There’s no denying that the COVID-19 crisis is changing the restaurant industry forever. The industry may have lost a lot, but there are plenty of reasons to hope, too: Vaccines are being rolled out across the United States, and there is still pent-up demand for dine-in options, with 90 percent of baby boomers saying they miss eating out.
There may have been many changes, and restaurateurs may need to pivot as the virus rages on. Still, there will always be room in the world for more restaurant options since there will always be people who want to dine in—we need to be smart about our location and demographic. If you dream of opening your own restaurant but are tired of the same old boring concepts, here are some unique and creative but still doable themes and locations to try this 2021.
Fully investing in a permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant may not be the wisest idea during a pandemic and a recession, but a safer bet is going the pop-up route. It’s a less risky way of testing out a specific neighborhood or market before opening your doors permanently in a more long-term location. One example of this is the Eventide Oyster Co., an oyster bar that started as a pop-up bar before settling on one place in Fenway Park.
Partnership with local farms
While the farm-to-table concept certainly isn’t new, it’s still a model that attracts plenty of customers that lean towards conscious consumerism and ethical sourcing. Not only will you be catering to a health-and-environmentally-conscious market that already exists, but you will also be helping a farming community.
Similar to the farm-to-table concept is any restaurant that is centered on advocacy or doing good for the community. What good cause are you passionate about aside from food? If you have a passion for helping the homeless or mental health awareness, you use this advocacy as your restaurant’s centerpiece by giving a portion of your income to that specific cause. This is a wonderful way to incentivize people to choose dining at your restaurant. It’s not about using good works to boost sales; it’s about using your platform, which is your business, to advocate for this specific need in the world.
Loft restaurant or bar
The best thing about a loft is that they’re generally more spacious, and it can be designed in a way that allows for open windows and good ventilation. This is why a loft restaurant and bar might be a pandemic-friendly business idea in 2021. With the help of a skilled loft conversion specialist, a loft can be upgraded, renovated, and converted into any space that meets the owner’s needs. Something is charming about having to climb a few flights of stairs or even a mere ladder before you get to a certain restaurant or bar.
Building or neighborhood’s history
If you live in a neighborhood or town with a rich history, you can leverage this culture and heritage by centering your restaurant’s cuisine and concept around it. If there are already restaurants or cafes that have tried this approach, you can make yours different by incorporating your own family’s history in the town and how it informed your gastronomic journey. No other restaurateur has your personal history and narrative except you.
Game of chance
Since foot traffic has to be heavily regulated in restaurants, you can do a game of a chance concept wherein guests have to get a ticket for their lunch or dinner on an online waiting room where they get to play a game of chance to be able to grab a table reservation weeks and even months in advance. You have to make sure that their effort and wait are worth it by giving them exceptional food and experience.
Another unique but doable restaurant concept is helping diners unplug by placing a safety box on every table where they can keep their phones and tablets. This can help them focus on their meals and conversations and turn their minds off of work.
Underground or hole-in-the-wall
Hole-in-the-wall or underground restaurants reached mainstream consciousness in the past decade, with young professionals always looking out for seemingly hidden places where they can grab a drink post-working hours. When the pandemic is over, you can also look into having live music or dancing in these types of locations.
Dreaming up of novel restaurant ideas when the economy is still on life support may seem preemptive and even naive, but our lives have to get back to normal at some point. So dream and plan, watch the trends, and see if there’s a gap in the market for your dream restaurant idea.