Finding a restaurant concept is often times under-appreciated, which is likely one reason why so many restaurants fail within the first couple of years. In truth, the concept of a restaurant is just as important as finding the right chef and location. It helps you discover more about the environment and economic status of the location, the target audience, the menu, the aesthetics, the marketing, the service type; essentially, it’s putting all of your ideas down on paper so you have a guide as you proceed forward.
Why do so many people not figure out concept before they start building? Because it’s not as easy as it sounds. Serious entrepreneurs looking to open a restaurant often confide into a restaurant designer to ensure the concept is concrete, before even moving into the design phase. And when success is so reliant on concept, it’s unsettling to know that so many of you will read this, and continue to open your doors without thinking critically about concept.
Outside of the importance of finding your concept, let’s chat about what it is.
If you don’t already know about the economic, environmental, and demographic status in the area, you should do your research first. You’ll need to know what your target audience is willing to spend, when they’re going to spend, when you should be open, when weather is going to force you to close, etc. Ask yourself a couple of questions:
- How many cars pass by the location in a day?
- When is busy time for the area? When is down time for the area?
- What is the weather like? Does it rain a lot? Snow? Will that affect your business?
- How are you going to be seen by patrons? How can you increase visibility?
- Does the location you’re planning on using already have equipment, or are you going to have to invest in new equipment?
- What other details do you need to research to ensure this is a good choice?
It’s About Competitors.
If you know that there are restaurants that are already successful around you, learn what they’re doing right. Dine at their establishment, notice the staff, the aesthetics, the food, the smells, the sounds, everything – and take note. Also, remember the restaurants that aren’t quite as successful, and find out why they aren’t winning – learn from their weaknesses.
It’s About Finding Your Service Type.
You may know what type of food you want to serve, but have you thought about what size the menu should be? How about the prices you’ll have on the menu that will be in line with your target market? Have you thought about what type of restaurant service you’ll be offering: fine dining, casual, fast food, delivery, catering, food truck, carry out, etc.? Knowing these answers before beginning to make restaurant decisions can save you money in the long run.
It’s About Atmosphere.
What is atmosphere? It’s how you want people to feel when they come into your restaurant. The smells they encounter, the sights they see, the flavors they taste, the sounds they hear, and the feelings of what they touch. It’s about how you prepare your food, how the staff treats the people, and the culture of the restaurant. It’s the experience you want your patrons to have when they visit – and it’s important.
It’s About the Target Market.
You could create a list of ideas around your concept, but if you don’t know your target market, you’ll be missing a big part of bringing it all together. You need to know who the ideal customer is that will be coming in your doors. How old are they? When do they eat out the most? Do they have kids? How much money are they likely to spend? If you’re planning on opening a family-friendly restaurant in a downtown area that primarily caters to patrons that are grabbing a bite to eat during lunch or sipping cocktails during happy hour, you will likely not get as much business as you would if you would have opened up in the burbs.