants across America, I found myself at OpenTable – a company that believes in fantastic dining experiences no matter what corner of the globe you’re in.

Recently I went on an Italian holiday which included four nights in Rome. Hotel-hopping in the inner-city neighbourhoods of Pinciano and Rione I Monti, I tried my best to dine as a local. Away from the tourist municipios, it was a fantastic opportunity to order hard-to-get-where-I-live menu items, such as Burrata cheese handmade by the owner’s cousin.

Like many travellers, my motivation centered on experiences that could potentially last me a lifetime, if not a few weeks of wispy hunger-nostalgia. Admittedly, food tends to dictate my travel these days, partially because of the role I work in but mostly because the culinary fare on offer is too exciting (and mouth-watering) to ignore.

Travellers all over the world are feeling the same way. Our latest research, OpenTable’s Will Fly For Food Report, found that experiencing a destination through its food is now the number one consideration for travellers when holidaying. Influencing agents of culture, history and climate that were previously top priorities nowadays yield less persuasive power.

Indeed, our research shows travellers make wonderful customers. They’re more adventurous with their tastebuds than they are at home and are prepared to hunt down hidden gems and local favourites instead of bee-lining to tourist hubs.

The quest for quality dining experiences whilst abroad is truly taking over. OpenTable customers globally are increasingly dining out abroad with almost half travelling overseas between two and four times per year.

These trends represent a significant opportunity for restaurateurs, especially in Australia where international travellers spent approximately $40 billion in the past 12 months. That’s a lot of Kingfish crudo!

International diners are arriving on Australian shores in droves and our research shows they prefer to book a table prior to departure. The internet and social media platforms empower the modern diner-traveller, enabling them to research the best places to dine ahead of time. With limited time, they cannot risk having a meal that fails to enhance their travel experience!

So how do you reap the benefits? Take a look at where you’re discoverable and what information about your venue and offering surfaces. Increasing your presence on global platforms and in international media certainly helps, but sometimes simply enhancing your visual and written assets can make all the difference when attracting eager, sophisticated diners from abroad.  

My tip? Focus on what makes your venue special.

Do you showcase uniquely Australian items or produce on your menu, like Balmain Bugs? Does your venue boast an unbeatable boutique Aussie wine list? Ensure your online presence speaks loudly to this – these elements are great selling points and aren’t always immediately obvious to visitors.

With all this in place, they may just leave with a memory that lasts a lifetime.

This column was first published in the August 2017 edition of FoodService News