No matter what generation you’re from, be it Gen X, Y, Z, baby boomers, millennials or otherwise, what is clear is that when eating out, experience really is everything for everyone.

That was the overriding theme at the inaugural BITES Live conference this week which looked at Brands, Insights, Trends and Experiences within the hospitality sector.

Organised by H2O publishing and hosted at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington by editorial director, Tristan O’Hana, the event featured a fantastic line of up of speakers across a wide range of disciplines within the sector.

While you could be forgiven for thinking food and drink are the most important factors when eating out of home, this is no longer the case.  Research conducted by the first speaker, Julian Dailly from Morar HPI, highlighted that consumer expectation when eating out of home has shifted significantly with service often prioritised way beyond the meal is served.

Today, receiving good quality food and drink when out is a given for most. We’re no longer wowed just by food alone, it’s everything else that goes with it that will prompt a reaction or, more importantly, a recommendation.

Growing consumer expectations for an experience is nothing new necessarily.  It’s a trend that’s been steadily growing and one which the hospitality industry has been quick to respond to.  As a result, we’ve seen an array of incredible food and drink experiences arrive that will impress even the most cynical diners and drinkers among us.

Experiential hospitality is where it’s at, as Seb Lyall from Lollipop explained as he talked us through some of the immersive experiences they’ve created including ABQ where you’re in charge of creating your own molecular cocktail in a lab, come bar environment or, the Bletchley, where code-breaking meets personalised cocktails.  What is key to success is keeping it fresh and exciting to keep people talking about it and coming back for more.

As consumers, we are increasingly a very challenging bunch to please – we want an experience that delivers on quality, speed, service and offers something familiar yet surprising each time we visit an outlet to make it memorable.  How this is achieved needs to be tailored to the outlet, the customer, the location, the business and its vision –  otherwise its unlikely to survive.

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution out there that promises to deliver a quick win.  As Tristan’s closing interview with Tom Barton, Co-Founder of Honest Burgers, highlighted, it takes time, hard work, determination, the capacity to learn and passion to succeed in the hospitality industry.

However, despite the challenging landscape, when you have all those things at your fingertips and create a consumer experience to remember, it truly can be a recipe for success.