How to Open a Restaurant | Choosing a Concept 

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Stephanie Graham
August 9, 2021

Even though it might seem like a lot of work to sit down and draw out a restaurant concept, the good news is that it’s actually the fun part of opening a restaurant of your own. Deciding on the concept of your business is the planning stage at which you get to let your imagination run wild.

What is a restaurant concept?

A restaurant concept is an overall theme or idea that will come to define your restaurant. Some of the factors that go into the concept include:

  • Menu design
  • Service style
  • Dining room decor
  • Style of food

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 such an essential blend of all of these facets, it’s no surprise that these things help develop an emerging restaurant’s theme. 

When it comes time to choose a restaurant concept of your own, follow these five steps to lead you in the right direction.

1 - Identify your inspiration.

Whether you are a chef or a restaurateur, or some combination of both, it’s time to get to thinking and dig deep to discover what your inspiration for opening a restaurant truly is. Whatever food it is you find yourself frequently gravitating 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, either.

how to open a restaurant

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. What will it be that gets people excited to check out your new restaurant? And what will keep customers returning?

3 - Research your customers.

The restaurant industry can be challenging and unforgiving at times, and often it’s hard to know exactly what concepts will be successful in which areas. The best way to prepare yourself is by conducting thorough research of your local demographic. If you’re unsure where to start, check out the competition and see what they are doing right, what they can be doing better, and what you’ll do differently.

4 - Develop your menu.

Your menu needs to be in keeping with your overall concept so, if you are working backwards, think of the type of food you are interested in creating. If it’s simple classic dishes, it’s more likely you’ll have a traditional kind of concept versus something scientific, modern, and edgy. Whatever you choose, run with it. Just make sure you stay in line with your theme.

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 what they looked like. And, when all else fails, check out the competition to see what they’re doing.

how to open a restaurant

What are the most important things to keep in mind when planning a restaurant concept?

When planning a restaurant concept, you’ll want to keep a wide assortment of elements in mind to maintain cohesiveness throughout the entire dining experience. Every last detail of your restaurant will contribute, in some facet, to the concept you choose. Here are a few essential factors to keep in mind.

Ambiance and decor.

It’s no secret that your food and beverage should be the primary focus of your efforts when opening a restaurant. But, to truly live out your restaurant concept, it’s also essential to pay close attention to your overall ambiance and decor.

Whenever you are unsure about an item, consider the needs of your customers during their dining experience. Determine whether the addition would be beneficial or detrimental to their experience.

Menu writing.

One element that can easily be overlooked but plays a pivotal role in your restaurant concept is the style of your menu writing. You can take a more poetic approach or veer towards a more simplistic manner. Whichever type you choose, it should blend well with the overall concept of your restaurant.

Restaurant name.

Generally speaking, the name of your restaurant should give customers an idea of the type of food you will be serving. A restaurant name should be authentic, memorable, and straightforward.

Where the name comes from could be anywhere. Still, many owners often find themselves drawn to particular family members, locations, or signature dishes when it comes time to choosing a name for their establishment.

how to open a restaurant

Service styles.

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 means it is correlated with your concept. Here is a brief list of some of the different service styles to consider:

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

Why does restaurant concept matter?

When people go to a restaurant, they are paying for a meal and an experience. Keeping this in mind, as a restaurant owner, your primary focus should be on the development of the entire dining experience.

Having a restaurant concept that makes sense and is cohesive throughout your business will help maximize the dining experience for your guests, your staff, and ultimately, for you.

What are some great restaurant concepts?

Coming up with a great restaurant concept can prove challenging, but once you land on the right one, you’ll find it helps make all of your other business decisions quite simple. Today, you can find a restaurant concept out of just about anything, from wild to clever. Here are some of the unique restaurant concepts you’ll find today.


There’s a fine line between clever and gimmicky, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for both in the world of restaurants. Gimmick restaurant concepts include drive-in movies, earthquake themes, or rainforest themes. While they might sound outlandish to some, they are, in fact, concepts of restaurants you can find today.

High end

If you’re a restaurant owner looking to earn your very own Michelin star, you’ll find yourself diving into high-end restaurant concepts. The restaurants that awarded these accolades achieve them because of their innovative concepts. So while they are high-end concepts, there is something about each one that is unique.

how to open a restaurant


Restaurant concepts are typically drawn from a style of food that spills over into the service, but unique concepts blend the two in a way never thought of before. Take, for example, a fine-dining French cuisine served in a farm-to-table environment.


If you are looking to figure out how to open a restaurant, you’ll need to start with the basics, including developing your concept. While it might seem like an arduous task, if you break it down into actionable items, you’ll find this is the fun part of being a restaurant owner.

So, for those looking to tap into restaurant ownership or the current owners looking to redefine their facilities, understanding that taking the time to develop your restaurant from the core sets you up for success in the future.

how to open a restaurant - concept


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