Cook-It-Yourself Dining: A Nascent Trend

Last month we reported on the trend of give-it-to-me-my-way ordering in restaurants. A variation of that trend is surfacing in the form of cook-it-yourself restaurants. Restaurants in which customers are the chef are popping up throughout the heartland of America. Examples include cook-it-yourself Korean barbecue, Thai hot-pot cooking, fondue, Japanese shabu-shabu, roll-your-own pizza dough and grilling steak and fish, as well as do-it-yourself s'mores.

Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association, says, "Americans want control. The cook-it-yourself experience embodies the quintessential American values of freedom of choice and independence." Pamela Parseghian, executive food editor at Nation's Restaurant News, attributes the phenomena to this: "People still want to add the eggs and stir the bowl. Psychologically, they want to be a little involved."