Being as creative as you like and being able to reflect some of your personality is one of the most satisfying things about opening your restaurant. It’s the service and atmosphere as well as the actual menu that help to create a restaurant theme and merely coming up with an interesting sounding menu isn’t enough, although customers are inevitably attracted to something different. It can be a challenge knowing what sort of theme will give you an advantage over your competition and is the best choice for you.

Know Your Own Bias

It’s a good thing to have a starting point, and you have one if you have some idea of what type of restaurant you want to open and operate, such as a coffee house, sandwich shop or steak and seafood place. You may feel strongly that there is a distinct lack of steak restaurants in your neighborhood, although you should be careful about not letting your personal bias and opinions be solely responsible for your decision.

Try to look at other restaurants in your area from a potential customer, keeping in mind that they will be competing with you in the near future, even if you don’t especially like them. Many people like loud music in the background when they have dinner, although you may be one of those people who doesn’t care for loud music in restaurants. Your neighborhood may need a few more family-friendly eating establishments. But it’s important to remember these aren’t facts, simply your own personal opinion.

Large companies regularly set up focus groups to help them to come up with effective advertising and products that their customers want, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t do that on a smaller scale. You basically put a list of pointed questions to a group of between 10 and 15 people, although you should be sure not to make all of the family and friends.

Determine Who Your Audience Is

Figure out the type of audience that you hope your restaurant will attract, such as men or women, families, blue or white collar diners. Keep in mind that different types of customer are looking for different things; a beer and a quick meal on the way home appeals more to the typical white collar customer, while that format may not attract families with young children into your restaurant.

Various other aspects of your operation are determined by your audience, and not just the prices and the menu. The opening hours, overall design and look, and the seating capacity are all dependent on who you are trying to get through the doors. You probably don’t need a full-service sports bar or to be open past midnight if you are primarily trying to appeal to children and families.

Know Your Customers

Your restaurant concept has a lot more idea of succeeding if you find out as much as you can about your potential customers. Good sources of information about the household size, average income, age, and other demographics include your local chamber of commerce, small business bureau, and the United States Census results.

You can make your restaurant business plan stronger and also give more depth to your concept by including other information about your area in your demographics. For example, you may want to determine how popular your area is with tourists, and whether visitors are attracted by other nearby pursuits, such as beaches, skiing or other outdoor activities.

Study Your Competition

Look at how your restaurant may be different from your competition and what you can do better. Look at similar restaurants with prices that are close to yours once you have determined your price range and appropriate target audience. You may find other restaurants have different customers in the evenings and at lunchtime, or at the weekend as opposed to during the week.

Food Trends

Pizza and burgers will always be popular although other trends come and go – think bottled water or artisan panini sandwiches. The Food Network and similar TV channels are good sources of what’s fashionable and popular, as are magazines such as Gourmet and Bon Appetit. You can best create your theme by knowing what is and isn’t popular.