Hot trend: Single-dish restaurants in SA

We’ve all been at a restaurant where the menu is presented in flip file format – 27 pages featuring everything from spring rolls and pasta to fish and steaks. (Side note, why do they always offer crumbed mushrooms?) Sure, these restaurants please fussy kids – and fussy adults, for that matter – but trying to please everyone can mean chaos in the kitchen. The result? Often underwhelming, tasteless dishes that please no one.

It’s hard to forget how particularly critical Gordon Ramsay was of overly large menus on his show, Kitchen Nightmares. Perhaps it was his profane rants that encouraged the single-dish restaurant trend.

Single-dish restaurants began really taking off in London way back in 2012, when a cereal-only restaurant and a mango-based restaurant (what did they do outside of mango season?) opened. In New York, restaurants specialising in dishes like rice pudding and mac and cheese opened – and the concept soon spread throughout the world.

Why? These single-concept restaurants were easy to market. The USP (unique selling proposition) was obvious. The other great side effect? Shorter menus meant less waste, making the restaurants more profitable – and more sustainable.

In South Africa, gourmet burger joints were the first to focus in on one profitable, affordable menu item. (There are now so many of those that we’ve chosen not to list them here!) Next came sushi-only joints. Lately, the poké market has exploded. But there are also a host of brave entrepreneurs looking for the next concept that will ignite consumers’ imaginations.

Of course, the trend has had its casualties. To survive, the concept can’t be a gimmick: if you’re only serving one thing, you better do it really, really well – or the queues drummed up by Instagram will soon wane to a trickle.

Looking for the best in your city? Here is our guide to the great single-dish restaurants serving up food with focus around South Africa.

Joburg and Pretoria
Cape Town and surrounds

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