In a world where the weird restaurant experience attracts so much attention, we’ve been exploring what is on offer to hunters of the weird and wonderful.
Zauo – Japan
Our list of five weird restaurant experiences includes two from Tokyo, Japan. In truth, all five could come from this city based on our research, but these two really stand out.
Zauo takes the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him one meal. Teach him to fish and he can feed himself forever,” literally. Walking into the dining area of the restaurant, customers are offered a seat in a central shinjuku fishing boat, surrounded by water. Where else would you expect a boat to be? From there, you pick out your fishing spot, pick up a rod and get to work catching your dinner. And if you can’t fish? The helpful staff will teach you.
Once your fish has been hooked, the taiko drums will beat out, announcing your success to the other diners, and your fish will be whisked away to be prepared exactly as you’d like. You can now relax and enjoy, satisfied that you earned your supper.
El Diablo, Lanzarote – Spain
“The Mountains of Fire are a walk on the Moon without leaving Earth.”
The only problem at El Diablo is that you might be in danger of heat stroke! El Diablo, is at the summit of Islote de Hilario, one of the islets of the Canary Islands. It stands out from others due to the presence of thermal anomalies; the area registers the highest surface temperatures in the Canary Islands.
At El Diablo, meat and vegetables are cooked on an open 300 degree furnace (using the natural heat of the earth) over the volcanic rock with the heat of the volcano. The furnaces are under ten meters below the feet of diners and can be viewed from the centre of the restaurant.
Getting to El Diablo isn’t a matter of catching a train or taking a slow amble. The roasting surface means travel is via special vehicles, and visitors must travel through a moon-like landscape to reach their table. From there they can also view the impressive Timanfaya National Park while they eat.
If you’re unsure what to eat, the owners recommend the Volcán breakfast.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant – Maldives
Rated “the most beautiful restaurant in the world” by the New York Daily News in 2014, the website for the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant promises guests the opportunity to dine five meters below the surface of the ocean, in the first restaurant of its kind.
The structure, a curved, transparent tunnel, offering 360 degree views, was originally designed by aquarium specialists in New Zealand. Built in Singapore, the entire restaurant was shipped, whole, on a barge before being lowered into the sea and fixed into the sea bed.
Given the effort put into construction it’s a good thing that dining at Ithaa is an experience hard to forget. Menus promise customers indulgent dishes including caviar and champagne. Then, while eating, they can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding coral, interlaced with shimmering fish, sharks and turtles. Sounds like a magical – expensive – but magical, experience.
Kawaii Monster Cafe – Japan
This weird restaurant experience is for anyone that enjoys colour. Visually manic, the swirling architecture, rainbow food and hectic, posing performances put the customer in the middle of a three year old’s crayon monster fantasy.
Guests can eat in a number of different zones, each exuding its own personality, but the core message is this: that Tokyo is as a monster, swallowing every new trend in its path.
The craziness of the decor is reflected in the food, both in image and in flavour. Mixing chicken with chocolate, candy with salad and ‘poison’ with cake!?, you have to wonder if this is where Heston Blumenthal gets his inspiration.
Topping off the monster cafe experience are the staff performances. Techno music plays, characters pose on a merry-go-round and the lights flash. You might need to sit in a cool, slate coloured room for a few hours to recover post-meal.
SnowCastle restaurant – Finland
The Snow Castle of Kemi is traditionally rebuilt every winter with a different architecture, though the new 365 experience means a version of the castle is now open all year round. Part of the complex is the IceRestaurant365, a freezing snow restaurant dotted with solid ice tables, ice glasses and log seats covered in cosy reindeer furs. The decoration, naturally, includes a multitude of ice sculptures.
With the promise of a “unique flavour of Snow and Ice tasting menu,” guests can settle down, first in this main room, before moving to the more traditional Lumihiutale Seaview Restaurant.
Guests wanting to visit the SnowCastle restaurant need to prepare for the trip. They are asked to bring warm, layered winter clothing, including a hat, gloves and a neck warmer. Given that the internal temperature is a chilly -5°C, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise!
In summary, weird is wonderful and can be used to create experiences that will never be forgotten by those that come into contact with them. It’s great fun to eat at a unique restaurant and discover quirky surroundings. But they are not designed to be regular haunts, frequented by loyal customers. They are, for the most part, one-off weird restaurant experiences. They are not designed to bring customers back, for venues wanting to do that, a different experience is required.
That experience is more personal and reaches out beyond the moment of eating. It involves a smooth, enjoyable service, food cooked and ready-to-go (if takeaway) and a business that listens to what loyal customers want. To find these restaurants, consumers need only to look to the high streets of their own hometown and local cities. There they can explore cafes, bistros and takeaways that offer services like digital ordering, and which make the most of the data they gather to give guests the perfect customer experience.
It’s not as catchy as: ‘When is a door not a door?’ (answer, when it’s a jar) but it speaks to the idea that in-car collection, and the technologies that support it, are flexible enough to bend to the needs of a business and its guests.
Delivery can be daunting to the uninitiated, and it might be tempting to sign up with a third-party ordering aggregator that offers the service, such as UberEats, but other options could suit your business and brand better. Here we present three different ‘levels’ of delivery, starting with the most basic – and cheapest method: doing it yourself.