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Defining a Restaurant Concept


Before serving up your first dish, you need to be sure you have a strong restaurant concept in place.

Come at it from your own experience

Have you spotted a need for a certain type of restaurant serving a certain type of cuisine in your area? Maybe you’ve never found a good local spot for brunch, or perhaps there’s a lack of good quality fast food establishments, or nowhere to go for fine casual dining in your neighborhood.

There’s a lot to be said for a gut feeling, and unless you’re able to bankroll a major market research project, often that’s all the rationale you need to kick things off.

It’s important to gather insights from potential customers, rather than relying only on industry research or your gut. Once you’ve identified your own needs and defined a restaurant concept, you’re comfortable sharing with others, go out and find 10 customers that are likely to step through your door on opening night. You need them to back up what your instincts are telling you.

Get the real views of people likely to be paying customers, rather than asking for input from friends and family.

Listen to what the market research tells you. At this early stage, the feedback process is vital.

Be prepared for rejection and embrace it. Be willing to adapt and tweak your concept.

Test the water

Once you have a refined restaurant concept, the next step is to get your food in front of people. There are plenty of less expensive options for budding restaurateurs that will give you all the joys of seeing diners devour your food without the associated setup costs.

Catering Services

Sell yourself as a personal chef and build a client base out of your own kitchen.

Ghost Restaurants

Run a delivery-only structure with no brick and mortar presence.


Showcase your idea on a short-term basis to customers and potential investors.

Food Trucks

Purchase or lease a vehicle and serve delicious street food from limited resources.

Each of these approaches allows you to test and learn with a live audience. If you can make one of these options a success, it bodes well for the future. In fact, your new restaurant concept may prove so profitable that you could even decide to set up an entirely different venture from the one you had in mind!

Go behind the scenes

If you’ve been lucky enough to get some hands-on experience in various establishments, you’ll already have a mental list of the dos and don’ts of running an operation. It’s time to get that list down on paper — when you open your own restaurant, you’ll want to avoid making the mistakes made in places you’ve worked, while trying to replicate some of the things that proved successful.

“The success of my bistro is down to my experience in the service industry.”

Emily Mendenhall, Lily’s Bistro »

If you’re an absolute novice to the industry, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. You need to know how every part of your business works from the perspective of those doing the day-to-day, both front- and back-of-house.

For a true reconnaissance mission, you should consider getting a job with one of your future competitors. Knowing their business from the inside before you start your own will prove a very valuable exercise. The alternative option is to check out their operation from a customer’s point of view, but why fill their pockets when they could be filling yours, while you gather all the inside intel?

Choosing a Restaurant Location

How to know when you’ve found the perfect spot for your new venture.

How to Develop a Vision for Your Restaurant

Defining your core restaurant brand and keeping it consistent.

How to Open a Restaurant with No Money

Building brand equity, while saving and raising money along the way.

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