How To Create Strong Restaurant Concept | A Guide

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August 3, 2022
restaurant concept

 Have you ever visited a restaurant that made you feel like you were entering a whole new world?
When you pick your date spot for the night, do you consider how the space will make you feel?   The ambiance, the vibe, and of course, the food?

These impressions are the impact of a restaurant concept. Even though it might seem like a lot of work to sit down and draw out a restaurant concept, it's the most fun part of opening your doors, and filling seats.

Let your imagination run wild as we walk you through a guide to building a restaurant concept that turns heads and will keep people coming back for more.

What is a restaurant concept?

A restaurant concept is an overall theme or idea that will come to define your restaurant. Five factors that contribute to a restaurant concept include:

  • Menu design
  • Service style
  • Ambiance and decor
  • Style of food
  • Vibe, culture and ethos

How do you choose a restaurant concept?

Often, a restaurant concept is born from the personal interests or experiences of the chefs or other contributors to the restaurant's opening. Some common contributing factors that help people choose a restaurant concept include:

  • Art
  • Culture
  • Family
  • Heritage
  • Local ingredients
  • Science
  • Traditions
  • Training
  • Travel experience

Because food is an essential blend of all of these facets, it's no surprise that these things help develop an emerging restaurant's theme. 

menu for a concept

How do I create a great restaurant concept?

A great restaurant concept can be established with a mix of passion, creativity, consistency, and strategy. You will want to keep the following 5 things in mind when building one out: 

1 - Identify your inspiration.

Whether you are a top chef, a restaurateur, or a combination of both, it's time to get to thinking and dig deep to discover your inspiration for opening a restaurant. Whatever food you frequently gravitate to is an excellent place to start. Otherwise, consider looking into your upbringing or your heritage. It's not uncommon for your inspiration to be born from something random.  

Recently I visited a restaurant in Kelowna; BC called "Skinny Dukes" that featured the most authentic '70s throwback you ever did see. The menu was a bit of a mish-mash (It was a missed opportunity to offer a cheese fondu, if you ask me) but delicious, and the overall experience was one for the books. 10/10 would dine again.

skinny dukes concept
Skinny Dukes, Kelowna, B.C.

2 - Define what makes you unique.

There's no fun in doing something that others have already done before. Part of the thrill of being an entrepreneur and restaurant owner is having the freedom to be unique in your endeavors. Figure out what it is about the restaurant that will make you stand out from the rest and lean into that. What will make people excited to check out the new neighborhood spot? And even more important - what will keep them coming back?

3 - Research your customers and location.

Where are you located, and what type of customers will you likely get based on that location?   Research the demographic near your site and other restaurants and competition in the area. 

Give the people what they want - for example, if you are in a pizza desert, be the pizza hero your community needs.

4 - Develop your menu.

Your menu needs to keep with your overall concept, so if you are working backward, consider the type of food you are interested in creating. 

If it's simple classic dishes, you'll likely have a traditional concept versus something scientific, modern, and edgy. Whatever you choose, run with it. Just make sure you stay in line with your theme.

setting up your vibe team

5 - Select a service style.

Once you've figured out your menu, you can move on to determining your service style. The two should fall in line quite nicely. Think of dining experiences you've had in the past and when all else fails, check out the competition to see what they're doing.

Service styles to look into:

Although you might think that the style of service is irrelevant to the restaurant concept, you should think again. Service styles directly impact the guest experience, which correlates with your concept. 

Here are 12 different service styles to consider implementing at your restaurant:

  • Bar
  • Bistro
  • Buffet
  • Coffee shop
  • Family style
  • Fast casual
  • Fast food
  • Fine dining
  • Food truck
  • Ghost restaurant
  • Mid-scale dining
  • Pop-up‍

6 - Choose a restaurant concept that fits your personality.

First and foremost, you should develop a concept you're passionate about and one you want to put your valuable time, effort, and money into.

Start by thinking about your reasons for opening a restaurant. For example, are you great with people? Do you enjoy meeting new people and making connections? Consider choosing a concept that allows you to interact with customers directly on a day-to-day basis. Are you more interested in developing new dishes and focusing on food preparation and presentation? 

If so, you might be well suited to a more operational concept, like a catering service, bakery, or deli.

Whatever concept you decide on, you'll be dedicating a lot of time and energy to transforming your vision into an actual, functioning establishment. Think about what inspires you. It's also important to consider your unique skills, experiences, interests, cultural background, and preferences when choosing a concept.

7 - Sell the restaurant experience not just food.

Your menu is a very important aspect of your overall concept, but it's not the only aspect. Your concept reflects your restaurant's theme and identity. You're not only serving delicious dishes to customers—you're also providing them with a unique experience, and every detail is important.

How your food tastes is important, but you also want to consider the other senses in order to provide a complete sensory experience for your patrons.

Things to consider when building a concept include:

  1. Your restaurant's name
  2. Menu design and descriptions of dishes
  3. Style of service (e.g. fine dining, bistro, family style, buffet, food truck, etc.)
  4. Decor and overall ambiance
  5. Background music or vibe
  6. Floor plan, number of tables
  7. Restaurant location
  8. How to market your concept

By nature, restaurants revolve around food, so it's essential to consider how these other elements complement your menu.

You want every detail to serve your larger vision. 

For example, traditional Italian food works with family-style dining and a relaxed ambiance. If you plan to serve patrons multiple courses and fine wines, you'll want to consider fine dining service, fewer tables, and high-end decor to complement your menu.‍

eating good food

8 - Build a solid team to complement your skills.

Once you've decided on a concept, it's time to make your vision a reality and go out and find your restaurant's dream team. But before you do, be sure to consider what you bring to the table and what you don't.

Understanding your weaknesses or where you have gaps in your knowledge, experience, and skillset can help you fill these gaps with partners and staff you should hire first. 

For example, if you're a chef with years of experience developing unique recipes and organizing kitchen staff, but you've never owned or operated a business before, you may benefit from choosing a business partner with financial and marketing experience. 

If you're business savvy and know how to generate buzz, but you've never worked in a restaurant, you'll likely need to hire people who know the ins and outs of running a kitchen and developing a menu.

There's a lot to think about when opening a restaurant. Taking the time to carefully consider your overall concept and establish a comprehensive vision for your menu, space, and ambiance can help keep you on track as you work on the finer details.

By choosing a concept that fits your personality, provides a complete experience to customers, and allows your delicious food to shine, your vision can become a reality.

Want some hands-on tools for launching your restaurant?

Already a pro when it comes to your restaurant concept? That's awesome - if you are looking for more resources on how to launch, scale or grow you restaurant follow along in our "how to open a restaurant" guide!

Want to know what the experts thing when it comes to opening your doors? Get the free guide here.

Free expert restaurant advice guide

Table of content

December 2020


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