restaurant concepts and ideas

13 Unique Restaurant Concepts + Theme Ideas to Inspire

What is a Theme-based Restaurant?

A restaurant theme or concept is an idea you build your brand around. In simpler words, the theme in a restaurant defines how your guests perceive your restaurant. Most theme-based restaurants extend their theme beyond the ambiance or interior of their dining area. A well-planned theme-based restaurant excels in all departments, from restaurant furniture to menu design, from music to cuisine, and more. Such restaurants usually take inspiration from heritage, history, art, culture, music, etc., to build their brand by offering a unique dining experience for their guests. Read on to find out some refreshing restaurant theme ideas that you can select for your restaurant:

How do you pick a restaurant theme?

Now that you know what theme based restaurants are, let’s help you select a concept for your restaurant. Before selecting an option for your restaurant theme, you must understand your requirements. Here is a list of questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Who is your target clientele?
  • What is your budget?
  • What food do you want to serve to your guests?
  • How much space do you have?

Next, here are some cool restaurant themes. You can either pick one as it is or try to mix them for a unique dining experience.

1. Fast Food

fast food restaurant

Fast-food restaurants have been extremely popular since the 1950s. They are famous for their affordable dishes, quick service, and convenience. The concept of fast-food chains started with McDonald’s and Burger King in the US and has become a global phenomenon. Nowadays, endless chains like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway, etc., have their unique concept. However, if you are venturing into fast-food chains, understand that the upfront cost of franchising will be quite high compared to opening your own restaurant.

2. Fast Casual

Fast-casual restaurants are the latest trend these days. Think of them as a slightly more expensive and upscale version of fast-food restaurants. They usually feature an open kitchen so that customers can watch as their food gets prepared. Although many fast-casual restaurants offer food in disposable packing like fast-food joints, their dishes use organic and gourmet ingredients.

3. Family Style

family at restaurant

Also known as casual dining throughout the US, family-style restaurants offer medium-priced dishes. The menu features a mix of popular cuisines with signature dishes, dips, toppings, or sauces. Family-style restaurants provide service at the table in non-disposable cutlery in a low-key setting and inexpensive menu. Popular themes in such restaurants include barbecue, Mexican, Americana, etc.

4. Fine Dining

When you think of a fine dining restaurant, you imagine well dressed servers, a three-course meal, crisp tablecloths, premium restaurant furniture, expensive cutlery, etc. Fine dining restaurants are the pinnacle of luxury and feature the best of everything, ambiance, food, and service. Probably the most expensive restaurant type you can operate, fine-dining restaurants are famous for their unique concept.

5. Buffet

buffet restaurant idea

Buffet style dining has been around for ages and continues to be a preferred choice for many restaurant customers. Buffet restaurants usually feature self-service of various dishes laid out on a table. Also, many buffet restaurants offer catering services for special occasions and events.

6. Café or Bistro

A café is another self-service style restaurant. Historically, cafés originated in Europe, were popularized by France, and became global subsequently. Most cafés serve coffee and snacks like pastries and sandwiches in a relaxed ambiance, usually outdoors. Conceptually, a bistro is similar to a café except that while cafés only serve snacks, bistros may serve full meals.

7. New-Age Food Trucks

food truck restaurant concept

Low-cost, convenient, mobile food trucks have gained popularity throughout the US. They have lower overhead, making it easier to set up a new restaurant. Rather than the customers coming to the restaurants, a food truck goes where the customers are. Also, you can manage a food truck with considerably less staff. However, having a successful food truck business requires a lot of effort, especially during an initial couple of years.

8. Pop Up Restaurant

A pop-up restaurant is another trending concept in the hospitality industry. With a history dating back to the 1960s, pop-up restaurants are not a new concept. However, the new age pop-up restaurants thrive on an element of surprise by turning up at unusual places like abandoned warehouses, factories, or rooftops. Pop-up restaurants have different themes and do not require a considerable investment.

9. Pub or Bar

bar restaurant

Pubs or bars have been around for ages now. They are the go-to choice for everyone in good times and bad times, whether catching up with friends over weekends or bonding with workmates. Concept-wise, there are countless options with pubs and bars, from sports bars to cocktail bars, wine bars to discotheques. As an owner, pubs or bars can be lucrative as alcoholic beverages have a high markup. Also, you don’t need a large food inventory to operate. On the flip side, licenses can be expensive, and many are only open during the evenings.

10. Iconic Film/Music

Films have remained a part of our lives for over 100 years now. So, what better way to pay tribute to a music band or movie than opening a themed restaurant for their fans? The idea looks great on paper but is it viable commercially, you ask? The success of a restaurant based on the film, TV show, or music broadly depends on the following factors:

  • How famous or successful is the movie, TV show, or music band/artist?
  • What is loyalty or fan base?
  • How effectively can you bring out the essence of the film or music in your restaurant?

11. Eco-Friendly

eco friendly restaurant

As the current generation becomes more conscious of global warming, sustainability, organic farming, etc., highlighting eco-friendliness through your restaurant can be a game-changer. An eco-friendly restaurant uses recycled materials in its ambiance and locally produced, farm-to-table, seasonal produce as ingredients. Such restaurants thrive in replacing traditional appliances with energy-efficient ones to offer wholesome, nutritional meals with zero food wastage.

12. History

History-themed restaurants represent the legacy of their locality, city, or country. The theme of such restaurants revolves around a historical event with a belief in understanding your roots. History-themed restaurants are especially popular among tourists visiting the area who love to enjoy exotic food. You can recreate the history in your restaurant through traditional food, staff dresses, and interior design. Additionally, you can consider imbibing a museum-like feeling by setting up mini-libraries, interactive audio-video screens, souvenir shops, vintage restaurant furniture, wall arts, etc.

13. Cultural

Metropolitan cities are the epicenter of cultural, religious, and ethnic diversities. Cultural-themed restaurants offer a unique experience to explore and learn about a culture or traditions without traveling to remote locations across the globe. Such restaurants revolve around traditional cooking using authentic ingredients in a culturally inspired decor. Indian, Chinese, Mexican, etc., are some examples of popular culture-themed restaurants that attract locals and tourists alike.

How Do I Choose a Restaurant Concept?

Now that you get a flavor of some restaurant concept ideas, here is how you can pick a theme for your restaurant:

A. Consider your experience and what excites you

Take cues from your past professional or personal experiences. Find out what type of restaurant you would like to visit as a customer. Which cuisine or what kind of restaurant ambiance draws you? When you consider yourself a restaurant-goer, priorities change, and you understand authentic expectations. Chances are your potential customers will also like what you like.

B. Decide your location and customer base

restaurant location

Before finalizing your restaurant theme, you must ensure the project’s feasibility. If you have shortlisted a particular location, survey the area and see how other restaurants are doing in the neighborhood. Explore the demographics to understand the dining preferences of the locals. Accordingly, you will know if your concept will find any takers amongst your target clientele.

C. Keep it consistent

Irrespective of which theme you select for your restaurant, ensure that all the design elements are consistent and reflect your theme. Rather than considering different aspects like menu design, restaurant furniture, interior, uniform, service, dishes, etc., separately, imagine how they contribute to your theme collectively. Even if you get nine things out of 10 perfect, the guests will notice that one thing you didn’t excel at.

What makes a Successful Restaurant Concept?

I. Name of your restaurant

Before your guests can step inside your restaurant and experience your food, ambiance, or service, the first thing they notice is its name. Therefore, you must get your restaurant’s name right. It should identify with your restaurant’s theme or cuisine and reflect what your guests can expect. Try to keep it simple yet catchy, traditional yet modern.

II. Menu Design

restaurant menu

More often than not, menu design is an after-thought in restaurant design. Menu designing is a separate art in itself, right from naming the dishes to formatting the menu card. Your restaurant’s menu should reflect its theme and target customers. For example, a casual-fast style or a family restaurant may name its food items after local tourist attractions or famous personalities. Similarly, a fine-dining restaurant’s menu might include descriptions of the ingredients or preparation along with some trivia.

III. Your restaurant décor

Your restaurant décor or ambiance holds the entire theme together. Therefore, it’s crucial that all design elements like restaurant furniture, lighting, colors, etc., blend seamlessly. For example, if yours is a beach-front restaurant specializing in seafood, you can opt for nautical décor. Similarly, if you select an eco-friendly theme, consider outdoor dining with lots of greenery.

Summing It Up

Whether you are planning your upcoming restaurant or remodeling your existing one, consider a theme-based setup. It invigorates or excites your customers and gives your restaurant a unique brand image. This article gives you an idea about the popular themes for restaurants across the US and guides you on different design considerations while planning a theme-based restaurant. Hopefully, these points will guide you to select the perfect restaurant theme that offers a unique, memorable dining experience to your guests, and results in a profitable business.


What are good themes for a restaurant?

Always look for restaurant theme that matches the vibe and food style of your restaurant. Some of the good themes are Popup restaurants, Fast Casual, café or bistro etc.

What are the advantages of a themed restaurant?

Themed restaurants are hard to forget. Unique experience given to guests will create buzz and increase brand awareness, which in turn will help attract new customers.

Are themed restaurants profitable?

Theme based restaurants has potential for higher profits in relatively short time period which in turn help the franchise to create their own brand name.