What Is a Restaurant Concept?
A restaurant concept is the overall idea or theme that defines the restaurant. Concepts include the your menu’s design, service style, dining room decor, and of course the style of food. Many restaurants are conceived based on a chef’s personal experiences or interests. Heritage, local ingredients, traditions, or family are all common sources of inspiration for restaurant concepts. But concepts can also be defined by a chef’s travel experience, training, or an interest in a certain area of art, science, or culture. Because food is, after all, a mixture of all those things. Read on to explore the elements of a concept, some steps to help guide your choices, and even some restaurant concept examples.
Elements of Restaurant Concepts
A good restaurant concept will cover an array of elements with one cohesive mood or tone. From the name of the establishment to even the paint color on the walls, every detail contributes to the overall concept.
Restaurant Name: The name of your restaurant should give customers a pretty good idea of the type of food you serve. It needs to be memorable, preferably simple, and most importantly, authentic. There are many different approaches to choosing a restaurant name, but owners often take inspiration from their location, a signature dish, or even a family member who inspires them.
Menu Writing: The description of your foods can be as literal as listing off the ingredients in the food and the ways they were cooked, or as poetic as a brief description of an experience, visual image, or abstract theory. But your approach should make sense in the context of your food and overall theme.
Service Styles: While service styles may seem unrelated, the type of service you offer directly relates to your restaurant concept in the sense that it affects the diner’s overall experience. Here is a list of service types that can impact your concept e.g Bistro, Mid-Scale Dining, Family Style, Fast Food, Coffee Shop, Bar, Pop-Up, Ghost Restaurant, Fast Casual, Buffet, Food Truck, Fine Dining etc.
Restaurant Decor and Ambiance: Wall color, lighting, furniture, table settings, music, and decor all play a huge role in the overall impact of your restaurant. So, even though your food must be the main focus of your efforts, it’s important to make some basic decisions about decor pretty early on in the planning process. Do you want a fun, casual vibe for game days or a romantic spot suitable for date nights? Considering the needs of your customers can act as a helpful reference point for decor and theme decisions as well.
How to Choose a Restaurant Concept
Of course, deciding on one concept can be tricky. We’ve broken the process down into five steps to help guide your thoughts.
Identify what inspires you and defines you as a chef: This is easier said than done and often takes chefs an entire lifetime to figure out. Deciding the style of food that you gravitate towards the most is a good place to start. It can come from your heritage or upbringing, but it doesn’t have to.
Define your unique spin: Restaurants that offer something unique stand a much better chance of sticking around and getting customers excited about your food.
Research your customer base: It can be tough to tell exactly what type of restaurant will resonate with people in a given area, but it’s important to make sure that there is some demand for what you want to offer. Get a sense for the competition and observe where other businesses have found success. Try to think about what’s important to your prospective customers and decide what you want to communicate to them.
Develop a menu: While it’s okay to stray from traditions a little bit, it’s important to avoid conceiving dishes that are muddled or confusing. So, if you brand yourself as an Irish pub, you may want to offer all the classic staples that people will expect before they even walk in the door. But if your concept is Chinese-Mexican fusion or molecular gastronomy, you can probably get away with a lot more whimsy.
Choose a service style: Once you have your menu mostly figured out, it should be easy to pick a service style that will lend itself well to your dishes. For example, many Italian foods are great when served family style, but pricey seafood entrees might be best in a fine dining environment.
Restaurant Concept Ideas and Advice
Just as every artist finds a different path for each project, developing a restaurant concept is very personal to each restaurateur. While there’s never any clear-cut strategy that works for everyone every time, there are a handful of basic guidelines you can use to keep you on track.
Be Aware of Customer Expectations: Certain service styles are often accompanied by specific etiquette, such as dress code. Most importantly, you need to make sure that customers know what to expect when they arrive at your restaurant in order to help avoid awkwardness. For example, if your website advertises casual American food and a casual atmosphere, customers might be upset if they arrive to find formal tables and high prices. So, try to strike a balance of uniqueness and familiarity.
Consistency Is Key: Your restaurant’s identity should be consistent and harmonious to create a comfortable atmosphere.
Restaurant concept consistency is twofold: it needs to be cohesive, and it needs to remain constant. This means that all the different aspects of your establishment need to have some common thread. And once you’ve established a menu and style you’re happy with, it’s important to stick with it. While seasonal changes can be a great way to keep things fresh, the overall tone of your restaurant should stay the same, so that returning customers can know what to expect, give accurate recommendations to their friends, and enjoy the experience again and again.
When in Doubt, Think About Food: Your passion for food should serve as a compass throughout the concept developing process. Referring back to your core menu idea before making any decision can help ensure a cohesive concept.
Unique Restaurant Concept Examples
Coming up with restaurant theme ideas can be difficult, especially because there’s a fine line between clever and gimmick. Although, theatrical restaurants can be very popular and fun, too! Here are some examples of approaches to restaurant concepts.
Mashups: Most concepts stem from the style of food, and often, the most successful restaurants combine dishes, decor, and service styles in an original way. Think French fine dining food in a relaxed, farm-to-table environment.
High End Restaurant Concepts: Most Michelin star restaurants become famous because of their innovative concepts. Sure, this award is only given to chefs who put out innovative food, but typically, the idea behind the restaurant carries into the quality of the dining experience. As a result, the name of each dish, the vessel it’s served on, the lighting, the furniture, and the location all need to be cohesive.
Gimmicks: Rainforest, drive-in movie, funeral themes, earthquake-themed are all examples of gimmicky concepts that can be a fun and unique experience for diners.
Your restaurant’s identity should be consistent and harmonious to create a comfortable atmosphere.
When in Doubt, Think About Food
Your passion for food should serve as a compass throughout the concept developing process. Referring back to your core menu idea before making any decision can help ensure a cohesive concept.
While developing a restaurant concept might seem like an impossible feat, if you break down the process into smaller steps, it becomes a lot more manageable. Creating a menu, mood, and service style that feels cohesive largely relies on a keen intuition and clear vision. So, whether you’re opening a restaurant for the very first time or thinking of fresh restaurant concept ideas that differ from restaurants you’ve established in the past, the same basic principles apply. Try to balance uniqueness with expectation, keep things consistent, and put food first.
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