All restaurants have a decor or "theme," but a "theme restaurant" is one in which the theme--rather than the food--drives all decisions. Customers are attracted to theme restaurants, at least initially, by the theme, not the cuisine.
Examples of well-known theme restaurant chains--and they are legion--include Hard Rock Cafe, Rainforest Cafe, NASCAR Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and Hooters. Some of these chains are flourishing; others are floundering.
Culinary Students Learn that Restaurant Themes Should Complement, Not Camouflage
Culinary schools teach great food and menu preparation, and these days many culinary schools also teach about non-culinary components of successful restaurant management. These components include table settings, design, architecture, decor, lighting, music, and the attire and attitude of the service staff.
Culinary students also learn that successful theme restaurants have themes that complement great food; unsuccessful theme restaurants use their themes to try to camouflage poor food.
Theme Restaurants Aren't Going Away
The failure rate for all restaurants is high, but the failure rate for theme restaurants is even higher, says a Dunn & Bradstreet publication. However, theme restaurants won't be going away any time soon.
"The reality is that the theme-restaurant segment is more diverse than ever, and it is positioning itself for growth on the basis of its service, style, and substantial menus," says the National Restaurant Association.
Chefs Determine Theme Restaurant Success
Good food and service bring return customers and earn neighborhood loyalty. If the food isn't good, a theme restaurant has to rely on entertainment and tourist attractions, and their popularity can change overnight.
The message for culinary students, chefs, and restaurateurs--for a successful theme restaurant, offer a fun theme to attract new customers--and great food to keep them coming back.
Dunn & Bradstreet AllBusiness.com
National Restaurant Association