How to Determine a Restaurant Concept

Understanding Different Types of Restaurant Concepts

Cheerful waitress serving food to businessman at outdoor cafe
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One of the first steps in opening a restaurant is defining the concept. You should determine an overall theme that ties the menu with the prices and the overall ambiance to meet customer expectations. You also want to offer customers a great dining experience that will attract new customers as well as encourage return visits. Here are some concepts to consider before starting a business in the restaurant industry.


Originating in 16th century France, buffet dining has stood the test of time and continues to be a popular choice for many restaurant customers. By definition, a buffet is a meal where guests serve themselves from a variety of dishes set out on a table or sideboard.

Fast Casual

One of the biggest trends is fast casual, which is slightly more upscale than fast food. Fast casual restaurants offer disposable dishes and flatware, but food tends to be presented as more upscale, such as gourmet breads and organic ingredients. Panera Bread is an example of a fast casual restaurant.

Café or Bistro

A café is a restaurant that does not offer table service. Customers order their food from a counter and serve themselves. A bistro, which is sometimes called a café, offers full meals.


Just as the name implies, a casual restaurant theme is well…casual, from the food to the atmosphere to the prices. Many independent restaurants have a casual theme. A mom-and-pop diner would be a casual restaurant.

Fine Dining

The term fine dining brings to mind all kinds of images, from crisp white table cloths to waiters in tuxedos. A fine dining restaurant offers patrons the finest in food, service, and atmosphere. It is also the highest priced type of restaurant you can operate.


A restaurant franchise offers many benefits over independent restaurants, such as instant name recognition and a turn-key operation. However, buying a franchise can be costly. Also, there are many rules and regulations that come along with operating this type of restaurant. You should determine if buying a restaurant franchise is right for you.

Food Truck

A food truck is a restaurant on wheels. It has several distinct advantages over a traditional eat-in restaurant, such as it can travel to customers, it has low overhead, and it requires less staff. However, a food truck is still a business that requires a lot of work and attention, especially in the first couple of years.


Restaurant catering offers you a chance to increase both your sales and your customer base. People already love your food, so why not capitalize on that and offer catering services as well.

Ethnic Cuisine

This is one of the simplest restaurant concepts, building around a specific type of food, such as Mexican, Chinese, Indian, or Italian. The menu, décor, and restaurant name should all reflect the type of cuisine.

Restaurant Concept

In an attempt to stand out from the competition, you may be tempted to design your own concept, perhaps fast food Italian or a fine dining food truck. While originality is important when opening a new restaurant, you want to make sure your restaurant concept is clear to the customer.

Restaurants come in all shapes and sizes. From fast food to fine dining, a restaurant concept helps outline the type of menu you're offering, the decor, and the price. Newer concepts such as food trucks, pop-ups, and family casual are among the fastest growing segments in the restaurant industry. If you are considering opening a restaurant, study the different types of concepts and their costs and customer base to identify the right concept for you. Adapting an existing concept to make it unique is a better move and trademark of the most successful restaurant chains.