9 Great (and Realistic) Examples of Innovation in the Restaurant Business

Innovation in the restaurant business is an essential factor restaurateurs can leverage to their advantage.

An endless amount of genuinely inspiring ideas, concepts, and trends are woven into the very fabric of the restaurant industry and can be found in some of the most unsuspecting locations across the globe. With so many sources for restaurant ides available to find inspiration, there’s no limit to what your restaurant innovation can become. Check out these great examples of innovation in the restaurant business.

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As a restaurant owner, are you turned into the latest restaurant industry trends, restaurant ideas, or just restaurant innovation strategies? Whether you’re a foodie, top chef, or an owner invested in your restaurant business, it doesn’t matter how many great ideas you might have. You’re going to learn a lot from other restaurant concepts.

Innovation in the restaurant business has been around for a long time, and there’s a good chance you’ve heard of some of the more common themes these days: green, sustainability, clean eating, organic, farm to table, fusion, rooftop gardens, Instagram tables, Yelpers…

And that list barely scratches the surface.

Creative restauranteurs have found—and continue finding/creating—virtually limitless solutions to solving common problems and challenges all restaurants face. Innovative restaurants have been figuring out how to reduce costs while increasing profits for decades.

There are creative solutions for attracting more customers and building relationships with regular return visitors. Solutions revolve around improving the workplace for restaurant staff members (at all levels). There are strategies for improving and collecting more customer reviews. When it comes to staying abreast of the most current trends, the solutions are limited only by your creativity.

This is an exciting—and perhaps intimidating—revelation for restaurant owners to consider.

With the sky as your limit, do you feel inspired or overwhelmed? With so many potential solutions to explore, you might already have a million ideas and can’t wait to get started. Or, you’ve begun your research only to find there are so many potential choices, you don’t know where to start.

Here are some great examples of innovation in the restaurant industry that address common challenges every restaurant owner must contend with.

Innovation in Restaurant Business That Attracts More Guests

Everyone wants their restaurant concept to succeed. Attracting more guests to your restaurant is a surefire way to increase your chances of sustainable success.

But how?

Marketing and advertising are great but tend to be expensive. You can hope your location will be highly visible and that word of mouth about your restaurant spreads like wildfire. But there are other ways.

Say you want to attract a younger audience. We know that Gen Z consumers and their spending habits are very different than even the Millennials. In the 2018 Generational report from Technomic, Gen Z represents a shifting demographic of diversity, tech-savviness, and an evolving approach to dining out.

Many restaurants are working on ways to cater to Gen Z. Integrating dining experiences with social media, like Instagram and Snapchat, is one way to reach the younger crowds. Cultivating dining experiences with themes or promotions that are relevant to a variety of events, movements, and hot topics give Gen Z customers reseasons to post and share.

Others are focusing on this generation’s diversity and are incorporating more international and ethnic food choices. There’s also the consideration of delivery and takeout. Modern solutions allow restaurants to explore new ways to get food to their customers, from third party delivery solutions to predictive A.I. ordering through apps and online activity.

No matter who your target audience is, here are a few examples to inspire you!

1. MeMe’s Diner, New York City

Taking on the challenge of inclusivity head-on, MeMe’s Diner trains their staff to use gender-neutral terms when talking with guests. Each month, they also host a service industry-focused “family meal” for the local LGBTQ+ restaurant community, providing a place for people to come together and share food in a culture of acceptance and inclusivity.

2. Holiday Inn

Appealing to families is always a popular choice. Holiday Inn features a Happy Hour for Kids, where they serve chocolate milk and cookies just for kids. This not only excites kids, but it also brings their parents in to eat, which, of course, gets them to spend money!

3. Houlihan’s

Instead of creating one drink menu to rule them all, Houlihan’s builds drink menus based upon the local culture and typical type of clientele the restaurant frequently caters to. Some focus more on value, while others are looking for something unique and are willing to spend—and expect—more from the drinks they are served. Styling a drink menu to meet the needs of this range of customers not only helps create a better guest experience, but it also reflects local flavors and sentiment.

How Restaurant Innovation Generates Awesome Reviews

There are so many creative and innovative ways your restaurant can impact and impress guests to leave positive reviews. Even something as simple as menu design can go a long way toward creating moments that potential reviewers may talk about in their reviews.

Getting great reviews is an integral part of your overall restaurant success strategy. Your restaurant’s reputation—both on and offline—is important to other diners. It turns out that at least 77% of customers care more about online reviews than reviews from professional critics.

Asking for feedback and reviews at the bottom of guest checks or in emails to those on your mail list are simple ways to encourage guests to review your restaurant and service.

With the dramatic rise of people engaging on Yelp, open table, Google reviews, Instagram, and other social media platforms, the likelihood that customers will want to write a review is higher than ever before.

However, you can’t just rely upon those people who are going to be doing this as professional Yelpers either. You’re going to have to get creative if you want to encourage people to leave reviews and feedback about there experiences at your establishment.

Here are some innovative restaurant ideas for inspiration:

4. Boston Chops Downtown: Instagram Table

With the rise of Instagram’s popularity, creative owners like those at Boston Chops Downtown invested $10,000 on a specially-designed table for people to take pictures. After recognizing a common trend in people spending time trying to get “that perfect shot” of their plate, these owners decided to capitalize on the opportunity. With special lighting, table arrangement, and other features, tables like this assist guests while encouraging any and everyone interested to participate in sharing their experience online.

5. Parlor Pizza, Chicago, IL.

Many restaurants are offering to charge guests’ phones while they dine, but none like Parlor Pizza. Parlor Pizza offers to charge guests’ phones both safely and securely because they invested in code-protected cubby lockboxes. This keeps guests’ phones safe while charging and removes phones from the table, encouraging guests to interact with one another. As a bonus, guests tend to stay longer, ordering more food and drinks when they’re more engaged with others in their group.

6. Mountain Brauhaus, Gardiner, N.Y.

Sustainability is a big deal for your customers and your restaurant’s profits. Educating guests on how your restaurant is doing its part is a great way to generate positive energy. Take Mountain Brauhaus, for example. They put a flyer on every table saying “skip the straw and save the turtles,” explaining why the restaurant stopped using plastic straws. They also encourage customers to take this practice with them by offering an opportunity to buy stainless steel straws for $1.50 each.

Innovative Restaurants That Create a Great Environment for Happy Staff

One of the most important factors to a restaurants’ success is the quality of its staff. This includes both the front and back of house, as well as the management. Creating a positive work environment is critical to your team doing their respective jobs well.

There are a lot of ideas surrounding this topic, but ultimately, your staff needs an environment where they can work well together, make enough money, and be provided the right kinds of support in their personal lives so that they don’t want to go work for someone else.

In short, this is work-life balance.

Any restaurant owner worth their salt understands these key concepts, and many have seen the stark contrast between a staff that loves working together and one that operates poorly. A restaurant’s success ultimately lay firmly in the hands of its staff—ALL of them, from the top on down.

Proper management is a big part of this, but so are hiring standards, the pay offered, and support provided in and out of the restaurant. Restaurants that offer great benefits tend to attract and retain quality staff for longer periods of time.

Here are a few great examples of innovation in the restaurant business that demonstrate the restauranteur’s keen awareness of this:

7. Snooze

Career development is important to everyone—especially to those in the service industry, where just making enough money can be a daily struggle. Research shows that engagement on the job is key to management retention. At Snooze, manager training doesn’t end once they’re hired. All managers working for Snooze receive three hours of additional training every month to continue their professional development, providing the opportunity to grow and better their lives and careers.

8. The KFC Foundation

It’s an unfortunate reality that many people don’t understand personal finance very well, or at all. The KFC Foundation launched MyChange, a personal finance program for employees to combat this problem. The program educates students about personal finance, teaching skills related to budgeting, saving, and working with financial advisors. Helping their staff not just to make money—but also to keep, save, and invest their money—plays a critical role in their personal lives, while also benefitting the economy in positive ways.

9. Dunkin’ Donuts

Building an educated and stronger staff is vital to the health and well-being of everyone. Mentorships can go a long way towards providing support and advice, as well as educating people on the impact of their decisions. Dunkin’ Donuts identified this and now provides weekly mentor meetings for its staff members. This not only creates a strong system of support and a sense of community within the restaurant culture, but it gives younger employees a chance to ask questions, discuss problems, and receive advice. Additionally, it helps to give older, more seasoned staff members a sense of pride and value in knowing that they are impacting lives in positive ways.

It’s not hard to find great examples of innovation in the restaurant business. There are so many creative restaurant ideas and innovative restaurants; your choices are nearly endless. Whether you have a well-formed concept in mind already or are looking for inspiration, this list should get those creative gears spinning.


Featured image and post images licensed for use via Unsplash.