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What is a restaurant concept?
A restaurant concept is the theme or style that ties together all aspects of your restaurant. It will help you define your cuisine, type of service, decor, atmosphere, and more.
Why is a restaurant concept important?
Settling on a concept for your restaurant is a big decision, and requires a lot of pre-planning. But identifying the right concept for you, that’s informed by the market you’re in, can help you find success as a restaurant owner.
A unique restaurant concept will give you an edge over the competition and help you stand out to the customer. Consider the difference between a Mexican restaurant and a restaurant centered around El Dia de Los Muertos. While both may have similar menus, the latter has a clear vision that drives every aspect of the restaurant experience.
Selecting a specific concept also gives customers a clear way to describe their experience (and your restaurant) to friends and family, which can help attract more clientele.
How to create a restaurant concept
Restaurant owners may find it helpful to design and choose a concept based on where they’re located, the customers they hope to attract, and certain values they have for their business.
- Target market - Who are you trying to reach?
- Location - Where are you located? What other restaurants are nearby? What groups of people are nearby?
- Your goals and mission - What type of restaurant do you want to create? What are you trying to accomplish with your business?
- Vibe - Do you want a more formal restaurant? Something casual? Are you aiming to provide a unique experience?
- Type of food you want to make - Is there a certain type of cuisine you have in mind for your restaurant?
Once you’ve narrowed down your ideas, hone in on what you’re most personally excited about. Chances are, customers will feed off of your enthusiasm—if your restaurant doesn’t appeal to you, how is it supposed to appeal to them?
Some restaurateurs find it helpful to test out concepts by staging a pop-up restaurant before fully committing. For example, The Max — a Saved by the Bell themed restaurant — originally opened as a pop-up, but it was so popular, it’s now a permanent business. If you are unsure about how successful your concept may be, consider trying it out temporarily first.
30 most unique restaurant concepts around the world
Need some inspiration for a unique restaurant concept? Explore 30 of the best restaurant concepts from around the world. Whether it's a unique location, a hyper-specialized menu, or a themed homage to pop culture of days past, you're sure to be inspired by these restaurant concepts.
1. Ichiran - this NYC ramen institution only serves one thing: tonkotsu ramen (with a variety of add-ons, plus one available dessert). Sticking to the thing you’re great at is a great strategy, and customers will know exactly where to go when they're craving your specialty.
2. Enoteca Maria - This staten island restaurant has a rotating roster of grandmothers from all cultures who take over the restaurant and cook for an adoring public.
3. Kill Joy - This American cowboy themed restaurant in Rome serves steak, but also American-style pizza and pasta. You know they'd stand out in Italy!
4. Boozehounds - Boozehounds seeks to be the space where dogs bring their humans. They even have appetizers, mains, and drinks for both humans and dogs, and they donate to animal-related causes each month.
5. Polaroid - This 80’s 90’s bar in Barcelona, complete with music videos projected on the walls, cassettes and videotapes everywhere, and themed cocktails, is a memorable place for a night out.
6. SubSix - This underwater restaurant in the Maldives is 20 feet under water, which you access via speedboat followed by a long descent via an elegant staircase. It's dinner with a stunning ocean view like you've never had before.
7. 360 Restaurant - Located in the CN tower in Toronto, this fine dining restaurant revolves slowly 360 degrees, so that in an hour you've been able to experience every available view of the city.
8. Tall Ship East Boston - This restaurant, located on a moored 245-foot boat, specializes in local oysters, charcuterie boards, and shellfish.
9. Popina Canteen - This Vancouver, BC-based shipping container on the waterfront serves a small menu of specialties the chefs have perfected, in a whimsical setting.
10. Spoon and Stable - This Minneapolis restaurant is set in an old horse stable and serves food inspired by French cuisine.
11. Mesa 1 - Located in Punta de Mita, Mexico, Mesa 1 fittingly only has one table. That's about as exclusive as it gets, and the table is set along a beautiful river.
12. Chez Claudette - This beloved neighborhood restaurant specializes in poutine, and they do it incredibly well while catering to lots of different tastes, offering dozens of types on the menu (along with other Quebecois classics).
13. The Labasins Waterfall Restaurant: You can dip your feet in a waterfall as you dine at this restaurant in the Philippines, offering traditional Filipino cuisine.
14. Golden Steer Steakhouse: Brimming with old Las Vegas history, this steakhouse used to have Frank Sinatra as a regular — and his booth is still labelled as such..
15. Jekyll & Hyde Club Restaurant and Bar - This creepy restaurant embraces everything spooky and is inspired by the bloody tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The decor is meant to be unsettling, and according to their website, “Something unusual happens every 10 minutes at the Jekyll and Hyde Club... our guests are warned!”
16. Uncooked Chicago - This is a raw vegan grab and go restaurant in Chicago that aims to make healthy food accessible to all.
17. The Lost Kitchen - This extremely popular Maine restaurant and inn only accepts reservations via postcard, and they often book up months in advance. The ingredients are hyper-local and the atmosphere is cozy but elegant.
18. See Scape - This Sci-Fi and Cyberpunk restaurant, bar, and event space caters to patrons who love games: whether they're into video games or board games, See Scape has both available.
20. Naoe - This Miami sushi restaurant is Omakase only - meaning that every meal is the chef’s choice, and is served in many courses in a progressive order.
21. Il Fiorista - According to their website, Il Fiorista is “A restaurant, bar, café, florist, boutique, and community education space that embraces the manifold uses and beautiful benefits of flowers.”
22. Onoir — In order to elevate your sense of taste, your dining experience at Onoir takes place completely in the dark, and includes service by a blind waitstaff.
23. Sans Bar - This Texas-based nonalcoholic cocktail bar caters to the growing sober community and their friends, specializing in zero-proof cocktails.
24. East Bank Club - this Chicago institution is a gym, restaurant, and bar — pretty genius to set up hungry gym-goers with somewhere to eat on the premises.
25. Sur Un Arbe Perché - As the name suggests, this zen cafe sits under a tree and even offers Shiatsu massages for added relaxation.
26. Kru Suwit’s - After a short boat ride, you can arrive at this floating restaurant that specializes in locally caught seafood, located near Phuket, Thailand. The views are incredible and the food couldn’t be fresher.
27. Dinner in the Sky - Adrenaline junkies can enjoy a meal while floating midair. Luckily, there are multiple outposts of this restaurant, so you can check their website to see if there’s a location near you.
28. Homeroom - Specializing in creating the very best mac and cheese, Homeroom is also known for its owner, Erin Wade, who's committed to creating better working conditions in the restaurant industry.
29. Good Times at Davey Wayne’s - this 1970s themed bar whose decor sends you back in time — and it’s an homage to the owner’s dad, Davey Wayne.
30. La Maison Marocaine - You'll walk through a stone alleyway to get to the heart of La Maison Marocaine, a gorgeously decorated Moroccan restaurant in Quebec City, and you'll find delicious Moroccan cuisine served in traditional dishware and glasses.
How to Come Up with a Great Concept for Your Restaurant, Bar or Cafe
1. Consider your passion and strengths.
Many restaurant owners find it helpful to play into their passions and strengths when plotting out a restaurant concept. This is an important place to start.
2. Assess the market.
Continue narrowing down your concept by looking at the market. What type of restaurants already exist in your area? Are there any particular trends that haven’t been explored yet? Questions like these can help you create a unique restaurant concept.
3. Know your customer.
The most important group to consider in regards to your concept is your customer base. Know who you’re trying to reach and research them. When you know the needs and wants of the customer, you can design a restaurant concept they’re sure to love.