It can be tempting to try to bend your restaurant’s menu to offer the food trend du jour. But a pizza joint known as the go-to spot for killer calzones will end up confusing customers if it adds sushi burritos to the menu.
So while it may seem important, even necessary, to keep up with trends to keep your customers satisfied, Big Night Entertainment Group executive chef Kevin Scott maintains that sticking to one concept–and doing it well–is actually the key to success.
“If you start sampling from different types of cuisines in one restaurant, you can lose focus on your food and your clientele,” he says.
He knows what he’s talking about. As executive chef of BNEG, Scott heads up a number of kitchens with various types of cuisine, including Boston’s Empire Asian Restaurant & Lounge, which serves authentic sushi dishes as well as fun bites like sushi cupcakes in a dining room adorned with Asian tapestries; GEM Italian Kitchen Lounge & Nightclub, which has guests sharing plates of pasta and pizza surrounded by dim lights and exposed brick; and the just-opened Explorateur, which serves a California-French menu in a space that features towers of fresh croissants.
Scott also oversees sushi-centric Red Lantern locations in Boston and Foxwoods Resort Casino that both have hundreds of lanterns hanging from the ceiling by Vietnamese seashells; sister Foxwoods lounge High Rollers that demonstrates its focus on luxury by hanging chandeliers above the bowling lanes; and Scorpion Bar Mexican Cantina in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where crosses used in the decor have been imported straight from Mexico.
“Having messaging for your concept that is clear and consistent is very important,” Scott says. “When a restaurant waivers from its concept, you can make yourself more vulnerable. I’ve seen this happen before when there is a change in the kitchen or with management. If a business can’t maintain management and staff, you could lose consistency in the overall product.”
The same applies to food trends, Scott says, though he notes that keeping up with them is not without its difficulties.
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“The main challenge is making sure you are keeping up with trends and doing your research,” he says, noting that it only gets tougher when social media is considered since food trends can go viral so quickly. “It is important to research these trends and apply them without losing sight of the core concept.”
And no matter how fun or Instagram-worthy, not every trend will work for every restaurant, he warns.
“It is important to stay consistent with the restaurant’s cuisine, so we have to determine which restaurants fit into which trend,” Scott says. “We certainly allow ourselves to be creative and try to incorporate trends into the cuisine of the restaurant, but sometimes you have to just skip it altogether and start your own trend.”
Scott’s tips for chefs and restaurateurs looking to finalize their own restaurant? (Once they’ve finalized a mission statement, of course.) Establishing strong guidelines.
“My advice to others is to create a step-by-step plan,” he says. “You must set standards for your concept from day one. Create a vision board of your concept, cuisine and overall menu. Once you’ve set the standards, make sure they are communicated to everyone that will be involved.”
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