Types of Restaurant Concepts

One of the first steps toward opening a new restaurant is defining the concept. This sounds easy enough, but have you ever eaten at a restaurant and felt confused? Like the menu didn’t fit the overall ambience (too pricey for a casual restaurant or too casual for a fine dining restaurant)? When this happens, customers aren’t always enthusiastic about coming back. To help avoid new restaurant growing pains, check out these ten basic restaurant concepts and how to choose your own.

1. Buffet. Originating in 16th Century France, buffet dining has stood the test of time and continues to be a popular choice for many restaurant customers. By definition, a buffet is a meal where guests serve themselves from a variety of dishes set out on a table or sideboard (from Food Lover’s Companion).

2. Fast Casual. This is one of the biggest trends right now. Fast casual is slightly more upscale than fast food. Fast casual restaurants offer disposable dishes and flatware, but their food tends to be presented as more upscale, such as gourmet breads and organic ingredients.

3. Café or Bistro. A café is a restaurant that does not offer table service. Customers order their food from a counter and serve themselves. A bistro is sometimes interchanged with café. A bistro is actually a café that offers full meals.

4. Casual. Just as the name implies, a casual restaurant theme is well…casual, from the food to the atmosphere to the prices. Many independent restaurants have a casual theme. A mom-and-pop diner would be a casual restaurant.

5. Fine Dining. The term Fine Dining brings to mind all kinds of images, from crisp white table cloths to waiters in tuxedos. A fine dining restaurant offers patrons the finest in food, service and atmosphere. It is also the highest priced type of restaurant you can operate.

6. Franchise. A restaurant franchise offers many benefits over independent restaurants, such as instant name recognition and a turn-key operation. However, buying a franchise can be costly. And there are many rules and regulations that come along with operating a franchise.

7. Restaurant Food Truck. A food truck is like restaurant on wheels. It has several distinct advantages over a traditional eat-in restaurant. A food truck can go to the customers. It has low overhead, compared to a restaurant, and requires far less staff. However a food truck is still a business that requires a lot of work and attention- especially in the first couple of years.

8. Restaurant Catering. Restaurant catering offers you a chance to increase both your sales and your customer base. People already love your food, so why not capitalize on that and offer catering services as well?

9. Ethnic Cuisine. This is one of the simplest restaurant concepts, building around a specific type of food, such as Mexican, Chinese, Indian or Italian, to name a few. The menu, décor and restaurant name should all reflect the ethnic cuisine.

10. Beware of mixing restaurant concepts. In an attempt to stand out from the competition, you may be tempted to design your own concept- perhaps fast food Italian or a fine dining food truck. While originality is important when opening a new restaurant, you want to make sure your restaurant concept is clear to the customer.

Restaurants come in all shapes and sizes. From fast food to fine dining, a restaurant concept helps outline the type of menu your offer, the decor and the price points. Newer concepts like food trucks, pop-ups and family casual are among the fastest growing segments in the restaurant industry. For anyone thinking of opening their own restaurant, studying the different types of concepts and their costs and customer base can help them identify the right concept for their ideas. Avoiding concept mashups is usually best, as it can confuse consumers.

Adapting an exisiting concept to make it unique is a better move and trademark of the most successful restaurant chains.