Tips for developing or rebranding a restaurant concept

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By Diane Chiasson

Whether you are thinking of opening a new restaurant or rebranding your current concept, what you come up with during the initial stages of your restaurant’s development could already decide the fate of your success.

With so much competition in the marketplace, it is essential that you come up with an original and unique concept that would attract customers and make money.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, believes you must follow a few simple rules before you decide on your restaurant’s concept:

1. Location, location, location

A great concept does not always fit in every location. In choosing the right location, you need to figure out what is the demographic and lifestyle group you want to target. If you already have a location, you need to study the area and the local market demand to see if your concept is something that would sell in that area. It is also advisable to study your competition and see what types of concepts they offer, and determine if there are too many of one type of concept and not enough of another. Find the missing piece and fill it in.

2. Be original but accessible

A winning concept is one that stands out from the crowd. If you enter a market saturated with concepts similar to the one you have in mind, you will end up with higher marketing costs and increased competition.

Your restaurant’s concept should be fun, interesting and original enough to draw in customers. But don’t get too original so that your restaurant crosses the line into strangeness. Most importantly, you want your customers to be comfortable and have a good time.

3. Follow trends

Follow food trends closely to see what’s currently popular and what’s passé. A strong concept can take a trend and turn it into a long-term success. However, you do not want to develop a restaurant concept based on a trend that has come and gone.

4. Be realistic about your budget

Before you start anything, make sure you have the funds to get it done. If you have a limited budget, you might not want to embark on an upscale restaurant concept. Kitchen equipment can be costly, so make sure you are getting only what you need. Be innovative with your menu, and come up with items that might not need to be cooked in a $20,000 oven. It is advisable to spend a few dollars by hiring a consultant before you begin design and construction to be certain that every move you make will earn you money – not cost you money. Investing extra money at the outset of your restaurant operation can save you much more time and money in the future.

5. Be profitable

Ensure that your concept is profitable. You may want to open a restaurant based on a few good dishes you know how to make, but do those dishes work in a restaurant environment? You need to factor in the cost of the food, how much time it takes to prepare, how much labour you will need, and how quickly you will be able to turn your tables. Your menu items should also use several of the same ingredients in different ways, featured in different dishes. Keep your food costs as low as you can.

6. Research regulations

There is nothing more frustrating than having a plan and not being able to follow through due to government regulations. Regulations vary from province to province, but there is always tons of paperwork to go through and understand. There will also be several inspections you need to pass before you are able to open your restaurant. Do your research and homework so that you know what to expect. It is highly recommended that you seek professional support like an attorney, accountant, architect, engineer, etc., before you open your restaurant. If you don’t meet regulations, you could be subject to civil and even criminal liability that could put you out of business before you even get into business.

7. Choose a concept that suits your personality

Most importantly, decide on a concept that suits your personality. Are you opening a restaurant because you like people or because you like food? If you like people, choose a restaurant concept that allows you to interact with customers on a regular basis. If you like food, you might want to choose a concept that is more operational, like a catering business or a bakery. Whatever you decide, it must be a concept that you are passionate about.


About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto. Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com.

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