Owning a Restaurant: Choosing a Theme and Concept

Choosing your restaurant theme and concept will be both one of the most fun and one of the most important decisions you’ll make as you work towards writing your business plan and ultimately opening day.

great concept 1

But right off the bat, I want you to always remember something important: this is only one of many components you’ll need in place. Too many times I’ve had conversations before a business opens and after it has begun to fail when I’m told,

But we have this great concept!

The difference between theme and concept.

First, let’s go over the difference between the two.

The THEME of a restaurant is whether it will be quick service, fast casual, casual service, or fine dining. Of course, there are many other types or combinations you may have in mind.

For most of you, you already have a theme in mind, especially if you’ve taken my advice from earlier and worked in a restaurant for awhile to make sure this is something you want to do and can do.

When you decide on a CONCEPT, that’s when you’ll choose the cuisine and ambiance of your restaurant. Will you be a steakhouse, pizza joint, Mexican restaurant, or a burger house? Will you be festive, have TVs so guests can watch sports, and will you welcome children? Will you build the restaurant from scratch, take over an existing establishment and revamp it, or buy into a franchise?

Things to remember when deciding on a concept.

If you’re like most aspiring restauranteurs, you probably already have an idea of what your concept will be. Make sure you keep these four important tips in mind.

  1. Check out the competition – You’ll want to make sure you won’t be in an area where competition for the consumer dollar is high. Depending on what your concept is, make sure there aren’t too many restaurants with the same concept near by. If you find there is, make sure your theme and concept will be different than the rest. You want to draw customers away from the competition and to your restaurant.
  2. Keep demographics in mind – keep in mind the type of customer that lives in and frequents the area where your restaurant will be. Are you in the upscale financial or shopping capital of your city or out in the suburbs where things are more relaxed? Pay attention to some of the important attributes of the surrounding population such as their culture, average age, and income to name a few examples.
  3. Location, Location, Location – some might say this is the single most important factor in whether a business succeeds or fails. You’ll want to be in an area where you are seen and easily accessed from the street. You’ll want ample parking and a few other factors that we’ll elaborate on later in the Owning a Restaurant series.
  4. Remember you’re on a budget – and your budget it going to affect things like the size of your restaurant, the quality of equipment you’ll be able to afford, the size of your menu, and the size of your opening staff. Make sure you plan for and have enough in the budget to cover these costs. I’ll discuss budgeting later in the series when we get to the part about writing your business plan.


The choosing a theme and concept step of owning a restaurant is the fun part but just remember to put as much thought into this part of the dream as you have into the steps preceding it.

I hope you’re enjoying my series on Opening a Restaurant. I welcome and appreciate all feedback.

Please share this with friends who may be thinking of opening their own restaurant or share it with your colleagues.

Please follow me at Serviceable to have the rest of the series delivered to your mailbox and for other tips and advice for the service and hospitality industry from an insider’s point of view.

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