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Small Business Digest


Planning To Open A Restaurant; Think About Going Back To Basics

While sales and consumption of so-called healthy foods continue to expand, some experts see a return to more mainstream offerings albeit with some new spices added.

One trend is the growth in burger specialty restaurants keeping pace on a percentage basis with the opening of health food establishments.

Choosing a restaurant theme takes in many factors but staying with basic foods may be the answer.

While spices and coconut were featured ingredients at the Winter Fancy Food show earlier this year bananas and peanut butter were also making a comeback, according to Specialty Foods magazine.

In a survey of new store openings by this newsletter’s parent, Information Strategies, Inc. one in ten restaurants opened in 2012 did not classify themselves with a cuisine specialty.

This compared with a .7 response rate in 2011.

Dr. Kenneth E. Lehrer, nationally known economist pointed to research which showed a growing trend back to more basic foods livened with new spices.

“I went to my local diner and they were offering hamburgers with Thai peppers,” he said. “I asked for a plain burger and they acted a bit surprised. Most people want flavorings nowadays, was the waitress’s response.”

Lehrer said he was researching the industry for a client and was somewhat taken aback by the research.

“If I were opening a restaurant today, which I would be reluctant to do given the economy, I would concentrate on the basics, good food at moderate prices that offer good value.”

That is not to say more esoteric offerings aren’t being served to American palates.

An ISI editor was part of a panel for would-be entrepreneurs at a recent franchise show. When asked his preference for food franchising, specialty offerings with lower entrance costs were singled out for special mention.

“I would start small with a booth or food service truck,” said Donald Mazzella, Editorial Director, “we’re seeing a large growth in this area especially on those serving Hispanic and barbeque specialties.”

A new start-up featuring Buffalo meat was especially attractive to Mazzella. “I like this offering because people want different things but don’t want to stray too much from the basics.  “With the prices of Buffalo meat coming down they could become a food favorite in 2013,” he added.

Buffalo meat is usually less fatty than beef and fits a trend towards using ingredients that promote better health but are still closer to more traditional menu items.

Since sodas are traditionally a high profit item for restaurants it is important to remember that the sales of traditional sodas such as coke continue to trend downward. 

Un-Conventional Soda Drinks with a variety of fruit, herbs and spices are making a comeback and new establishments can use them as a marketing tool.

The advent of dispensing machines capable of providing 40 or more offerings is also changing the profit mix. While having higher initial costs they are proving to be money makers for restaurants.

“No new restaurant should be without one as they are appearing in even upscale venues,” adds Mazzella. “Nor the prospect of adding flavors to their mix.”

But even basic food establishments shouldn’t ignore the growing importance customers are placing on health issues.

Blogger Stephanie Hua points to the Super-food Mania, referring to the use of super foods like Goji, quinoa, chia seeds, mulberries, blueberries, golden berries. They are increasingly used in meals ranging from evening snacks to morning breakfast, cereals, energy drinks, pasta, etc. These are known as super foods as they are rich with vital nutrients and anti-oxidants, so full of energy.

When planning to open a restaurant, listen to your potential customers they will provide invaluable insights.  A satisfied customer returns and tells their friends.

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P.O. Box 315, Ridgefield, NJ 07657