Are specialised restaurants just a gimmick? Or does a narrow focus mean a better-executed dish? The trend has acquired so many devoted fans but is it one that will last?
It is often said that less is more and some businesses are taking this saying literally, as a surge of establishments have chosen to specialise in just one specific food item. Popular examples are Balls & Company who specialise in meatballs, Tartufi & Friends – a self-confessed “truffle lounge” and Egg Break and Smack Lobster – no prizes for guessing what those are known for.
According to research from restaurant finder app Zomato, one in ten restaurants that opened in London since April last year focused on a single dish – that’s double the number in the same period of the year before.
Too much choice can be as much of a bad thing as it is a good thing – restaurants, pop-ups and street food stalls that specialise in a single dish cut out the hassle and give you a stress-free dining experience that should still excite the taste buds, the thing is with these restaurants is that there really is nowhere to hide if not executed brilliantly.
The trend originated in New York City a couple years ago and many niche restaurants have adopted this concept and run with it since then. Many have opened joints that evoke some element of nostalgia for consumers, for example macaroni cheese and rice pudding.
However the danger that comes with opening a lone dish menu is that you need to do it exceptionally well and be consistent with it; you have to either set the bar or surpass it. If you’re not jack-of-all-trades then you need to be master of one.
Primo Hot Dogs began their business five years ago in Leeds, specialising in authentic gourmet hot dogs. Operations Director for Primo Hot Dogs, Nick Julian said:
“We studied the British food/restaurant market for what wasn’t being done and a premium hot dog offering wasn’t.
“Single dish businesses are the oldest catering style in the world, great pad thai in Thailand sold on the street, pasta in Sicily, fish and chip shops in the UK etc. better to do one thing really well and create a strong identity than do lots of things poorly. The market has changed and if you stick to doing what you do as well as you can possibly do it then you’ll always win.”
Some eateries have branched out with a dual-dish approach such as Bubbledogs (champagne and hot dogs), Tramshed (chicken and steak), and popular franchise Burger & Lobster which sells, you guessed it – burger and lobster.
There are some potential drawbacks that come with this concept, the first being the issue of competition – the likelihood of choosing a menu with limited options over one with many is quite slim, especially when dining with a group of companions with different preferences.
For some, the novelty may wear off; people welcome the originality of a quirky restaurant but may not necessarily visit often enough to make the business viable in the long term.
While some single-concept restaurants are quick to be dismissed as a fad and will inevitably lack the customer base to endure, the trend itself seems to be moving from strength to strength and shows no sign of fading away any time soon.
The buzz around these one dish wonder restaurants tells us that plenty of people are keen to hop aboard the bandwagon but once the dust settles and that bandwagon stops rolling, will we still be standing in line for a cronut? (Hybrid croissant-doughnut) Personally? Yes.