I go out for food a lot- I just love eating out, simple as! As I grow older and travel more, I am becoming more and more interested in trying out new foods- from street food to fine dining, I’m up for it.
I first heard of Six by Nico from a friend in Edinburgh and as she only had good things to say, my interest was immediately piqued.
Six by Nico has been widely successful. It first opened in Edinburgh in 2018 and there are now 5 around the UK with further expansion on the cards. Having experienced it for myself, I can pin down 5 key principles that I believe can be attributed to it’s success.
- Make ‘premium’ accessible
- Make the experience unmissable
- Make moments that surprise and delight
- Make me want to come back
- Alignment is key
Make ‘premium’ accessible
We talk a lot about the Blue Ocean Strategy. The core concept of this is looking at what everyone else in the market is doing, then competing on different variables to them. In the case of Six by Nico, their concept is simple, yet bold – fine dining at affordable prices. They have taken fine dining and rather than charging over the odds for what could be classed as pretentious food in a pretentious setting, they are competing with high street restaurants.
Of course the next question is how do they do it? Quite simply, they only serve one set menu for 6 weeks.
We booked at the Manchester venue onto the ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’ menu described as “A land full of wonder, mystery and danger”… all very mysterious and wonderful language to build excitement. A 6-course taster menu was £29pp and alongside this we opted for the 5-course wine pairing, which was an additional £26pp. Those mathematicians out there will have realised that this means that for £55pp we would be getting a 6-course meal with wine pairings… not bad!
The simple menu with only 2 options (vegetarian or regular) enables costs to be kept low and it is this which enables accessibility.
Make the experience unmissable
The biggest hurdle to overcome in any industry, is making people actually want to experience your proposition. Six by Nico achieve this by using language to draw you in and then setting a time limit on how long you have to experience their offer for yourself.
It is described as “a mysterious and ever-evolving culinary concept” – quite cryptic really and language which sparks intrigue immediately. The way they describe the experience heightens expectations with each word read:
“Each six weeks, Six by Nico takes guests on a thrilling journey through time, spaces and places with a unique and affordable six course tasting experience. However, once this six week time period is up, each menu will disappear forever – never to be cooked or tasted again.
From reimagining childhood favourites to exploring the culinary delights of destinations such as Catalonia, Mexico and The Middle East, our guests have been on quite the (delicious) journey so far.”
When I went on the website for the first time I was very excited and booked a table immediately. How do they take me on a thrilling journey? How can a 6 -course meal be fine dining, unique AND affordable?! They only gave me 6 weeks to try it and with a reservation list that fills up fast, I had to get in there quickly.
Make moments that surprise and delight
Moments that surprise and delight are those moments that make you remember your experience and then make you want to share your experience. We refer to them as Brand Amplifiers. At Six by Nico, there were a couple of these that really stood out, and a couple is all you need!
When we arrived, we were seated promptly by friendly staff who immediately gave us our menus for the day. The first surprise was that the menu was edible… brilliant seen as I was STARVING.
The second surprise was that they didn’t actually tell you it was edible, so after a few minutes of tentative nibbling at the edges I went for the plunge and took a bite and had flashbacks of the school playground eating edible rainbow money… a moment which certainly surprised. Afterwards I had a look on social media, and these edible menus were widely shared so I was certainly not alone.
The food and drink is where Six by Nico comes into its own and each course is certainly a moment which surprises and delights. With each course playfully named in line with the Mad Matters theme, it all tasted incredible and surprised the senses. What looked like it was going to be a sweet biscuit, tasted like a savoury one. What looked to be a cup of tea, was in fact a delicious mushroom consommé. The meat, fish and veg were all cooked to perfection and putting my spoon into the heart shaped desert to find a deep red sponge centre was exciting to look at let alone taste! Alongside this, the wine went brilliantly with each course and the themed cocktail which changed colour as you mixed it all together was the cherry on the cake.
Make me want to come back
Whilst I’m not sure one visit would “take me on a journey through time, spaces and places” I think if I were to return that each meal would visit a different aspect of this. Some of their menu themes are geographic, so I am confident after my Mad Hatters experience that the taste of the food would bring me to those places. Whist some other themes are generational, so would take you back in time and re-visit memories.
Alongside this, at the end of each year in the more established restaurants, they ask their customers to vote on their favourite dishes. The winning dishes are brought back for 6 weeks only as part of the Best of the Year menu. I can guarantee that if I were to see some of the dishes I ate on the menu again, I would be back in a heartbeat.
Alignment is key
Of course ultimately, it all comes down to alignment. Was my experience aligned to the brand? Did it meet the expectations I had gained based on what the brand told me?
Whilst my experiences of ‘fine dining’ are slim, I did work as a waitress for a good few years so I do know the basics of good service. Whilst the staff were friendly, and some really knew what they were talking about, others had clearly learned the basics and knew little beyond this about the food they were serving, with some even stumbling on their clearly scripted lines.
Overall, this service matched the price we paid for the meal, but it did not align to a fine dining experience. It was a little inconsistent- sometimes we were told all about our wines, why it matched that course and how to enjoy it to its full potential, and others it was plonked down without even telling us its name. For me personally, with the price we paid, this was OK- as long as I get a friendly face and don’t have to wait for hours I’m good, but I would not say it was the service you would expect from their proposition.
The building itself is nothing special, and the interior is kept simple, but their open kitchen and classy design is just what you need. It is the perfect backdrop to ensure that the food itself is the centre of attention enabling each 6-week theme to work so well. The music was gentle, yet fun (again it seemed to match the Mad Hatters theme) and the lighting was warm but not so obnoxiously dark that you can’t actually see the food on your plate.
Although the service was not quite aligned to the fine dining experience I expected, the food, the atmosphere and the pre-visit comms certainly were. The ‘Mad Hatters’ theme was perfectly executed in the menu, with moments of surprise and delight in every course.
Food has a strong power of triggering emotions and memories and I really feel the Six by Nico have this element nailed and this aspect is perfectly aligned to their brand.