Concept Development for a Restaurant

Restaurants, Trends

Concept development for a restaurant used to be easy. If you were a Chinese Restaurant it was all dragons, flowers and birds, with music that westerners couldn’t quite tap their feet to! There used to be lots of flock wallpaper in Indian Restaurant’s, I recall; red and white check table cloths in the Italian and loud rock music in the American diner together with slightly risqué images in the washrooms!

It was reassuring at a time when dining out was a luxury rather than a staple. Restauranteurs wanted to offer you the expected and the familiar. Original, new concept development for a restaurant, was not on the menu.

But times change. Nowadays, differentiated restaurant theming and conceptualisation is critical to success, in a very crowded market place. Yes, the food needs to stand out. But a bit like the enticing displays in a department store window, the visual cues for a Restaurant are as powerful at attracting diners as the food on offer.

So decisions about concept will dominate the restaurant’s market positioning. Choosing a clever, empty niche, in the local market will tell customers about formal versus informal; fine dining versus ‘good and wholesome’; price points; likely specialities; quirks and so on.

This leads into the financial model – both in the supply chain, with procurement and in the estimated number of covers to serve each day to exceed break even.

It rolls out into staffing – both front of house and back of house. Delivering the new concept / customer experience needs an appropriate headcount to prepare it and deliver it, turned around in the optimum time that the financial model demands, but that the customer experience dictates!

Oh yes, and then there is communication.

New concept – new communications campaign.

I can feel the excitement just writing this!

Now, people reading this may be saying – ‘well yes, we did all that’ and well done for doing so.

My question now would be ‘how long ago?’

Creating a new concept development for a restaurant is not a one off event. It is iterative.

Like all fashion, trends arrive and trends go stale. Reviewing the Restaurant’s concept and everything that flows from it should be a regular exercise – every two to three years.

Change doesn’t have to be dramatic – though it can be if you want. And it may need to be if times are a bit thin.  Just tweaking to update that 2010 feel to 2017 keeps you a step ahead of the competition, which may not be as savvy and aware of the need for  change.

One of my favourite eating places at the present time is Matou, a pan Asian Restaurant situated in Liverpool’s new Ferry Terminal. A fabulous location, but the total concept and experience has not been left to rest on its laurels as a result. It’s a restaurant that works hard and succeeds, in complementing its views and its space with a top class dining experience. Not a dragon in sight!

Jeremy Bassett is Head of Strategic Marketing at Hospitality Business Development

He is a Chartered Marketer; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing; Founder Member and Fellow of the Strategic Management Forum.  

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