Food Trends That Died Out: How to Choose a “Gimmick” That Sticks
In the world of restaurants, there have been many a chain. Chains where different types of foods are offered, themes that dictate décor or menu items – maybe even something completely unique, such as paper hats with insults on them or free peanuts where shells are thrown on the floor – for convenience and to condition the floor. Whatever it is, it’s something different than most eateries are able to provide. It keeps customers coming back for more. They know this [fill in the blank] is what your restaurant provides, and when they want something new – or rather something very specific – it’s your location that’s on their list.
These gimmicks – if you will – have been around for years, allowing all types of restaurants to stay in business for one simple reason: it’s out of the ordinary. The challenge, however, comes in the form of longevity. Some gimmicks stick around for a few months (whether booming for a short amount of time or fizzling from the beginning), while others are able to make it for the long haul.
So what’s the difference? What allows some gimmicks to work, while others can’t hack it in the restaurant world?
The answer: your customers.
Choosing Your Theme
When setting out to open up a restaurant that offers “something different,” there are a few questions that you should ask yourself. Maybe even a few others to get an honest and widespread opinion before jumping in. They’re questions that can help separate the good ideas from the ugly, and the brave from the just plain terrible.
With each theme or idea ask yourself:
Is It Fun? Will visitors have a good time with said theme? Will they want to return with friends or family to show just how entertaining a restaurant can be? Is it an experience or just a place to have a meal? (Either way, the food should be delicious, not just something to fill them up.)
Is It Practical? Just how much extra work will the theme cause? Is there a positive ratio to how much work is needed vs. how much business is coming in? Whatever the theme – or aspects that work to make your company unique – it shouldn’t be something that causes excess stress, work, or funds for the customers, your employees, or yourself.
Is It Cost Effective? How much money does the theme cost on any given day? Does it create a higher fee for your food or services? Is it bringing in enough business to make up for said fees? Does it create its own word-of-mouth advertising? Is it something different enough that newspapers will want to write about it? Whatever it is that you do, it should be “out there” enough to draw attention, but not so “out there” that it’s intimidating or just plain weird.
What’s the Price Point? Again with the money – the most important aspect of all. If food is too expensive, customers won’t come in. Even if the food is delicious, they’ll save it for special occasions (or avoid it altogether).
Out of a poll with successful franchise owners, they unanimously agreed that a “just-right” price point is what helps set businesses apart. Companies need to find prices that allow them to profit, but without gouging customers in the process or charging fees that are too different than their competitors’. (Too high and customers will eat elsewhere, and too low and you’re likely to create enemies. Enemies with growing motivation to steal away your business.)
Do People Enjoy It? Do they like the theme? Is it creative and enjoyable or something weird and creepy? Far too many times restaurant owners have gone for something over the top and ended up with a closet full of toilet bowl soup dishes … or nurse waitress aprons … or baked potato wrappers with textures and neon patterns on them. Items that are interesting, yes, but outside of most folks’ comfort zone.
Has It Been Done Before? Finally, ask yourself if a gimmick has been done before in your area. If so, either it failed, or is still in business and taking up the market. (Or was done incorrectly, which will take extra research to prove.)
Instead, find something that is new to the area, but still within the realm of what your market will enjoy. Sure it’s a tricky balance to pin down, but once uncovered, will create a successful and growing business for years to come.