3 Key Elements To A Well-Developed Restaurant Concept

Aprimary reason attributed to restaurant failure, is poor concept development and subsequent execution.

So what key elements should new restaurateurs focus on to ensure their new restaurant concept has high chances of success.

In this portion of the guide, we discuss in detail three primary elements to consider when drafting out a restaurant concept.

Those 3 key elements being as follows:

  1. A unique selling proposition (USP)
  2. Validation of the concept’s appeal relative to its target market and location.
  3. A clear definition of the concept’s identity.

USP (Unique Selling Proposition

An indication for the potential success of a new restaurant business, is the presence of competition.   Whether you have decided to enter into restaurants as a quick service, fast and casual, or full-service dining restaurant –the importance of differentiation cannot be overly emphasized, in other words; do and be something better than everyone else.

The acronym USP (unique selling proposition) is used to describe anything within a business that gives a competitive advantage or unique appeal.  This is an X-factor for the business that will help differentiate and position the brand.  In the restaurant world this is regularly a secret sauce, an amazing unique cocktail or a competency above others. For example, Panera Bread is the nation’s bakery-café, Starbucks is the leader in coffee, and Chipotle is burritos. What will you be famous for, that will ensure word of mouth permeates both on and offline about your restaurant concept.Basically what is your “WOW”?

If you have yet to establish your USP, here are some of the actions you can adopt to ensure you adopt a killer differentiator ………

Spend the time in your market to research, develop and create an X factor for your modelthusproviding your concept withleverage and a competitive edge in the marketplace.  If your USP is deeply considered and researched it has a far greater chance of success.  Not only will it define your concept to your market; it will also justify higher prices on signature menu items that are not obtainable elsewhere.

What will set your restaurant concept apart from the rest of the competition within your competitive space?

Remember ….

Differentiation is the process of distinguishing a product or entire offering from others, making it more attractive to a particular target market. This involves differentiating it from yourcompetitors’ products and standing out on the competitive landscape through unique positioning.

Differentiation is a source of competitive advantage. Marketing or product differentiation is the process of describing the differences between products, services, and price, or the resulting combination of differences. This is done in order to demonstrate the unique aspects of your product and create a sense of value. Without question, differentiation must be valued by buyers. The term ‘unique selling proposition’ refers to marketing to communicate your concept’s differentiation.

As your restaurant’s concept begins to take shape – give special attention and thought to what will set you apart from the competition to create a buzz in your market.  What differentiates you and what is the resulting USP that must be communicated to attract customers?

Concept validation within your market

A new concept with a high probability for success aligns its USP with market demand and current trends.  Therefore; how will you know if the menu, ambience and environment of your business will be well received, and generate repeat customers?

It is certainly true that the demise of many failed restaurants points to their lack of due diligence exercised, at concept development stage, to validate the concept within a market.  However,the good news is that there are practical schemes that can be adopted to limit major negative surprises when the business opens.

If you have a “hunch” or a “gut feeling” that a new menu centered around a particular cuisine will do well;research is key.

At a macro level, the more research that can be initiated the better. For example if the plan is to open a seafood concept, then visiting say 50 seafood restaurants across the US would provide a bowl of ideas that can be siphoned and deployed into the overall conceptual recipe. Research is readily available online; sources such as the National Restaurant AssociationTechnomic, and Statistica, among others, all provide an inordinate amount of free data that can be exploited to assess consumer trends.

Important data points include, market size relating to your concept, forecasted growth, regional growth patterns, supply availability, competitor activity and any risks that are foreseen in the related sector.

At a grass roots level; talk to your future neighbors and fellow competition.  Sit in their restaurants, order their most popular items and start talking.  Gather as much intelligence as possible from your waiters or bartenders.  Ask them about popular menu items and even request direct opinions about a particular dish or concept you are developing, don’t be shy, most restaurant operators enjoy talking about their business and not all see competition as a threat.

Don’t stop there, spend time in the neighborhood of your future restaurant at different day times, watch the demographic, and try to understand the people and customer types that pass through.  While taking note of the general ebb and flow in your area, talk to people: be honest about your ideas and then ask for their feedback.  Ask where they consistently eat and why?  Ask how often they eat out in the area?  And ofcourse ask if they would be excited to try your food.  In doing so, you’ll surely gain direction about your ideas while additionally uncovering exploitable gaps and opportunities you may have missed.  This is also a marketing opportunity, by informing them of the new business, you just might earn their business.

Crafting your concept’s Identity and the power of a mission statement

How will your new restaurant business identify itself and be introduced to the public?  What exactly is your new restaurant going to offer and what might someone expect to experience when they walk through the doors?  Not only that, how would you like to be remembered as?

Defining your concepts mission and/or vision statement by stating who you are and what you stand for will inaugurate a titanic influence and impact on your business.  It will guide and support decisions made from the launch while also set standards to attract the right team,and ensure they ‘Get It’ from the beginning.

Celebrity Chef Brian Duffy mentions the following in regards to the importance of “visioning” for your new restaurant.

Write down a mission statement of what to expect and the core values you expect the business to uphold. Define the 10 things that you will not allow any exception for at your business.

Parts of a mission statement could be: Team Work … Every position is equally important to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. We are a team, a united front- we all look good together, we all look bad together. We will take ownership of every guest issue. We will never tell a guest “that’s not my department.” It takes all of us working together to make this a success.

Commitment to Excellence … We will continue to offer a memorable experience. Excellence is a habit and an on-going process that will allow us to be better than our best competitor.

Once these standards have been established, don’t allow for any exceptions or failure to adhere to them.

Some restaurants will post these mission statements in plain sight of their customers and employees.  The very successful Panera Bread Brand is known to post their mission statement near their entrances and exits.  It reads:

“At Panera Bread, we believe in raising, serving and eating food that is good, and good for you.To us, that means food should be clean, honest and made just the way you like it.”    

Others use their tagline to clearly define their mission for customers to instantly understand what they stand for. By way of example, newly launched Phood Farmacy has a tagline “Harm Free Food’ thus stating that its food is as clean as it gets, and its name clearly relates to the Food is Medicine.

By way of summarizing the 3 elements – we simply say;

Be Different, Promote your difference, and Execute your difference flawlessly, every day!

Author – Robert Ancill, The Next Idea Group