March 18, 2016

THE PROFESSIONAL KITCHENThe restaurant industry as a whole operates based on concepts. As the Houston Chronicle explained, the concept is a plan that helps restaurant owners effectively build and manage their business. A good concept involves everything from the food being served to the style of the restaurant space all the way to the demographics of patrons and the overall pricing structure. In many ways, a properly executed concept can spell lasting success for your eatery, or lead it to shuttering in no time. It’s important to start thinking of a concept as early as possible, even if you’re still enrolled in culinary academy.

For some guidance, follow these four tips for designing a perfect concept:

“Your service style often informs your menu choices.”

1. Know your service style
As Webstaurant Store explained, your choice of menu informs much of your restaurant’s concept. In turn, the scope of the menu often depends on the kind of service style you want to utilize. There are four main approaches that most restaurants take. “Quick Serve” and “Fast Casual” are popular with food trucks, and while both emphasize speed and affordability, the former also offers plenty off customization. “Casual” is considered a step up from those two, and includes a larger menu, more emphasis on atmosphere and sit-down full table service. “Fine Dining,” then, is considered the highest level, with everything from the decor to meal prices on the expensive end.

Woodland hotel - restaurant, view from a window

2. Develop your target audience
Not all restaurants cater to the same groups of people. Part of your concept, then, is to understand the kinds of people you want to draw in and serve, from families to foodies or senior citizens. To do just that, Foodservice Warehouse said owners should consider the demographics of their surrounding area. If you’re marketing toward families, are you near a concentration of homes? Otherwise, you may need to change your approach. What’s the income level of the area around your restaurant? More money means extra cash for spending at nicer restaurants. Education level ties into that, and those with advanced degrees may only be interested in certain concepts.

3. Consider your theme
As The Houston Chronicle pointed out, much like the relation between menu and concept, your theme inspires your business plan. In addition to service style and audience, there are a number of other considerations when choosing your theme. Do you you want the restaurant to be based around one theme, like many chain restaurants, or should the influence be more subtle? The theme almost must be represented in the decor, as decisions like furniture and color palette go a long way to either complimenting the theme or simply confusing patrons. The name is of similar importance, and you want something that fits the theme but also is easy to pronounce and memorable.

“Each concept has its own challenges and opportunities.”

4. Understand the ups and downs
Paul Sarlas is a restaurant developer with several years’ experience. In a post for LinkedIn, he explains that each service style, and thus the accompanying concepts, offers unique challenges and opportunities for enterprising owners. For instance, if you’re running a fine dining establishment, you’ll need a more quiet, intimate space than you would for a diner meant to be packed with families. While casual dining has its share of benefits, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll have loads of competition. Fine dining, meanwhile, might not do as much business during recessions, but experienced staff can often run the eatery with little supervision. All of these factors and more are important to keep in mind, as they help you choose a concept that fits your wants and needs as a chef and owner.