Can Restaurants Cash in on Fad Diets?
In summer of 2015, a W2 restaurant called Pure Taste closed down. It has been open less than a year.
Nothing new here – many restaurants open and close within the space of a year. It’s a competitive industry. So why write about Pure Taste? There are two things that make Pure Taste stand out.
Diet Trends Shaping Restaurant Menus
Firstly, it had an intriguing concept: it was an attempt to cash in on popular food trends via the restaurant format. We have seen this kind of thing before, such as when Dominic Teague set Indigo on a gluten free course in 2015. But now there’s a new fad in town.
Pure Taste had a ‘paleo’ menu. Paleo (as in Palaeolithic) is a diet whose followers allow themselves only what (they think) cavemen would have been able to eat. The idea is that this is more natural, so will provide some health benefits. This idea has gained popular appeal with many celebrities allegedly following it at one time or another.
It is worth noting that the paleo diet is part of a wider, more relevant trend (not fad) among millennial diners, who associate with terms like “whole foods”, “fresh” and “locally sourced” more than terms like “low fat” or “sugar free”. The paleo diet can just be seen as a particularly acute example of this generational preference.
Private Investors Avoid Fads
Secondly, like an increasing number of restaurant start-ups, Pure Taste was crowdfunded. 400 people out there thought that this fairly niche concept could grow big enough to sustain an expensive Notting Hill location.
This is an interesting fact because it symbolises the inability of short-term dietary fads to make a real mark on London’s restaurant fabric. As we’ve written recently, landlords and private industry backers seem more willing than ever to try out bold new concepts, but even in this optimistic environment, basing a whole restaurant operation on what many see as a fad is seen as a risky venture in an already risky industry.
Where Did It Go Wrong?
Chef and owner Holly Redman explained that the closure happened after “we were unable to secure the extra investment needed” to keep the restaurant solvent. Ultimately, she conceded, “we just weren’t able to get enough customers through the doors to make it work.”
Part of the reason for this might have been based in the concept itself: it seems the menu – stripped of gluten, refined sugar and dairy – didn’t go down very well with diners. The Evening Standard expressed pity for cavemen if this was meant to be representative of their diets, while The Telegraph considered the dishes to constitute crimes against the Earth.
Restaurant critics do love a hatchet piece, and a caveman’s £27 venison main course is an easy target for butchery, but it seemed that this fad diet was simply unable to be elevated to the standards needed to succeed in hyper-competitive West London.
It will be interesting to observe whether any other paleo restaurants return to pick up the banner. Meanwhile, Redman has returned to the monthly pop-up format that saw her gain enough steam to give the restaurant a chance.
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