10 Trends in culinary management in 2014

Gastroeconomy has identified ten ideas that are shaping the Spanish food industry at the moment. Moreover, we suggest some business models that can work in 2014 and trace the legacy of the avant-garde Spanish cuisine movement through 5 game-changing concepts. (Spanish version of this article to read here / Versión en español de este artículo aquí). This is our first post in English.

Gastroeconomy - 10 tendencias gestion 2014

Are they new propositions or as old as food itself? Novel or not, these are the 10 culinary management trends that are shaping the ‘modus operandi’ of the Spanish food industry in 2014. They all have one goal in common: listening to the customer and to the market, as they’re the ones that always have the last word on the success or failure of a new business. These are the 10 culinary management trends of 2014:


1.The need to conceptualize the offer


Conceptualizing the offer? Yes. That is, providing customers with a reason for eating there; this will determine the products and service offered, the type of locale, the menu or social media profile, the selection of raw materials and the relationship with producers, and other important details such as utensils, tools or team uniform. This does not mean you have to restrict yourself to a single dish or cuisine type, but you do have to conceptualize the product offering. When applied to the great chefs, this means letting your personality show through in the design of your dishes. Examples: in haute cuisine, the seafood-based cuisine of Ángel León or the vegetable-rich dishes of Rodrigo de la Calle, to the conceptualization of Bodega 1900 as a vermouth bar, Pork as a restaurant specializing exclusively in… pork, 1862 Dry Bar as a lounge that recaptures the feel of a classic cocktail bar, Toma Café as an altar to coffee, Kilómetros de Pizza as a pizzeria serving authentic pies based on a traditional recipe, or Güeyu Mar as a restaurant that only serves seafood.


2. Tradition and the return to the classic as a haven from modernity


With less money in their pockets, customers have become more cautious and risk-averse in their spending habits. Therefore, they see traditional cuisine as a safe option. For the same reason, new restaurants tend to offer a twist on classic options rather than try to reinvent the wheel (see, for example, the ‘vintage’ dishes of The Hall or of El 31). Examples: La Carmencita, Villoldo, La Maruca, Lakasa, La Bomba Bistrot, La Chula de Chamberí, Filandón, La Pescadería, Vaca Nostra, Sagardi, Esbardos and Aspen, in Madrid; or Cañete Mesa and Mantel y Suculent, in Barcelona.


3. Contemporary cuisine for all types of customers


Young entrepreneur-chefs, more or less anonymous, are creating their own businesses, focusing on contemporary cuisine for all tastes. The recipe brings together a mix of culinary knowledge, traditional roots, creativity, cutting edge techniques and quality raw materials… It’s an unpretentious, no-frills concept, although it is precisely this mix that heralds future acknowledgments and awards for many of these establishments (including, it’s safe to say, a few Michelin stars). These are businesses based on a moderate cost structure, which constitute the antithesis of the large investments involved in opening fashionable locales. Careful not to confuse them with some of those fashionable, cool, hipster spots… they couldn’t be more different! Here authenticity works, and also a little freestyle… Avant-garde for all? A genuine democratization?  It is one of the directions that is shaping the present and future of Spanish cuisine. Examples: TriCiclo, Nakeima, Montia or La Candela, in Madrid; and Coure or Norte, in Barcelona.


4. ‘Casualization' of haute cuisine


Can haute cuisine be made more casual while maintaining high standards? This is a business option for chefs who want to opt for a more ‘casual’ format in their dishes, establishment or price, without sacrificing their culinary ambition; it can lead to top chefs building secondary brands or simply to a new approach to fine cuisine. Examples: Roca BCN (with Roca MOO and Roca Bar), Casa Marcelo, El Poblet, Al Trapo, Ni Neu or any of the haute cuisine branches bearing the signature of Albert Adrià (such as Tickets).


5. Profitability of haute cuisine


This is the great challenge of high-end Spanish cuisine. Is it possible to make haute cuisine profitable? Yes, if there is a coherent and rigorous cost structure, good management and appropriate monitoring of the annual budget, expenses and income. We must capitalize on culinary talent and creativity from an economic standpoint. A more practical kind of chef, who also thinks about the numbers and seeks a balance between creativity and financial costs, is becoming more de rigueur. Examples: Ricard Camarena Restaurant, Culler de Pau or Les Cols.


6. New urban eateries


These are the modern equivalent of traditional bistros: establishments with modern interior with a designer touch, unpretentious and generally hearty meals, often open around-the-clock (sometimes with special breakfast menus or snacks) and, above all, moderate prices. They function as meeting points for the cool, creative types (in this case you will find hipsters among their clientele) but, instead of presenting patrons with a hefty bill (like the trendy locales that were popping up during the economic boom) they are designed as simple restaurants costing about 15 to 20 euro. One of the strengths of these types of eateries are the ‘new’ daily fixed price menus, costing around 9-15 euro, which means they can compete with similar deals at neighbourhood bars and more traditional restaurants. Examples: Maricastaña, Dray Martina, La T, Clarita, Naif Madrid, Lope, Drink Fino, La Lata de Sardinas, The Place, Crumb, Lamucca, La Musa, La Vaquería Suiza. Casa Mono, Ateneo or El Apartamento (Madrid); Federal, Café Godot, Pepa Tomate or Entresuelo (Barcelona); Pandelino, Orchard, Mamá Chicó or Varlovento (A Coruña); La Flor (Santiago) and La Guinda (San Sebastián.


7. Menus are changing form


There are no starters and main courses any more, merely lists of dishes (like at Sala de Despiece, for example), different sections arranged by the manner of eating or cooking the meals or by product type (like at Al Trapo), the 1/2, 1/4 or 1/3 portions (TriCiclo), sections that make up a culinary ‘route’ (like BY 13 BCN by Carles Tejedor) or gourmet menus at unbeatable prices chosen by the customer from a list of courses (like Ni Neu). In haute cuisine, there is a tendency for the menu to serve as an alternative to a tasting menu (Dani Garcia at Calima, during the 2013 season). In any case, the idea of ​​sharing dishes and breaking with the traditional menu format in order to offer more flexibility to the customer, has taken root.


8. The importance of putting on a show


As a direct consequence of Spanish avant-garde cuisine (and, in particular, the customs practiced at El Bulli), entertaining the customer -with whom the relationship changes every day- becomes the overriding aim of some establishments. Let the show begin! The dining room has become once again the indispensable ally of the chef: the carts carrying desserts, breads, meats or drinks have made a comeback, and so has the custom of putting the finishing touches on a dish (steak tartar, veal shanks, crêpes soufflés) in front of the client, by using a side table, a cart or the bar (Roca MOO and Al Trapo). There is more ‘performance’ in serving and more interaction with the customer. And to help achieve these objectives, there are also various tableware items used to present the dishes: food is eaten using your hands (‘finger food’), new utensils are invented or reinvented; covered or waxed papers, cones, boxes or original objects are used to present the gastronomic creations.


9. ‘Real ‘pop-up’ restaurants


In line with the trend of putting on a show, the idea of transplanting one’s kitchen to a new location is an appealing one: we’ve seen renowned chefs who get together with their peers and cook for one another as if they were each other’s guests, or establishments popping up in unique locations or temporary restaurants with a clear expiration date. Spain must welcome the arrival of genuine ‘pop-up’ restaurants. In this context, do we need more flexible regulations that allow, for example, ‘foodtrucks’ to operate, provided they meet the applicable legal requirements and, in particular, health requirements? Could this be an opportunity to develop a Spanish street food industry?


10. Changes in the reservation system


First of all, the Internet has become a key tool for managing reservations and maintaining a direct relationship with the customer. Furthermore, the web has influenced haute cuisine in another way: although Spanish law does not appear to be decisive on whether to allow advance payment of a deposit to guarantee a reservation, it is a formula that seems to be currently in practice. Albert Adrià does this at 41°, with the argument that the advance payment is part of the price of his tasting menu, the reservation being ‘sold’ only through the Internet. In any case, it is a way of preventing last-minute cancellations or avoiding disrespectful customers who do not show up after having made a reservation at restaurants where waiting lists are long.


  • Restaurants focused on contemporary cuisine led by young entrepreneur-chefs at moderate prices.
  • Highly informal kitchen areas and, if possible, low-cost.
  • Bars that are increasingly specialized.
  • New eateries: the ‘new’ dining-out options.
  • Bistros that return to a more traditional cuisine.
  • Reinvented taverns focusing on tradition.
  • High concepts and eateries with a high degree of specialization.
  • Vermouth bars.
  • Pop-up restaurants, temporary eateries and legal food trucks.
  • Locales specializing in breakfast and/or snacks.



After the boom of the Spanish avant-garde cuisine led by Ferran Adrià some years ago, what is his legacy today? Perhaps it can be summed up in five ideas:

  • With El Celler de Can Roca as number one in the world, Spain should insist on its leadership in the culinary world, with recognition bestowed to unknown chefs who are committed to being at the avant-garde of culinary trends. This includes strategies for the internationalization of Spanish chefs.
  • The democratization of contemporary cuisine through business ideas led by young chef-entrepreneurs who focus on modern cuisine, more or less avant-garde, understood by everyone. These entrepreneurs are shaping the future of Spanish cuisine.
  • The profitability of haute cuisine or the need to demonstrate that culinary creativity can be sustained or generate profits.
  • The show associated with a gastronomic experience at a restaurant; social networking and, in general, maintaining a relationship with the guest, with whom you interact with the overarching aim of entertaining.
  • The ‘new Bulli’. 2014 is a crucial year for elBullifoundation and its larger project, Bullipedia, which will start in 2015.

More information

Spanish version of this article to read here

Puedes leer la versión en español de este artículo aquí

Eating out in Madrid: 10 trends and 10 places to go

Photos courtesy of the restaurants and MFG-Gastroeconomy.

Acerca del autor

“Economista de formación y periodista de profesión, me encanta escribir y, además, comer. GASTROECONOMY nació el 30 de julio de 2011 como un pequeño proyecto personal, a los 4 meses de decidir convertirme voluntariamente en periodista ‘freelance’. Aquí escribo de lo que ocurre en el sector: cambios, novedades, estrategias, tendencias… Se trata de observar para contarlo de la forma más amena y detallada posible. La hostelería, sea un sencillo bar, una casa de comidas o un espacio de alta cocina, equivale a un relevante sector económico que se puede analizar con el mismo rigor y seriedad que cualquier otra actividad, eliminando la frivolidad que, por desgracia, sobra en los últimos tiempos en la gastronomía. A escribir aprendí y aprendo con la práctica y porque me enseñaron a hacerlo en mi casa y en el diario económico Expansión (www.expansion.com)”.

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