Deciding on the perfect restaurant theme is no small task. It takes a careful blend of creativity, planning, and insight into the market where you intend to open your business.
There are countless restaurant themes to choose from; whatever you decide to go with will be unique to you, your business, and your clientele.
While diners do cite ambiance as an important element of their dining experience, it’s not everything. Cool lighting fixtures and intricate murals won’t make up for excessive noise, poor service, or low quality food.
Here are four real examples of restaurants with distinct themes, accompanied by real online reviews of their businesses.
A bohemian-themed restaurant is a great way to take your guests back in time, or transport them to parts unknown around the world.
Beatnik, located in Chicago, is designed to resemble the Bohemian lifestyle of 1950’s America and Europe. They incorporate exotic music, lush enteriors, and elements of old world elegance to bring guests back to the time of Kerouac and Ginsberg.
What Their Customers Say
Alka Maheshwari, a Google local guide, writes “A beautiful place in West Town. The decor alone is worth the visit: ornately carved wooden panels to the opulent chandeliers to the checkerboard floor. Multiple small plates and sides on the menu making it easier to order a variety of dishes. All three sections of the establishment have their own charm.”
Hunter G, another Google local guide, has a different opinion on the vibe. Accompanying his two star review, he writes, “Horrible hostess staff. Requested a nice table because it was a special event in the reservation. She sat us at a high top in the bar area. Inside is really artsy and the atmosphere is awesome.”
Beatnik’s bohemian vibe is counter-culture coolness, but an experience with poor service is always sure to ruin a night out.
Incorporating your values into your restaurant's theme can be a great way to connect with customers on a deeper level.
The Marshal, in New York City, is a great example of a locally-sourced, sustainability-focused restaurant that has oriented their entire business operations to reflect their values. By emphasizing the importance of locally-sourced ingredients, The Marshal sends a message to customers that they support their community, value local small businesses, and want to protect the health of the environment and their customers. They source all of their menu items from local farmers, local wineries, and local distilleries to reduce carbon emissions when shipping.
Noah Choi writes, “Quite possibly the best burger I have ever had: smoky flavor, very juicy, and with a bun that was literally oven-fresh.”
Bob Kirksey, a Google local guide, writes, “Farm to table at its finest. I travel 230 days a year. Good health makes my living. Food quality and tremendous flavor are what I seek.”
Susan Rosenthal, another Google local guide, writes, “A delicious gem of Farm to Table scrumptiousness.”
Supporting your local community is always a great restaurant theme and business practice. No Farms, No Food, after all.
Centering your restaurant theme around one food item is a simple and effective branding tactic. It’s also a great way to generate repeat business with customers who will view you as their “go-to” for that specific product.
At Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Chicago, the name says it all; pies and biscuits are their game.
Matthew Martin, a Google local guide, writes, “The Key Lime was probably the best I’ve ever had!”
Another reviewer's experience was a bit of a mixed bag. They write, “Food was good, not great. The biscuits were the best I’ve had at any restaurant period. Servings are terribly undersized, flavor was good.”
Keeping your theme and menu simple can be a successful strategy, but it’s nothing if the quality of your product is so-so.
If you want to incorporate some upscale flair in your restaurant theme, attention to detail is key.
Invest in some fancy bells and whistles to make your customers feel utterly aristocratic.
El Gaucho and AQUA by El Gaucho, both in Seattle, have a taste for the finer things. In addition to jazz on the piano and top-of-the-line service, this upscale restaurant serves a 28-day dry-aged steak and has a classy tuxedo staff.
Jeanie writes, “The food and the view were amazing. The service was awful. We were there to celebrate our anniversary and our-less-than-attentive waiter didn’t add to the experience. Maybe they don’t care since their tip is already included in your bill.”
Here’s how El Gaucho responded: “Thank you for taking the time to review AQUA, Jeanie. While we are happy to hear you enjoyed the views and food we are terribly sorry to hear that you experienced sub par service. We strive to create an all-around memorable visit and we apologize we were wide of the mark in this regard.”
Jonji, another Facebook reviewer, writes, “Not my first rodeo here, and I must say service and food are always top notch!”
El Gaucho’s response: “Glad to hear it Jonji. Hope to see you again soon!”
Customer relationship management is essential to the success of your business. Responding to both positive and negative reviews, like El Gaucho does, is an easy way to show existing and potential customers alike and that you value their input, and their business.
Creating a phenomenal experience for your guests is so much more than just having a really cool restaurant theme. Didn't your mom teach you to never judge a book by its cover?
Your goal should be to have every guest walk away with great memories they’ll cherish and forever associate with your business.