3 Steps to Creating a Simply Unforgettable Restaurant Concept

The experience someone has dining at your restaurant is just as important as the food itself. People go out to eat not just for their favorite bites, but to encounter something that they can’t get at home. When it comes to creating a memorable restaurant concept, it’s best to start with the basics. Here is how we help our clients establish a unique experience through interior design.

One: Create a Narrative Structure

A concrete story keeps your restaurant concept grounded and focused. So, what is the narrative behind your design? Start by laying out the foundational information, like the cuisine or menu theme, and then develop a storyline to help guide your concept. What is the genre? What is the setting? Who is the main character (usually your ideal customer)? And what is the main event? Meaning, what is the story arch or experience they’ll have while dining in your establishment? 

Here’s an example of a narrative structure: A third-wave coffee shop (genre) in downtown Phoenix (setting) for the coffee connoisseur (main character) who enjoys a fairly traded coffee bean on the go (event).

This simple exercise allows you to develop a narrative that can be carried through not only to all aspects of the design, but also into your brand story as well. Any time your mind becomes captivated by shiny object syndrome, you’ve got a guiding narrative to come back to.

Two: Find Verbal or Visual Inspiration

Generally, there are two types of inspirational cues when it comes to interior design. They are 1) verbal and 2) visual. Verbal concepts are words or thoughts you can use to describe your concept – like the words of a song or a verse from your favorite poem. Visual concepts are specific images from which you draw design inspiration. For example, you can reference a specific photo that evokes history, information, feelings or emotions that you want to play off of.  

The owners of Alert Coffee love vintage cars and so we used this imagery as visual inspiration in designing this space. It was grounded in the concept that a vintage car’s speed and the energy that you get from drinking coffee are an intriguing parallel. We took the idea of a vintage car and dissected it into multiple elements of an automobile: The sleek, wing-like body, the retro colors and the detailed wooden interior.


Three: Translate the Inspiration into Tangible Solutions

Once you have an idea of the narrative, and have decided on verbal or visual inspiration, you can begin to extrapolate design components that will resonate with customers. Referencing your inspiration, you can establish style, color schemes, textures, shapes and layouts.

We believe that there is real value in the cliché, “a picture tells a thousand words” and we often use images to explain tough concepts.

Circling back to the inspiration images we used for Alert Coffee, we were able to decide on a general style (modern take on vintage aesthetics), the color scheme (vintage cars, red and teal) and textures (sleek and glossy, like the exterior of a car, and textural and wood grain centric, like the interior), as well as shapes we’d use in the architecture (lines found on the road and curved forms from the interior seats of a car).

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What are some of the most unforgettable restaurant concepts you’ve come across?