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11 Restaurant Ideas for 2020

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While starting a business in any industry can be a leap of faith to a certain extent, opening a restaurant is seen as particularly risky. And while restaurants actually have a greater success rate than is commonly thought, about 17% of all restaurants fail in the first year.

To keep your new restaurant from being one of them, it helps to have a great restaurant idea that will attract customers and keep them coming back. There are endless restaurant ideas out there, but choosing the right one makes all the difference. 

In this guide, we’ll explore several different restaurant ideas—from types of restaurants you can open to features you can offer to help your eatery stand out. 

Good Restaurant Ideas to Try in 2020

If you’re looking for restaurant ideas, there are a few types of restaurant dining experiences for you to consider. To find one that will resonate most with your target audience, you should spend time researching the market to determine what kinds of restaurants already exist and if there’s a need for a specific type of restaurant that you could fill. The following restaurant ideas can help

Food Truck

Food trucks went through a transformation in the last decade to reach a new echelon in the food services industry. While they originally offered customers a quick meal on the go, they’ve since evolved into gourmet destinations that people travel out of their way for. 

You can set up your food truck outside of a busy office park to cash in on the lunch rush, or you can hire your truck for parties, weddings, and other special events. The best part of starting a food truck business is that you can take your business anywhere and you’re not paying expensive rent for a brick-and-mortar location. Plus, a food truck can be a standalone business, or if you’re already running a restaurant, you can add a food truck to your offerings to expose your food to a larger customer base. 

Cafe

A classic, but beloved, restaurant idea is opening a cafe. A pro of this type of restaurant is you don’t have to design an extensive menu. Instead, think baked goods, sandwiches, salads, coffees, teas, and smoothies. 

With more and more people working from home, a cafe where they can go for a quick bite to eat and also get some work done or have a casual business meeting can be the perfect solution. If this sounds like the type of restaurant you’d like to start, check out our guide on everything you need to know to open a cafe.

Pop-Up

A pop-up restaurant is the next good business idea on our list because it’s a way to create hype and get people interested in your business. Pop-up restaurants aren’t open for long and the fact that not everyone will be able to get a reservation can help garner interest—as well as gauge how successful a permanent location may be. 

Another great thing about a pop-up restaurant is that you can change up the location or theme and use it to your restaurant’s advantage. Anything that helps your pop-up stand out can make it the perfect Instagram spot or a fun experience for diners. Consider opening a pop-up around a holiday or season, as well, to pique people’s interest even more.

Family-Style Dining

If you’ve ever gone out to dinner with a large group, you know it can be difficult, especially if your group is full of adventurous eaters who want to try different dishes. That’s where family-style dining comes in—it allows customers to order large dishes for the table to be shared. 

When it comes to restaurant ideas this is a fairly easy one to implement and it can help your restaurant stand out from others. The key to this type of restaurant is designing dishes that complement one another, since your diners will be eating several throughout the course of their meal.

Specialty Restaurant 

The key to a successful restaurant is offering a unique experience that people can’t get anywhere else. While it won’t appeal to everyone, creating a restaurant that specializes in a particular item or ingredient can build a cult following of devoted customers. An example of this is The Meatball Shop of New York City; they specialize in meatballs of all kinds and have become known for it over the years. 

While this restaurant idea won’t require an extensive menu—in fact, you may only offer one thing—you do need to make sure what you do offer is one of the best in its class. So if you want to open a restaurant that only serves burgers, you need to make sure every ingredient, from the patty to the sauce to the bun, is perfect. 

Restaurant Features to Help You Stand Out

No matter what type of restaurant you choose to open, there are certain features you can incorporate to make it stand out from your competition. Consider incorporating one or more of these features to bring more customers to your business. 

Offer Cooking Classes

People love the chance to learn something new, especially if there’s food involved. Why not teach them to cook something new? Not only will it give them a lifelong skill, but they’ll also have a fun story to tell. If your customers come in and love your food, a good way to get them to come back is by offering cooking classes so they can learn what goes into their favorite dishes. 

From wine and cheese pairing, to sushi, pizza, or cupcake making, you can offer a cooking class focused on anything your restaurant specializes in. This is a great activity for corporate events, birthday parties, date nights, and more.

Serve Farm-to-Table Food

A great way to reduce your carbon footprint and support other local businesses is to work with local farmers by being a farm-to-table restaurant. This is a trend that’s caught on in recent years for its sustainability and support for other local businesses. Being a farm-to-table restaurant can also push you to come up with new, innovative menus that are seasonal and festive. 

Consider that those who are concerned with being localvores, or people who eat food from local sources, will be drawn to your restaurant, as well as people who simply enjoy knowing where their food is coming from.

Make It Interactive

An interactive restaurant brings customers into the experience of their meals and makes for a more memorable transaction. Whether you have an open kitchen where customers can watch your chefs hard at work or a more hands-on setup, such as Korean barbecue restaurants where customers grill their own food, there are several ways you can make your restaurant more interactive. 

Making the dining experience immersive or entertaining turns the meal into an experience rather than a means to an end, and is sure to attract customers who want a unique dining atmosphere.

Have a Defined Theme

People love to visit restaurants with fun themes that, again, make dining an experience rather than simply just a meal. You can play off the location, different time periods, television shows, genres of music, cuisine, or just something that lends itself to great decor, like a tiki theme.

Besides decoration, you should incorporate your theme into every aspect of your restaurant, from the menu to the servers’ outfits, and more. In New York City’s Times Square, Ellen’s Stardust Diner provides a unique experience where the servers put on a show for diners and the menu features items like “Blue Suede” and “Mama Mia Meatloaf.”

Make It Picturesque

Social media and online reviews play a huge role in the success of restaurants these days so making your restaurant so picturesque that people can’t help but share it online is another restaurant idea to consider. Customers will already be blown away by the food at your restaurant, but making the setting beautiful will heighten the experience as well and help you with your social media marketing efforts. Tons of plants, unique lighting installations, bold color choices, striking artwork, and more all contribute to a dining experience people won’t be able to help but share.

Partner With a Brewery or Winery

If you have a local brewery or winery near your restaurant, you can carry their products to help set your restaurant apart from others in the area. Similar to being a farm-to-table restaurant, selling local wines and beers will get the attention of localvores and people who appreciate supporting their local businesses.

It can also help reduce your costs because your products are coming from nearby and the companies you partner with may be more willing to offer a discount for another local business. This is a great opportunity for you to start a small business partnership and create a reciprocal relationship. 

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re thinking of starting a new restaurant or you want to revamp your existing restaurant, you can implement any of the restaurant ideas above to create a unique dining experience.  

Being willing to adapt to changing trends is one of the key things you can do as a business owner to attract new customers and keep old ones excited and interested in your restaurant. As social media and the internet have evolved, they’ve also changed the dining experience. Picture-perfect meals ready for Instagram and beautiful restaurant interiors can be some of the best free advertising for your restaurant. 

Don’t forget to think about other experiences or meals you’ve enjoyed at restaurants and think critically about what sets them apart. This concept can serve as inspiration for your own restaurant as well. 

Nina Godlewski

Nina Godlewski

Nina is a staff writer at Fundera where her goal is to help make complex business topics more accessible for small business owners. She was previously a staff writer at Newsweek covering technology, science, breaking news, and culture. She’s also worked as a reporter for Business Insider and The Boston Globe. Nina has a degree in communication studies from Northeastern University. Email: nina@fundera.com.