Restaurant concepts define the overall theme or idea behind a restaurant, including cuisine, service style, music, and menu design. Choosing the right concept is a crucial first step when opening your restaurant or refreshing your brand.
Get your concept right and customers will rave about the experience, recommend you to others, and keep returning. Get it wrong—with a menu that doesn’t fit the ambiance or pricey dishes not suited for the clientele—and potential regulars will at best feel confused and at worst never return.
But, choosing the right concept can be hard, with even the most experienced restaurateur occasionally struggling. The good news? With a little guidance and inspiration, you can ignite your creativity. Here are five successful restaurant concepts to inspire and guide you.
Restaurant Concepts Trending Now
From casual restaurants and coffee shops to fast food chains and new trending restaurant concepts like the virtual restaurant, there’s a restaurant theme idea that’s bound to whet your appetite.
1. Virtual Restaurants
Virtual restaurants are a new concept that’s growing alongside the delivery app market—think Uber Eats and Grubhub. These restaurants take orders through online apps and use ‘ghost kitchens’ or virtual kitchens that offer virtual menus to take-out customers.
- Very low labor and inventory costs and steady incremental sales growth
- Cheap digital menu marketing that captures a share of online dining demand
- Agility to easily experiment with different concepts to find and grow the most successful
- Less control over incoming demand and customer service when relying on third-party apps
- Need to manage the impact on staff morale of working online orders without recieving tips
- The high volatilily and profitability of this early-days concept may be too risky for some
2. The Café and Coffee Concept
Ranging from large chains such as Starbucks to smaller neighborhood shops, the café concept is immensely popular. Restaurants embodying this concept, sometimes follow a self-service model—although service is common in some establishments. Coffee shops have a casual and relaxed atmosphere, with patrons typically ordering food like coffee, pastries, and sandwiches.
- Scheduling is often easier—although if you have a roastery, you’ll need staff who are willing to start at 4 am
- Labor costs are lower because you need fewer staff
- You’ll have lower overheads unless you’re a large chain
- Opening a coffee shops lets you experiment with unique flavor profiles that appeal to millennials, who are a key driver of coffee sales
- A limited variety of dishes means menus are smaller
- Coffee and dessert is the main focus. You’ll need to find ways to get more customers through the doors for lunch
*Keen to learn about coffee drinking trends? Then read this post from the National Coffee Association *
Blog: From Brew Boomers to the Gourmet Generation: National Coffee Drinking Trends 2017.
3. Fast Food Chains
Fast food chains or quick service restaurants prepare mass-produced take-out food and usually follow a franchise model. These restaurants generally have limited menus, no seating, and fewer (if any) servers compared full-service restaurants.
- Labor costs are lower because there are no servers
- Food costs are modest due to limited menus and cheaper ingredients
- Lower food costs contribute to higher margins
- This is a proven concept with a massive demand for take-out food in the U.S.
- You have limited control because these concepts often follow a franchise model—not ideal if you want to create a unique concept
- Employee scheduling can be challenging as many chains are open 24/7
- The initial franchising costs are higher than opening an independent restaurant
4. Fast-Casual Restaurants
Fast-casual restaurants are a new trendy concept that combines fast food and casual dining. The concept has many characteristics of fast food restaurants—food made to order and disposable packaging— with a few notable differences: Upscale food and a more inviting sit-down atmosphere.
- This concept is ideal if your target audience craves healthier food options and a casual sit-down atmosphere
- Many customers are willing to pay more for healthy foods, leading to more profits
- You have higher overhead costs because you need more seating and servers
- More staff makes employee scheduling trickier
- Food costs are higher than quick service restaurants because the quality of ingredients are better
- Opening a fast-casual restaurant is more expensive
Read this for further inspiration: 11 New Restaurants Reimaging Fast Food and Casual Dining.
5. Family-Style Concept
Family-style restaurants follow the full-service model with seating and dedicated servers. Menus are extensive, with a wide variety of dishes across breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “Casual," “friendly,” and “relaxed,”—these are words you’d associate with this concept.
- Family restaurants are a proven concept
- The concept is perfect for families and casual diners
- You can attract patrons with reasonable prices and a large variety
- Labor costs are higher because of the full-service model
- Staff scheduling is more challenging, making it harder to navigate staff availability
- Your food costs are higher as food portions are bigger
Restaurant Concepts Are a Means to An End
You may understand the importance of having a solid concept, but struggle to choose the right one. These five concepts, from the proven fast food chains to the trendy virtual restaurants, will help spark your creativity.
And remember: Regardless of your concept, you’ll always have to manage labor and inventory which can be challenging.
That’s why having the right scheduling app helps. With a scheduling app like 7shifts, you'll simplify your scheduling and save time and money—whether you’re a coffee shop or full-service restaurant. So, why not give 7shifts a try today?