The Eat is On
Restaurants are always playing with fresh tastes and ideas, and destination restaurants are becoming an attraction themselves, by adding a twist to satisfy audiences hungry for new sensations. Funworld looks at attractions around the globe who are upping their food and beverage (F&B) game and what operators and suppliers can learn.
Feast for the Senses
Germany’s Europa-Park has cooked up Eatrenalin, a futuristic gastronomy experience, which opened on Nov. 4, 2022, next to the resort’s Krønasår hotel. Eatrenalin fuses a world-first ride system with mouthwatering cuisine, multimedia technology, storytelling, design elements, and effects to create a literally moveable feast. The project took more than five years to achieve this fusion, which its creators hope will redefine gastronomy and touch guests’ emotions.
“We embarked on this journey to find out what the restaurant of the future could look like,” says Thomas Mack, managing partner of Europa-Park.
Eatrenalin emerged from a meeting of minds between Mack and gastronomy expert Oliver Altherr, CEO of global catering business Marché International.
“We traveled the world, looking at everything we could find, taking in all the different flavors and international trends, piecing together the idea that is Eatrenalin,” Mack shares with Funworld.
The partners wanted to introduce diners to worlds of delight. Therefore, the restaurant features a series of rooms that evoke different moods and stories. Yet, the question remained: How to transport guests from one setting to the next while keeping them entranced in the moment? The answer? A new dark ride. “Mack Rides came up with the huge innovation that is our floating chair, a patented new ride system,” Mack explains. Guests will feel like they’re floating magically from scene to scene. “We can put the seats together in different formations, drive through narrow doorways, or sit guests on long tables or in small groups, depending on the room’s mood. It’s exciting!”
The chairs put guests in the center of unfolding stories. “They give us tremendous creative freedom. On top of that, there are media projections, special effects, scents, lighting, and sounds. It is a sophisticated multisensory production. Combined with the food from our head chef, Pablo Montoro, and his team, Eatrenalin is truly one of a kind,” Mack says.
Mack’s wife, Katja, Eatrenalin’s creative director, ensured that everything about Eatrenalin worked together seamlessly.
Guests begin their journey sipping champagne in the lounge. Then, they sit back in the floating chairs, relax, and enjoy a culinary voyage of discovery. In total, 11 rooms await them in the 1,600-square-meter facility.
Diners travel from the ocean to outer space and through different lands, guided by Eatrenalin’s artificially intelligent host, Lina. “The Eatrenalin experience lasts over 100 minutes. We serve an exquisite eight-course meal with accompanying drinks. Each course is a culinary piece of art,” Mack says. Dishes will tickle the tastebuds, from black truffles and beef tenderloin to umami-rich Japanese chawanmushi, seaweed salads, and Tahitian vanilla-flavored sweets. A vegan menu is also available.
Eatrenalin welcomes diners in groups, with a maximum of 16 per sitting. “We can send up to 12 groups on the journey every evening, totaling 192 guests per night,” explains Mack.
Creating “a perfectly orchestrated arrangement of visual, acoustic, olfactory, gustatory, and haptic elements” has proven “a massive undertaking,” he says.
The challenges began with finding the right head chef who shared their vision. Eatrenalin’s managing directors also had to contend with the technology and lead times. “It is not always easy to get the right parts on time in the current economic climate,” Mack says. “The all-new floating chair came with technical and operational challenges, i.e., having enough battery power on board to operate the chairs for a whole evening without recharging them (this now happens overnight).” The Technical Inspection Association (TÜV) had to provide safety certification for the brand-new ride system and certain design elements. The project team also had to solve basic issues, such as how people would use the bathroom during the experience.
“It took a long while, but we got there!” says Mack. “Now, we are excited to share this new experience with our guests.” Tickets start from k195 (an exchange rate of US$193 at press time).
Eatrenalin operates as a standalone restaurant at the Europa-Park Resort. “It is a fantastic addition for our hotel guests. It was crucial, however, that the restaurant wasn’t within Europa-Park itself, as we believe a whole new audience will be interested in this concept. Once we are confident in operating at the high level that we strive for, the plan is to establish more Eatrenalin restaurants around the world as franchises,” Mack says.
He urges IAAPA members to come and see Eatrenalin for themselves. “We can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I really feel we have created something the food and restaurant industry hasn’t seen so far.”
“Each course is a culinary piece of art.’’
—Thomas Mack, Europa-Park managing partner
Authentic Food Heroes
“Mercato Metropolitano is not a park or even a food hall; we are food for all,” founder Andrea Rasca told Funworld at IAAPA Expo Europe 2022. Mercato Metropolitano is a “people’s ‘MMovement’ at the heart of food,” driven by sustainability, community, and human rights. The dining concept celebrates the role that food plays in everyone’s lives.
Mercato Metropolitano started as a pilot in Milan in 2015. The open market concept expanded to the United Kingdom and now operates four sites in London, with a fifth opening in 2023.
Mercato Metropolitano’s first sustainable food market at Elephant and Castle attracted more than 4 million people within four years of opening. Today, Mercato Metropolitano is now home to more than 40 independent trading partners and an on-site microbrewery. The concept prides itself on creating an environment using recycled materials and what it calls a “no-frills layout,” with indoor cooking spaces and large outdoor patios for gathering.
The fresh idea worked: Mercato Metropolitano achieved sales of £15 million in its second year and £19 million the year after—all without spending on advertising.
Rasca’s recipe for success is simple: “I just know about food, what I want to eat, and what is good for me and the planet,” he says. “We don’t attract clients. We just tell people there is another way to eat.”
He believes that food should be accessible, nutritious, and compatible with the local culture in every location. Mercato Metropolitano acts as a business incubator, bringing in F&B entrepreneurs who share its ethos and commitment to sustainable sourcing.
Mercato Metropolitano also regenerates buildings. The Elephant and Castle site opened in an abandoned paper mill. “I loved it from the first moment I saw it. I wanted to give it back to the community,” Rasca says. “We work on a revenue share model,” Rasca explains.
Mercato Metropolitano aims to be environmentally and socially responsible and an asset to the local community. It promotes inclusiveness through a range of activities. “We don’t want people to be left alone,” Rasca says.
The food markets offer community events, music performances, cooking classes, and art and theater workshops. Children can enjoy free activities and warm, nutritious meals during the school holidays because better food “creates better people for a better future,” Rasca believes.
“We are food for all.’’
—Andrea Rasca, Mercato Metropolitano founder
Cruising for Success
AIDA Cruises allows guests to escape the everyday, and the Time Machine Restaurant on the AIDAnova and AIDAcosma ships provides that opportunity.
“The collaboration between Leisure Expert Group and AIDA, part of Carnival Corporation & PLC, started in 2016 when AIDA was looking for ways to include a unique dinner show experience,” says Marjolein van de Stolpe, CEO of Leisure Expert Group.
With AIDA’s entertainment team, Leisure Expert Group created the time-traveling-inspired restaurant. The first Time Machine Restaurant, named “The Atlantis Adventure,” premiered in 2018 on AIDAnova. The second, “An Adventurous Journey Through Time And Space,” opened in 2022 on AIDAcosma.
“The Time Machine Restaurant focuses heavily on media content, allowing us to change the atmosphere and environment simply,” explains van de Stolpe. Leisure Expert Group collaborated with Red Raion, the CGI studio specializing in computer generated imagery for media-based attractions, to create the newest experience. “We delivered a 90-minute CGI movie, ‘2125—An Adventurous Journey Through Time And Space,’ across 34 screens,” says Valeria Rizzo, Red Raion’s business development director.
Guests join Professor Tempus as he travels through time, from the Ice Age to the Jurassic era, New York, and Egypt. With their help, Tempus finds a way to return home. The waiters are part of the performance, serving up entertainment alongside a three-course menu.
“The combination of immersive 360 degrees of video content, live acting, and show lighting creates an entirely new dinner show experience,” van de Stolpe says.
There’s no doubt that restaurants face challenges around rising costs, recruitment, supply chain issues, automation, and ever-changing food trends. But while menus, tastes, and budgets may change, the attractions industry is well placed to conjure extraordinary, joyous, and memorable meals.
“The combination of immersive 360 degrees of video content, live acting, and show lighting creates an entirely new dinner show experience.”
—Marjolein van de Stolpe, Leisure Expert Group
Food for Thought
Visitor spending on food and beverage (F&B), along with retail is up, new research from PGAV Destinations and H2R Market Research shows. Its study of 800 attraction visitors indicates that 35% are spending more on F&B at attractions than pre-pandemic. Nearly 60% of guests bought a meal, almost 50% purchased a snack, and 70% spent money on a drink.
Visitors state they want a variety of F&B choices, seating availability, a pleasant ambiance, and good options for kids. Other influencing factors included the provision of alcohol, local ingredients, and live entertainment. Around one in five attraction visitors had dietary restrictions.