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If you’re a Dallas restaurant in 2023, you’re nowhere without a wall of greenery.

We’re talking an entire wall covered in ivy, or else a wall made up entirely of flowers. Also, throw in a neon sign.

Walls covered with greenery are among the features restaurants are deploying these days to lure in diners. As Restaurant Dive notes, the restaurant discovery process is becoming more visual – more experience-oriented.

More photo-op-oriented.

For a lot of diners, it’s less about food and more about everything else. The eating part of dining out is almost a afterthought, a sideshow to the styley extras that restaurants are introducing to draw them in.

Here’s a few features being rolled out at restaurants around town:

The wall of greenery
This is the trend where a restaurant dedicates one wall to some kind of greenery, be it ivy or flowers, sometimes real, usually fake.

The greenery wall has a transporting effect – you may not be traveling as frequently as you used to but you can pretend you’re at some exotic locale with your friends.

Social media is a big factor. These are designed for photo-ops, where you can post on social media and show where you’ve been. Dining out has always been a social experience, but the social aspect has become a much bigger part. For a lot of people, dining out is what they do for entertainment. Where people in the ’90s might have gone to a rock club to see a band, now they go out to a restaurant and make a night of it.

One of the original green walls was at Vidorra, the upscale Mexican restaurant in Deep Ellum.

“We put the wall up in 2018,” says co-owner Imran Sheikh. “What sparked it for us was that we saw it after making a trip to Guadalajara to source some authentic fixtures from Mexico. We came back with the idea of designing an oasis of nature in the middle of the urban setting of Deep Ellum, to create the illusion that you were in another place.”

And just as people like to take photos in scenic vacation spots, they took photos of themselves against the green wall. But the social media aspect was a byproduct, not the origin.

Mexico was also the source of inspiration for Alexa Rodarte, co-founder of Lexy’s in Trinity Groves, which boasts fabric and silk flowers on the walls, the ceiling, flowers everywhere. The prime photo-op spot is in front of a unique Champagne vending machine that’s stocked with Moet & Chandon splits, set against a wall of flowers.

“I wanted to make Lexy’s pretty, and I loved the flower walls at places like Azul Historico, Ling Ling, Beluga, Artemisia Flower Bar,” Rodarte says. “My goal was to create a space that was feminine, to attract women, and they make up 90 percent of our clientele.”

XOXO Dining Room & Lounge near downtown Dallas.

The ironic neon sign
A cousin to the wall of greenery is the custom-made neon sign, positioned prominently on a photo-ready wall. The sign could be the name of the restaurant, or a clever slogan like “Feed me tacos.”

One of the first was Zoli’s Pizza in Addison, whose sign says “Y U No Eat Gluten?”

Neon signs have always beguiled, and in the social media world, they’re a magnet for photos – especially when the neon sign is elusive. Then it becomes a secret code where the only people who recognize it have been there and are therefore in the know.

At Ebb & Flow in Plano, they double down by combining a wall of greenery with a neon sign. Take it one step further, as they do at The Glen in Frisco and XOXO Dining Room & Garden on Ross Avenue near downtown Dallas — and combine a wall of greenery with a neon sign and a swing. Boom.

Robots that deliver your order to your table are a novelty item, and yet they have an inexorable pull. They look like little roving shelving units. The kitchen stacks your order and sends the robot to your table.

They’ve been a help to restaurants grappling with staff shortages after the pandemic.

This trend started at Asian restaurants like Kura Sushi which has locations in Plano and Frisco, but has crossed over to some non-Asian restaurants like the new Green Papaya Plant Based vegan restaurant on Oak Lawn, and La Pesca, a seafood restaurant in Oak Cliff.

Manufacturers like Bear Robotics, who make the Servi robot, pitch them as a help to restaurants grappling with staff shortages after the pandemic. They’re unquestionably a novelty item, and their shelf life may be short, but they have an inexorable pull. Diners, especially those with kids, love them.

On the bright side, they won’t get your order wrong — unless the human that loaded them erred. But you’ll still need a real person to refill your drink.

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