There Are Only Two Types Of Successful Restaurants

“The restaurant business is the hardest businesses that there is!” says, well, everyone.

You know what they aren’t necessarily wrong, however what I always say in rebuttal to that is…”Show me an easy business and I will show you a crowded market.” I want nothing to do with a crowded market.

You see the restaurant business is hard, but so is the car business, electronics, construction, medical sales, media, you name it they are all extremely challenging. To succeed in business, ANY business you need to be really really good and have a full understanding (and acceptance) that it will be hard.

While it is a very hard business I have actually uncovered the only TWO types of restaurants that are always successful and I cannot wait to share them with you.

With this knowledge you can say good-bye to the days of being underwhelmed by the poor service at that “new spot that is supposed to be awesome” and avoid the lineups for the pizza joint that actually come to find out uses all frozen ingredients on their pies.

Through working with my clients and watching what is happening all over the globe with food I hit me just yesterday that there is an actual equation to creating the two types of successful restaurants.

Lets break it down.

  1. THE IDEA: “The Idea” means the concept, and the concept is like the acorn to the oak tree if you will. Without a solid concept there can be no restaurant. Now the concept doesn’t need to be man takes his first step on the moon epic, but it needs to be epic in its own way. Take for example, Shake Shack. Shake Shack weren’t the first people to walk on the moon, i.e cook burgers and fries, nor where they the first to think of a fast casual or quick service model, BUT what they did do was create a concept, remember the acorn, that had the potential to be the biggest and strongest oak tree on the whole block. Strong concepts win, period. What Danny Meyer and his team have done over USHQ (Union Square Hospitality Group) is execute as close to perfection as they can on that concept and the public have spoken. It all started with an idea to create something different, better, and something that wasn’t currently being done with burgers. Shake Shack took what they knew was popular, arguably worldwide, burgers and fries and completely changed the way people interacted with this fast food product. The idea created a windfall for the company and they are experiencing success that they likely didn’t even imagine. There was no doubt however many hours spent refining what was the idea to now what is the reality. Concept is key, and the right one can set you up for incredible success. Now how do YOU find the solid concept restaurant to check out if it hasn’t already been sussed out for you? That is the tough part, but it can be done at lot easier nowadays than say 15-20 years ago. Use your spider-senses to follow solid food sites (I rely heavily on or find your way onto Instagram searching all of the appropriate hashtags. Or find someone, or a group that you know is consistently putting out hits and double down on their new concepts as your next place to go and check out. But I promise you that if a place is worth its weight in gold it all started with a solid concept, which no doubt didn’t come easy to whomever is behind it (more on that shortly). So if you’re in the restaurant game and you want to win, lock yourself in a room with all of your creative friends, or travel the world, whatever works for you. But trust me when I say 1 of the only 2 types of successful restaurants that exist are built on the backs of a very very very well thought out (then executed) concept.

  2. They Are Willing To Stand Alone: The most successful restaurants have been and always will be the ones that are willing to stand alone. The ones that are willing to hold on when everyone else is letting go. The ones that venture into unknown territory with a sort of “calculated” reckless abandon. You can even look at #1 as a great example supporting #2, because I can almost guarantee you that say, Shake Shack was not an overnight success, that brand was years, literally years of blood, sweat, tears, and probably a ton of money and time to be what it is today. The difference? They were will to stand alone. When so many other people would have said enough is enough USHG doubled down and said nope, we are hanging on. It is these restaurants and the people behind them that make them literally unstoppable, it is as if success for them is predetermined. It is in their blood as a business and as individuals, they are unwilling to quit, unwilling to let go, and more willing to do today what others won’t so they can do tomorrow what others can’t. The restaurant business hasn’t chewed up and spit out many pretenders but it is the people that are willing to stand alone that have created the strong roots in your city of what makes up your food scene. Whether the given restaurant is 1 month old or 30 years old, you can just tell how much they care, and if you can’t tell, they likely don’t care at all. And you know what that is fine and I get it, this industry isn’t easy, but again, no business is, it is those people who are willing to work hard and smart (see systems, procedures, and most importantly people) that define and redefine the food we enjoy in our communities. So how do you find these spots? Oh you’ll know. I mean sure you’ll have to walk in and give it a minute or two, but like a blind date, unless you’re completely out of tune, you should get it, feel it, smell it, hear it, all of that very very very quickly. It is those who are willing to stand alone that will always blow you away and will keep you wanting to come back for more.

It’s simple really, TWO types of successful restaurants in our world, and in your community, and these are the ones that will continue to be talked about and celebrated as they should be.

Keep your eyes peeled for new awesome concepts (with execution) as well as those business that are willing to stand alone and I promise you you will never be disappointed.