The rise of the concept restaurant

Popularity of concept restaurants amongst diners is increasing, but is the food or the idea the main attraction?

  • 95% of restaurant owners report seeing a rise in concept restaurants in the UK
  • Concept restaurants are on the rise with over half of the UK having visited one
  • Nearly half (44%) of restaurateurs consider themselves to be a concept restaurant
  • Restaurateurs believe the rise in concept restaurants is due to diners wanting an entire leisure experience, not just a great meal
  • 70% of restaurateurs believe concept restaurants will continue to rise
  • One third (33%) of restaurateurs believe every restaurant should have a concept
  • 2 in 5 diners agree that concept restaurants provide a more enjoyable experience
  • 88% of restaurateurs believe the quality of food sometimes suffers in concept restaurants

London, 22 August 2016… New research by OpenTable, the world’s leading restaurant booking service, has found that 95%1 of restaurateurs have seen a rise in concept restaurants in the UK, and a further 70% believe the phenomenon will continue to rise. But what really defines a concept restaurant? Is it offering an interactive experience like Inamo’s touch screen menu, an experiential offering like The Bunyadi where you dine naked or Dinner by Heston Blumenthal that explores the history its food derived from?

From those restaurateurs surveyed, nearly half (44%)1 consider themselves to be a concept restaurant and one third (33%) believe that every restaurant should have a concept. The conclusion that the restaurant industry has come to is that diners now want an entire leisure experience, rather than just a great meal. Though industry experts clearly do worry about their food standards as a consequence, as 88% of the restaurants surveyed admitted they believe that the quality of food can sometimes suffer in a concept restaurant.

From a consumer perspective, the most likely reason behind visiting a concept restaurant would be for a special occasion, hence choosing a restaurant option that offers something a little different. Over half (51%)2 of UK diners admit to having visited a concept restaurant and 2 in 5 agree that concept restaurants offer a more enjoyable experience. In contrast to the thoughts of restaurateurs, the majority of UK diners (28%) believe the best concepts are those which derive from the food offering, which isn’t surprising as 80% think the quality of food is the most important factor of the dining experience.

A further one quarter (24%) of British diners believe the best concept restaurants provide an immersive experience; while 13% chose those restaurants that experiment with food. Faced with a list of new concept restaurant ideas, Brits voted a restaurant that offers a different chef every week, as the concept restaurant they would most like to visit.  Coming in second was a restaurant which only serves alcoholic food; and third was a restaurant where you only pay for how long you stay.

Adrian Valeriano, Vice President, Europe, OpenTable, comments, “The restaurant industry is ever changing and we are constantly seeing new and more diverse concepts launching. With an increasingly competitive landscape and more discerning diner base, the need for restaurants to differentiate their offering through a unique and compelling story will only continue to grow. Concept restaurants have a dual role to fulfill both in terms of the quality of their food and the experience that they deliver, to ensure longevity.”

Sebastian Lyall, founder of The Bunyadi, the UK’s first naked restaurant, and food and beverage concepts company, Lollipop, comments “We are all about creating unique and immersive concepts. Our audience expects the best and this makes us increasingly mindful of every single detail in the projects we execute. It is this attention that helps us to navigate the challenge of ensuring repeat visits to our pop up sites, and carrying our audience with us into every new adventure with excitement and enthusiasm. Our pop ups also enable us to test and iterate concepts before investing in a more permanent site. It is fantastic to see the growth of concept dining with restaurants really focusing on the story that makes them unique, and seeing how diners respond to this.”