With hundreds – if not thousands – of restaurants to choose from in any given urban area it might be tempting to believe that innovative restaurant ideas are hard to come by. Here are ten innovative restaurant indeas that offer proof that the best – and most innovative – restaurant ideas may be yet to come.
10 Innovative Restaurant Ideas Provide Inspiration for the Hospitality Industry
Pizza in a bowl. Spaghetti that can be eaten on the go. Sub sandwiches turned into salads – nearly any popular food or drink can be reimagined into a new form and served up in a new, buzz-worthy way.
Inspiration: NYC’s Spaghetti Incident, which serves up spaghetti in containers that are ready to go on the road.
2. Different strokes for different folks.
Innovative restaurant ideas aren’t just about menu items. Extend exclusive hours or offers to loyalty club members, seniors, singles or those defined by other differentiators. Draw up separate menus customized to specialty diner preferences; i.e., whole menus just for vegetarians, people with gluten allergies, dieters, etc., so they don’t have to look longingly at things they cannot have.
Inspiration: Nando’s Peri-Peri s in Chicago, whose owner treats the people who live and work nearby as their top priority, giving them a chance to experience each of their restaurants in the days before each location’s grand opening.
3. Digital Kiosks and Table POS Displays
Walk into a small town American diner and you’re likely to see an old-fashioned dessert case where pastries and pies sit on display, waiting to be bought or ordered. Technology makes it possible for any restaurant to create a virtual display case on kiosks or tabletop POS where patrons could see everything and anything on the menu including photos, chef’s notes and real diner reviews.
Inspiration: Rhode Island-based Chelo’s Hometown Bar and Grille has a virtual pie case that gives diners a mouth-watering peek at the desserts that are fresh right now.
4. Indulgence Themed Restaurants
Providing truly unique experiences may be the ultimate in innovative restaurant ideas. Arby’s off-the-menu “Meat Mountain” made the news when viral buzz let carnivorous diners know they could order a sandwich that included every meat sold in the chain’s sandwiches all on one incredible sandwich. Restaurants that devote themselves to simple ideas and single concepts could win over meat lovers, veggie lovers, fruit lovers, dessert lovers, and others who only have one thing on their minds.
Inspiration: Another innovative Chicago restaurant, RPM Steak repurposes butchering trimmings to make meaty rubs to brush onto steaks in lieu of butter.
5. Mood Menus
Keeping with the idea of themed-restaurants in this list of innovative ideas, establishments could devote themselves to menus that offer pick-me-ups for people feeling the blues, passion-inspiring foods for love birds, foods that pacify for people who are angry or calming choices for people who feel anxious or overly enthused.
Inspiration: Bespoke Oysters in Washington DC, which classifies itself as “passion food hospitality.”
6. Wait-less Restaurants
Diners might want service to slow down – not speed up – in restaurants that offer food for the brain as well as the body. There are countless ways that you could add activities and games to the menu. Supply paper and crayons by way of butcher-paper-covered tables like they do at Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Print out word searches or crossword puzzles. Provide patrons with short stories or poems to read while they wait. Hold digital trivia contests where diners can compete with the computer, staff, others at their table or against other tables in the restaurant.
Inspiration: The walls of the Plum Bar in Oakland, CA are lined with pages taken from real poetry books, chosen by the owner and staff. The Ampersand at Kinmont in Chicago, a 600-foot private event space whose walls are – literally – a ready canvas for guests as they are completely covered in chalkboard.
7. Two of a Kind Menus
Go the extra mile in making recommendations so that if a patron is ordering a cheese burger, they will know it’s perfect pairings for drinks, sides, appetizers and desserts. Think of it as an upscale way to mimic the ‘combo’ upsell done every day, all day long in the fast food industry.
Inspiration: Scrumptious drink and dessert pairings offered up at Gamlin Whiskey House in St. Louis, MO.
8. Designated Dining
Choose a new charity to benefit each month of the year, or choose a handful and let diners decide where a portion of their evenings’ spend will go. Highlight local causes which are likely to be near and dear to your target market’s hearts. This will be great fodder for PR, social media and email marketing, giving diners one more reason to choose your restaurant. Keep a tally on website and digital display so patrons feel good every time they walk through the door.
Inspiration: Seattle’s Saltys Waterfront Seafood and Grill donates thousands of dollars every year to more than 300 local charities with their gift cards for auctions and fund raisers. The idea of dining out for charity is such a natural fit that the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has even listed a set of tips for restaurants that want to choose the right local charities for their give-back programs.
9. Key Takeaways
Left-overs don’t have to be the only momento a diner takes away from your restaurant and innovative restaurant ideas aren’t just about what happens at your place of business. This about what you could give diners in the form of a small gift, gift card or some other takeaway that keeps your restaurant top of mind long after the visit is over.
Inspiration: Jax Café in Minneapolis, which prints personalized matchbooks on-site for guests.
10. Crowdsourced LTO
Give your patrons the ability to vote up drinks, appetizers, entrees and desserts they want to see on the menu next month. Require email or mobile phone number for voting so that you can notify them when their voted-on items get added to the menu and extend a special offer for them to return to thank them for voting.
Inspiration: Dallas’s Kitchen LTO, a permanent pop-up restaurant which features a new menu, chef and décor every 6 months.
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