You’re making the scariest leap of your career and opening the restaurant you’ve always dreamed you’d own.
There’s just one problem. You have no idea how your restaurant will look or what it’ll serve.
You don’t have to look far for inspiration. No matter where you’re setting up shop, you’ll have plenty of competition. You’re not sure which direction to go.
This is an important decision, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Let’s take a look at seven proven concepts that excite would-be customers and generate real cash flow.
1. An Unmistakable “Time and Place” Theme
Consider “locating” your restaurant at an unmistakable point in time or place on the map. Ideally, you’d do both.
That’s the idea behind D.L. Mack’s, a new restaurant concept from Dallas-based Vandelay Hospitality Group. D.L. Mack’s is physically located in suburban Dallas, but step inside and you’d be forgiven for thinking you walked through a time warp to mid-20th-century Chicago. Salvaged transit benches, classic exposed brick, dark wood — there’s nothing Dallas about it.
The beauty of this concept is that the possibilities are endless. You don’t have to embrace a time and place that’s been done before, at least not in your market.
2. A “Captive” Food Truck
Why not bring the food to your customers?
GastroPark in West Hartford, Connecticut, is doing just that, just as countless Portland food truck “pods” did before. The idea of a fixed-location food truck might not be revolutionary, but it has been proven time and again. And because it’s a low-overhead endeavor, it’s an enticing prospect for first-time restaurateurs operating on a shoestring.
3. A Pop-Up Affair
This is another low-overhead (if high-effort) concept that’s great for first-timers who don’t want to be tied down in a fixed space. Nothing gets your name out there like surprising patrons at partner establishments with great food at a fair price. Talk about building a reputation.
4. Farm-to-Table Shareables
Catch farm-to-table restaurant patrons in moments of candor and you’ll hear the same “complaint” again and again: “I wish I could try it all.”
Yet traditional farm-to-table establishments shun shareable.
Don’t be like them. If you’re committed to building a restaurant that serves only the freshest, local-est ingredients, be democratic about it. Call it farm-to-table tapas, perhaps.
5. A Coffee Shop Without the Roastery
A coffee roastery isn’t a money pit, exactly. But, like a bakery, it’s a big upfront expense and requires your establishment to be active at odd hours when it’s tough to staff at the wages you can afford to pay. Those beans don’t roast themselves; human beings do, starting in the wee hours of the morning.
6. A Speakeasy That Serves Food
The best modern speakeasies in America tend not to serve food unless they’re required by law to keep spare bags of pretzels or peanuts behind the bar. Patrons are fine with that because they’re usually not there for the food anyway — they’re grabbing drinks before a show or nightcaps after dinner, or whatever.
Unless you give them a reason to stay, that is. Who’s to say a speakeasy can’t serve great food? Build your cocktail menu right and those drinks margins will help you bridge the money-losing stretch that every new eatery endures.
7. A (Very) Pet-Friendly Hangout
No, not a cat cafe. That would require you to keep your own pets, and you don’t want that responsibility (or cost).
Opt for a bring-your-own pet cafe instead. You’ll need to pay close attention to local zoning and health codes; the pups and kitties may need to abide by some rules. But nothing says “hospitality” like inviting your patrons to bring their furry friends for a bite and a drink.
This Is Your Calling — Make It Count
The typical new restaurant shuts its doors for good before its fifth anniversary.
Sometimes, this happens because ownership gets bored of the concept and invests in a refresh opening a functionally new establishment in the same space. But more often, good restaurants close because they’re not economically viable. Breaking even is no way to run a business.
If you’ve always dreamed of owning and operating your own restaurant, your time horizon is a heck of a lot longer than five years. This is what you want to do with your life, and you want to do everything in your power to succeed.
So give yourself a fighting chance by selecting a restaurant concept that really grabs your customers. One that gets customers in seats day after day and night after night. One that inspires loyalty. One that stands the test of time.
Oh, and one that turns a real profit.