Opening a new restaurant isn’t easy - particularly when you take into account the sheer level of competition out there.
This is true whether you’re smack-bang in the middle of a city centre or tucked away in a sleepy village. Thanks to the rise in online delivery and the increasingly inventive dining experienced on offer, it takes some serious inspiration to stand out from the crowd.
It all starts with the theme. Therefore, whether you’re opening your first venue or completely revamping a tired idea, here are a few tips on selecting the theme for your restaurant.
Get to know the competition - properly
The competition isn’t to be feared - it’s to be learned from and inspired by.
The more you know your competition, the more you can tune your restaurant's theme to better them and take advantage of the areas in which they’re not quite living up to expectation.
Start by scouring review websites like TripAdvisor. What are customers saying about your competitors? Any feedback you can spot about the decor, layout or general ambiance should provide a goldmine of ideas for your own establishment.
Play diner, too; book yourself a table and make notes (discreetly) about the experience. Look at the demographics of your fellow diners and compare that to the audience you’re trying to target: where can you do better?
Don’t get hung up on a ‘unique concept’
There are very few unique dining concepts left to discover. But that’s fine - you don’t need a USP as a restaurant; you just need to be fantastic at delivering an amazing dining experience.
The type of experience you offer will depend largely on the theme of the restaurant. And, if you have a unique idea for that, great! But if you know, deep down, that it’s been implemented before elsewhere, don’t be put off.
For many restaurants, they view their unique concept as a particular signature dish. This is a great way to define the theme of your restaurant, but so too is custom branding.
Pick whatever it is that makes your restaurant special - don’t get too hung up on the uniqueness of it all.
It might sound a bit boring and a threat to your grand plans, but the theme of your restaurant will be largely governed by your budget.
Whether you need to introduce a signature dish or make significant changes to the decor, it’ll cost money. The worst thing you could do is blow your entire marketing budget and clear out your bank account just to get the theme right.
With that in mind, don’t commit to spending more than you can sensibly allocate to the development, implementation and continuation of your restaurant’s theme.
Some examples of restaurant themes
If you're stuck on how to theme your restaurant, there are some common types that are already helping lots of restaurateurs make a success of their business.
Here are some restaurant concepts that might work for you.
- Fine dining. Waiters in tuxedos, crisp tablecloths and lofty prices might come to mind when you think ‘fine dining’, but it all comes down to the atmosphere, service and, of course, food you offer that defines this experience.
- Fast food. Before you scroll down, fast food isn’t all about the big chains and franchises. If you can provide people with food that is ready nearly instantaneously and which offers great taste for small change, you might have a very profitable business on your hands.
- Fast casual. This is one of the hottest trends at the moment, and is seen as a notch above fast food. Restaurants of this kind usually handout disposable dishes containing food that has upscale ingredients such as organic produce and gourmet breads.
- Family style. A staple of United States dining, family style restaurants provide homely dishes at decent prices in low-key, friendly settings.
- Food truck. Don’t want to be tied to one location? Want to take advantage of street events and other gatherings in your area? A food truck business might be the ideal theme for your business idea.
- Pop-up restaurant. This is another growing trend in the hospitality industry and one which has resulted in incredibly diverse dining experiences on high streets. Check out this great guide to pop-up restaurant businesses.
Choosing a restaurant theme isn’t easy, but by following our guide above and learning from the successful businesses that are already out there, you should find your ideal theme - and the perfect audience for it.