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TV chefs Jonathon Davies (winner of ITV’s Britain’s Best Dish 2010) and John Burton-Race (best known for his appearances on the BBC’s Ready Steady Cook) are launching the world’s first ‘interactive’ restaurant – a restaurant funded and ‘run’ by the public.
People who sign up to the project and pay the one-off membership fee of £60 will control every aspect of the restaurant, from its location, decor and staff to the dishes served. Every member of The Restaurant Experience will be asked to vote on the issues under discussion, and will receive vouchers and reward points to the value of their initial investment as a perk of their stakeholder status.
Aside from membership fees, the main bulk of the restaurants’ funding will come from a web-based cookery channel to be broadcast online and in the restaurant dining rooms. It will feature live cookery demonstrations from celebrity chefs, including Davies, conventional cookery programmes, plus advertisements for cookery equipment. A mobile app is also available to members and non-members, so that they can vote on issues instantly, wherever they are.
Burton-Race explained his vision to Square Meal in more detail. ‘We start with dishes we know will sell. From there, we’ll change or expand the menu based on the feedback we receive from stakeholders and diners. Our chefs will be filmed creating a dish within a certain price point. Our viewers can see this dish being cooked and, if they like the look of it, within a week they’ll be able to choose it on the menu.’
Burton-Race told Square Meal that he got involved in The Restaurant Experience project because he thinks the interactive concept will catch on.
‘I think the restaurant industry needs something new and fresh – a new concept to embrace,’ he said. ‘Things have moved on in terms of the development of computers and the internet over the past 50 years, but lots of restaurants haven’t moved with the times. Technology and the internet have changed the face of how we behave and what we do and they’re here to stay. How come restaurants have been left behind?’
Burton-Race and Davies need 10,000 members to sign up to the first restaurant before they can get the project off the ground. The chefs have plans to launch 10 restaurants based on the interactive concept, to be rolled out across the UK and worldwide. Potential UK sites include London, Manchester and Glasgow, while Sydney, New York and Cape Town are speculative destinations further afield.
One eventuality Burton-Race envisages is The Restaurant Experience being a critic-proof venture.
‘With The Restaurant Experience’s concept, you aren’t dependent on the food critics,’ he said. ‘We’ll be trying to produce food that people want and have asked for, and we’ll be answering to our customers. At the tables, diners will be able to note down their experiences, and whether they’re happy with the food and service. It’s instant feedback that will generate an instant response from our team.’
To register as a member of the project, or to find out more, visit The Restaurant Experience website.