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HA442 : The Class : Concept Development : Components : Components

Concept Development


The Factors Making Up A Concept

Food service operations benefit from portraying an unambiguous image to their guests. The image, or theme of the operation is known as the concept. By portraying a clear cut concept customers know what to expect when dining at the operation.

The concept is the theme or the image of the foodservice operation the owner wants to represent. The concept sets the tone for the operation and allows the operator to tie all of the aspects of the operation together. The concept is determined at very early in the planning stage of the restaurant and generally begins with the name and then expands from there. The concept projects the total impression the operation wants to present to customers.

Examples of some food service concepts are; Mexican, seafood, Asian, cowboy, diner, etc. As you read the list I am sure you are beginning to envision the characteristics that make up each of the concepts. If done properly they each have different characteristics that make each stand out.

Items that are influenced by the concept;

Customer should know by the name and appearance of the operation what they can expect. For example, when arriving at an operation named Red Lobster,>,there should not be any question as to what to expect in the above listed items.

Red Lobster started as a private restaurant in Florida. It was bought by a restaurant corporation that determined that people liked fish and seafood and that there was not many seafood operations in the non-coastal areas of the country. Red Lobster has grown to 649 restaurants nation wide, and is by far the leader in the seafood market.

Restaurant operators can learn must from existing chain restaurants. They can learn how to reinforce a concept throughout the complete operation.

The Challenge

The challenge is to develop a concept that fits a definite market and to do it better than your competition.

Concept and Market

Care must be taken to ensure that there is a market for the concept. Just because there is not a particular type of concept in an area does not mean it will be an success. Research must be done to determine why that concept is not represented and if there is enough of a customer base that would dine in that type of restaurant to support it. For example, if you visit a rural town in northern Arizona and do not find a Ethiopian restaurant there are two possibilities. One possibility is that you have an untapped market and the restaurant will be an immediate success. The other possibility is that there is not a sufficient market or number of customers in the area to support the concept. Research is required to determine which possibility is the true one.

The concept must meet a need to be successful. New concepts come to market that fulfill a need that arises that other concepts do not fulfill. The whole fast food concept came about due to the need for people to eat in a hurry. Eating in a hurry is a novel concept to many Europeans so they consider eating fast food "eating American."

While the Boston Market chain brought in the meal replacement concept. They found that people did not want to or have time to cook due to such things as time constraints but also did not want to dine in a food service establishment. They were growing tired of take-out food from other food service operations or delivered pizza. Boston Market differentiates themselves from other places in two ways. One way it is different is by producing home-style food and the other is by allowing customers to pick-up hot food on their way home from work so they can in the comfort of their own home.

If you are unfamiliar with the menu of Boston Market, go to:

I can not stress the point enough that there must be enough customers in the area to support the concept. When deciding on a concept and or a location there are several sources of customers to draw from. For example, fast food restaurants are often placed by highway entrance / exit ramps. This makes them convenient to highway travelers in addition to local residents. Many fast food restaurants are located near college campuses due to its popularity with college students.

Generally the lower the price of the menu items the broader the market the operation appeals to. Also people will generally eat in a lower priced operation more often then a more expensive priced operation.

Of course different types of restaurants require different numbers of customers to be successful. Fast food operations generally make less money per customer, so they require more customers. While fine dining operations generate more profit per customer so they require less customers to be successful.

Concept Adaptation

Food service operators deciding to open a new operation have several options. They can copy a successful concept, adapt an existing concept, or develop a new concept. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.

The advantage of copying an existing concept is that you piggy-back on the success and work someone else has done. The disadvantage is that you will have to offer something better or why should guests go to your operation rather than the original.

Adapting an existing concept is very common. Upon doing adequate research you find short comings in the offering of an existing concept. This gives you the opportunity to over customers items they are accustomed to while improving on the short comings of the existing concept. You must do proper research to make sure your adapting of the existing concept is what customers prefer.

It is common for operations try to adapt to other concepts. Especially, in highly competitive segments. Look at the fast food hamburger market. Operations realized they could not compete with McDonald's head to head they tried to find ways to differentiate their burgers in order to draw customers from the segment leader. Burger King offers burgers cooked over an open flame, Wendy's offers a salad bar, chili, and burgers using fresh rather than frozen meat.

The most risky of the options is to develop your own concept. This is not to say that all of the concepts in the world have been developed and you are doomed to failure. To be successful you must be creative and find a need that is not being filled by existing operations. With dining trends shifting it opens opportunities for new concepts. For example, the home replacement meal segment was ushered in by the growing trend of dual-working couples seeking quality food to pick-up and take home.

Factors To Consider

Foodservice operators need to tie together several factors to be successful. The concept of the restaurant must be in the proper location with enough of a market to support it. The concept must fill a need and be priced in a range that customers are willing to pay.

One of most important keys in concept development to consider the customers or target market of the operation. If your goal is to have a successful business you must appeal to a range of customers. The more you research the needs and desires of your customers and provide offerings customers want and need the greater opportunity you have for your operation to be successful

Updating Concepts

As foodservice trends evolve once popular concepts must also evolve to remain popular or risk going out of business. Shifts in eating patterns has caused changes in food service operations' concepts. Sizzler, for example, shifted from a steakhouse concept to a grand salad bar restaurant that offers steak, chicken and seafood to better reflect customer's food desires. McDonald's added salads and chicken to broaden its appeal to a wider range of customers.

The problem food service operators face is whether the new food service trend is in reality a trend of is it just a short lived fad. It costs a considerable amount of money to adapt a concept. A chain could face financial ruin by changing concepts only to find what they thought was a trend was actually a fad.

Care must be taken when adapting a trend and changing a concept that you do not lose your existing core of business in the attempt to attract new customers. Existing loyal customers are your bread and butter and you have worked hard to build their loyalty. You should risk losing them in the attempt to broaden your market to prospective customers. Thorough research on why customers visit your operation should be done. So when changes are made you have a better idea on what aspects to adapt and which are best left alone.


The development and reinforcement of the concept is important to the success a food service operation. The concept or theme of a food service is often a key selling point and drawing card for the operation. The reinforcement of the concept through the operations give the customer the 'feel' of the operation.

There must be an adequate market of customers to support the concept. The simple fact that there is not a concept in an area is not sufficient reason to develop a new concept in an area. The fact that there is not a certain concept in an area may be because there is not enough customers in the area to support the concept. Research is essential to determine if the proposed concept fills a previously unfilled need for the customers in the market.

Concepts must be dynamic. They must flow and be adapted as customer desires shift. Many times simple addition of items can adapt the concept and keep it more current. Sometimes more drastic changes must be done to keep the concept current. Operators must also be careful not to alleinate existing loyal customers in their attempt to broaden their appeal

To complete this Topic successfully, please complete the following activities in the order shown below:

ASSIGNMENT 1: Evaluate a Food Service Concept

Concept Evaluation Assignment

You should now:

Go on to Location Criteria
Go back to Concept Development Site Selection

Send E-mail to Dr. Rande or call (520) 523-1710


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