can you list the primary food concepts in the F&B industry?

November 21, 2014

by william choukeir


in ‘the first encounter‘ we asked a question. but before we get into that, let’s take a step back and explore the importance of food concepts in delighting—but not surprising—guests.

the other day, my family and I were walking down a street filled with restaurants. we were in the mood for Lebanese cuisine. we spot a place with a nice outdoor area and a beautiful ambience. we noticed the traditional wooden chairs and that virtually every table had a shisha. the dispersed olive trees were beautiful. it took us exactly one minute to unanimously agree on this restaurant.

we were greeted and seated by a friendly and helpful young man. he hands us the menus and goes to greet a new group. it’s at this point that we notice that something is off. Hamburgers, pizzas, fish, steaks, salads, soups. It took a brief conversation with our waiter to confirm our disappointment. They don’t serve Lebanese cuisine.

we felt deceived, but stayed, not out of politeness, but because we didn’t want to spend the evening scouting places. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that neither one of us will step in that place again.

that restaurant had ‘unknowingly’ created the false impression of a Lebanese restaurant: the choice of furniture, the ambiance, the olive trees, the shishas, and even the signage.

this is a costly mistake. the solution starts with being aware that anything restaurant guests see communicates something. the challenge is to ensure that what is communicated is in line with the food concept. few individuals or companies can accurately do that, but for starters one can clearly communicate the intended food concept and experience with the architect, the interior designer, the graphic designer, and the furniture solutions provider. then meticulously coordinating between these entities while asking: ‘does the first impression of my guests match with my intended food concept? and does the ongoing experience match that first impression?’

a good start is having a broad understanding of primary food concepts and what makes each different. although the type of food plays a role, it’s not the only criteria that determines a food concept. let’s now take a look at what these primary food concepts1 are:

ethnic restaurants:

although most food concepts revolve around specific foods, ethnic restaurants are instead related to foods from a certain culture. Restaurants that provide local (Mediterranean) cuisine would arguably go into this category, and are popular in the region. other popular cuisines are Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Armenian, Mexican, French, and Thai. these concepts can range from delivery-only, to fast-food, to upscale restaurants with a wide variety of menu items.


a pizzeria is technically Italian, but deserves it’s own category because of the popularity of Pizza as a food type. within this category, you’ll find a range that starts as simple pizza-only restaurants with limited seating. These could be franchises, or single location pizzerias. At the upper end of the range you’ll find full-service pizzerias with spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, and side dishes and deserts. Of course the intersection between a pizzeria and an Italian restaurant is considerable, but the one difference that sets both apart is whether the primary message is ‘pizza’ or ‘italian’. this is often determined through branding, signage, ambiance, the menu, and marketing.

themed restaurants:

while other food concepts focus on the food, themed restaurants are theme-oriented. naturally, you’ll find a wide diversity of foods, and these offer the widest appeal to most age groups and families. the theme is often engrained into the decor, menus, branding, and marketing. the atmosphere is comfortable, and the prices are affordable.

family-style restaurants:

families may often frequent themed restaurants, however, family-style restaurants have unique differences that make them more attractive to families and seniors:
– high chairs for children
– baby seats
– larger tables
– separated booths as opposed to open spaces
– all you can eat offerings (i.e. salad bars)
– table service
– and generally prices that fall in between fast-food restaurants, and casual-dining restaurants

sandwich Shops:

sandwich shops generally enjoy high profit margins. flexibility in the menu is also one of their biggest advantage. menus can quickly change to follow trends—like health-food trends. cost of ingredients and preparation is often lower than other food concepts. couple that with quick delivery and take-out, and you get a cost efficient business.


seafood places range between franchised fast-food that offers fried seafood, to upscale restaurants with fresh high-quality ingredients. for these upscale restaurants, this can be a relatively risky choice because of the seasonal nature of seafood, and loose quality control over suppliers in some countries in the region.


most steakhouses in the region fall under the upscale category. western themes are often—but not always—emphasized. quality of meat can vary, but price is usually a good indicator. keeping that in mind when pricing the menu helps create the intended impression for guests. although family-oriented steakhouses may be common elsewhere, those in the region are more geared towards providing a fine-dining experience.


coffeehouses have evolved into spaces where friends meet, into public mobile offices for professionals, and into quick-lunch stops. most successful coffeehouses are often located in high foot-traffic areas, and depend on high customer turnover for their modest seating capacity; usually because of the high cost of real-estate in high-traffic locations. despite the profit margins for coffee being high, the average bill is considerably lower compared to other food concepts. that’s why driving high-turnover is a vital component to the success of the business.


Although bread-only bakeries have almost disappeared, there seems to be an uprising of bakeries that offer a wide selection of bread, pastries, cakes, biscuits, and even sandwiches and pizza. young local franchises are quickly opening shops in multiple locations, and the market seems to be getting competitive. this raises the barrier to entry for newcomers, and invites creative ways to differentiate themselves. in this category, you’ll also find smaller niche bakeries that focus—for example—on french pastries.

of course, in the highly competitive food and beverage industry, hybrids between two or more food concepts are emerging.

you can avoid creating the wrong expectations for guests, all while delighting them without surprising them. among others, furniture plays a big role in creating the first impression and the dining experience as a whole.

your furniture-solutions specialist should suggest coordinating with your architect, interior designer, and even graphic designer or agency; this results in a furnishing solution that reinforces your food concept.

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  1. J. Lynn, Start Your Own Restaurant and More: Pizzeria, coffeehouse, Deli, Bakery, Catering Business

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