No problem. Let’s not beat around the bush and just start with the basics: the kind of restaurant you want to open, and the kind of food you’d serve.

There are three main types of restaurants you can possibly open: upscale, midscale, and quick-service.

When I say quick-service, I mean fast food joints. These places have a fixed-set of menu items, and the menus themselves are limited in scope. All items are prepared as fast as possible, and sold as commodities, i.e. they’re really cheap. Take a look at what McDonald’s been doing and you have your above average fast-food establishment. Fast food, served in a casual setting, typically coupled with drive-through windows. Sometimes they offer take-out services, sometimes they don’t. McDonald’s in Istanbul does, but in Serbia doesn’t. It’s a vicious game of deliveries that differs from country to country.

Notice we haven’t discussed the quality of the food served. Cheap-priced food requires cheap materials or a supply chain so advanced it nearly destroys the craft of actually making food. Hence McDonald’s main brand problem. However, places like In-n-Out or Shake Shack try to make an artisan fast-food experience, by offer similar menu items that are cooked with better meat cuts, slower, as they take pride that they don’t do the entire cook-it-halfway-freeze-it thing just so they could shave a few seconds from waiting on your order.

In return it costs more – almost like a proper meal. So, yeah, you’re paying regular meal prices for healthy (?) fast-food.

Welcome to the land of snake people and free market confusion.

Secondly, the core idea behind fast-food places is just that: fast food. It doesn’t have to be bad. A salad can be made in a blink of an eye. It’s technically fast food. Same goes for kebabs and similarly quick-to-assemble foods. You can open a healthy fast-food place, though you’re going to have to compete in the taste department a lot more fiercely. This category is mostly associated with cheeseburgers and french fries (chips), but you don’t have to dance to everyone else’s tune. Diversify yourself and your menu based on the target group you choose.

Lett in Oslo is a prime example of a healthy fast food restaurant.

Midscale restaurants mostly occupy the sea of space left between fast food and classy establishments. This is the “great value” heaven, as places like these offer slower-to-make full meals for relatively OK prices. People don’t exactly have a set of expectations for these restaurants. They can offer limited- and full-services. Full service restaurants have waiters that cater to customers; an order is placed at the table, and the food is brought out to them. Limited services restaurants ditch the waiters, and must arrive at the counter to complete their order; however, their food is then brought to their table. Places like these often have salad bars and buffets.

I’d say T.G.I. Friday’s is a good example of a causal dining restaurant… largely due to the establishment’s name and my natural affinity towards Friday. It’s a great day.

Now let’s talk about upscale restaurants. They offer full table service. So much so is it full, in fact, that the service is often an exercise in exquisite pampering. The quality of the cuisine is top notch, coupled with an elegantly designed setting that truly provides a luxurious feel. Luxury means something else to almost every person. In the middle east, luxury is gold coupled with Louis Vuitton handbags, or Birkin bags; in the west, luxury is now synonymous with minimalist establishments washed in white; while luxury in Japan or France is an entirely different affair.

Maaemo in Oslo is an excellent example of a well-executed upscale restaurant.

There’s practically a zillion types of food you can serve

Oh boy. Better sit down, pour yourself some coffee, and arm yourself with patience. This one’s a doozy.

Basically, you can go wild with food. But not *too* wild. Let me try and clarify this nuanced view. First of all, consider the target group you want to, well, target: find out what their set expectations are. then find a way to break it. Some restaurant aficionados adore eating out. It’s the best thing out there; you don’t have to cook, or wash the dishes after… it’s the best. They are delighted by their dining experience. However, they also don’t like to be surprised too much.

Imagine a classic diner, complete with 1960 decor and a menu choked full of burgers and shakes of every kind. People looking at the place will, on their own accord, deduce that this is in fact a place that offers burgers and shakes. Pretty boring and expected, right?

The twist is the menu. Imagine that this particular diner offers *classic*, or dare I say *expected* burgers and a menu to match: cheeseburger+fries+milkshake. However, imagine your beautiful self as you sit comfortably by the table, and move your eyes down the menu. You find yourself glancing at the “Parmaburger.”

“What the heck is a Parmaburger?” you find yourself asking out loud.

It’s a burger patty, adorned with rucola, slices of caramelised pear, parmesan cheese, some lettuce for freshens, and dripping in a special yoghurt sauce that complements the entire ordeal.

“I was not expecting this.” you say.

And you’re right.

In this subtle way, the diner has taken your expectations of it, twisted them, and produced an item that delights you with its fresh take on an old classic.

Now imagine the diner serving high-class items. You know, the ones where a serving is just one bite, fantastically designed, and served on a plate 10x the size of the small piece of meat standing in the middle.

Or imagine a classy restaurant serving McDonald’s burgers.

While it may seem fun, it just doesn’t work. Maybe you could make it work? But this is really difficult. Thus, the main take-away here (that’s an excellent pun, sorry not sorry) is this:

Play within people’s expectations.

Not beyond them, not too strictly within them. Have fun with your menus, because food in its essence should be fun. You’re opening a place that offers something people can’t or won’t cook at home. Entertain them, excite them, and avoid being boring at all costs.

Speaking of Websites

Aperitive is a theme we designed solely for restaurants. You can customize it for whatever you want, but we envisioned it as the perfect website design for a contemporary restaurant with a sophisticated menu. Aperitive works well for bars, too, with a little added customization. Try out a demo of Aperitive, or see the features it has packing – integrated menu, reservation system, and more. Check it out


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