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How to develop a restaurant concept plan

Posted by Doug Radkey on Jul 30, 2017 8:15:00 AM
Doug Radkey

A restaurant’s concept is the lifeline of its brand and longevity in the market. It makes your venue stand apart from the competition, and it’s ultimately your restaurant’s unique selling proposition.

A concept plan is something every aspiring restaurateur should look to complete. Due to the high level of risk for independent restaurant related start-ups, it’s wise to take advantage of every planning step possible.

Here are a few things to consider when developing a concept plan.

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An idea is not a concept 

The ‘idea’ one has needs to be articulated and deeply researched through the completion of a feasibility study. Once that idea has been researched and the market, location, technical, business, and financial viability of the idea has passed a series of reviews, a concept plan can then be started.

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Keep these characteristics in mind

When first developing a winning concept, there are five key characteristics an aspiring restaurateur needs to keep in mind. The concept must be designed to be scalable, profitable, memorable, consistent, and sustainable. If you can apply these five characteristics to each stage of the decision making process, you will be positioning yourself for success!

It’s more than cuisine 

Most conceptual ideas start at the food or cuisine level. New restaurateurs need to remember that restaurants don’t just sell food and beverages; they sell experiences through the enhancement of guest emotions. When planning a concept, it’s imperative to have a focus on the style of menu and niche of cuisine, but it needs to be taken a step further to ensure it’s a menu that the market not only wants and needs, but a menu that elevates the guests’ variety of senses.

Incorporate your choice of messaging 

The development of a brand is much more than color choices and logos. One of the best ways to begin laying out your brand’s messaging is to complete a vision, value, mission, and culture statement. Walt Disney once said: “when your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier!” This is also incredibly true when it comes to restaurants.

Once you know your values and other statements, and have refined them to be simple, memorable paragraphs, then you, your future staff and your community will truly understand your concept. It will also allow you as an owner-operator to make clear, educated decisions, in terms of further design attributes, business financing decisions, and the hiring of a team, that meet your values and messaging – something that will assist in controlling future labor costs.

Develop a budget 

Building, buying, or renovating a restaurant is often not a cheap endeavor. The largest cost factor is going to be the construction and renovation period.

At the concept development phase, it’s crucial to gather as much information as possible in terms of your desired design features and vision. Are you in a financial position to develop the restaurant to your desired vision? If not, find ways to scale back in terms of size and decor while still matching the concept you want to deliver. If scaling back, can the restaurant still meet projected financial goals set-out in the feasibility study? Can the kitchen still produce the proposed menu?

Learn how to present your concept 

If you need further funding or are preparing to meet with designers, architects, or consultants, creating a presentation to pitch your concept (after a business plan is written) should also be considered. Keep in mind, as much as you’re selling the restaurant concept and explaining the gap it will fill within the market, you are also selling yourself. This is the opportunity to tell your story — a great way to start your presentation. Show your passion for food, beverage, hospitality, and general business.

One final item to remember is that investors are looking for opportunities that present themselves in regards to scalability, profitability, consistency, and sustainability as well. Make sure these characteristics are visible in all aspects of your concept presentation.

A winning concept goes far beyond culinary trends, and assists with the development of your menu, design, and overall branding strategy. Once your concept plan is complete, it’s time to write a strategic business plan, the third plan in the overall planning process.




Doug Radkey.png  As the Founder & President of KRG Hospitality Inc. in addition to being the author of the book ‘Bar Hacks’, Doug Radkey’s impressive career spans more than two decades and includes all aspects of food, beverage, and hospitality development. This storied brand has proven success since 2009, throughout a variety of markets found within Canada, The United States, and abroad by being a creative agency with a focus on planning, development, and support for independent restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality related properties.


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Topics: Hospitality operations, Hospitality managers, Restaurants