Spending on bars and restaurants has grown twice as fast as other retail spending in the U.S. over the last decade. And by July 2017, Americans were spending more on eating out than on food at home for the first time in history.
Ready to get in on the action and launch a new restaurant this year? Read up on these 10 new restaurant ideas that will help you thrive in the notoriously competitive restaurant world.
Offer over-the-top, Instagram-friendly fare
If you didn’t post your dish, then was your meal even worth it? That’s the mindset of a growing number of social media–minded foodies, who are always seeking the newest, hottest, most outlandish items to post on their blogs and social accounts.
From the #cronut to the #rainbowbagel to insane #blacktap sundaes, having at least one highly Instagrammable item on the menu creates social interest and positions your business as an experiential dining destination.
Whether you want to open a burger joint or a French bistro, think about creating a buzzworthy dish that draws in customers (in addition to a menu that keeps them coming back for more).
Offering produce and proteins from nearby farms is nothing new, but what about a restaurant where not only the ingredients are sourced locally but also the origins of the menu items?
Consider a concept that celebrates local heritage — where every dish on the menu originated in your area or region — and then work with nearby farmers, fishers, bakers, etc. to bring this hyperlocal vision to life.
Be more than a restaurant
Sometimes unlikely combinations make for the best pairings (ahem, peanut butter and jelly). The same can be said for restaurants that team up with seemingly disparate businesses.
Consider combining a coffee shop or cafe with another business within the same space, like Three Seat Espresso & Barber in New York, a cafe with — you guessed it — a three-seat barbershop. Other business ideas to combine with a coffee shop are clothing boutique, bookstore, dry cleaners, and nail salon.
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Tap into pop culture nostalgia
There’s something irresistibly appealing about the decades when you were a kid or coming of age, and for Gen Xers and millennials, that’s the ’80s and ’90s, respectively. Transport diners back to social media–free times in a space that immerses them in the music, fashion trends, and pop culture of the era.
That doesn’t mean the food has to be completely retro (it should still appeal to modern palates), but play with a few throwback ingredients and creative names for dishes.
Offer a new take on the supper club
Give diners an unmatched experience with an intimate meal cooked by a top local chef, surrounded by fellow foodies at a community table. Invite potential diners to apply online for an evening with a specific chef, but keep the menu and even location details to a minimum. Depending on demand, offer the dinners monthly or even weekly.
Design your space with must-see decor
Diners might appreciate industrial chic design elements like Edison bulbs, reclaimed wood, and subway tiles, but that won’t get them clamoring for a reservation.
For the same reason that foodies seek outlandish, unicorn-themed dishes, they want to visit restaurants with bold, post-worthy decor, which can range from the patterned tile floor at Media Noche in San Franciscoy (great for shoe shots) to the all-millennial-pink Pietro Nolita in New York.
Obviously, the menu has to be strong enough to bring back repeat customers, but selfie-friendly design can get customers in the door.
Open a TV show or movie-themed pop-up
From Anchorman to Saved by the Bell to Stranger Things, some cult-favorite movies and TV shows have been translated into successful pop-ups in the past few years (complete with menu items like “Mac & Screech” and “More Cowbell”).
Fans relish the opportunity to talk about their favorite show or movie with each other. And for restaurant owners, it’s a great opportunity to experiment with menu items before launching a more permanent establishment. (Be sure that if you’re interested in a pop-culture-themed restaurant, you get clearance from the original makers.)
Create a food truck–based bazaar
As the food truck craze has transitioned from trend to movement, diners’ tastes for global cuisine and experimental concepts has grown. Tap into that appetite by opening an indoor market featuring a rotating roster of local food trucks.
There, food truck owners can rent space and reach a new, wider audience, while you can offer customers a fresh alternative to dining out and enough options to satisfy any crew.
Choose an unexpected location
You could serve the greatest food in the world, but if customers don’t want to visit your restaurant, you won’t survive. Give yourself an advantage by opening up shop in an intriguing or unusual location, like an old factory, church, or historic home (bonus points for ties to famous families, notorious crimes, or rumored hauntings). And don’t limit yourself to brick-and-mortar locations — converted ships, planes, and trains are other appealing destinations for adventurous diners.