How to start a successful food business in 2021: The 4 C Strategy

Step 1 of the 4C Strategy is: Concept.

Developing the overall concept for your new food business, or reworking your existing business, includes evaluating the type of food you want to serve and the service style that will fit best for your location- whether you go ghost or brick and mortar.

During this stage of the concept development process, your passion and vision are crucial- but logic and pre-existing factors will determine the true scalability and feasibility of your initial ideas.

Let’s discuss 3 Critical Food Concept Planning Factors you need to consider when designing a food concept that is ready for success:

1. Style of food business

The style of food business is very important and you have a few different options: fast casual, casual dining eatery, fine dining.

What is a Fast Casual Concept?

A fast casual restaurant is designed to be a step between fast food and casual dining. Fast casual restaurants offer a better quality of food than fast food outlets with more fresh ingredients.

In this style of restaurant, there is no table service and food is served at a counter, to speed up service processes. They tend to be characterized by a large variety at affordable prices and many of them offer healthier options alongside their standard menu.


In short, they offer the convenience and speed of fast food but the quality is higher.

What is a Casual Dining Eatery?

Casual dining eateries are restaurants that operate a standard table service model, serving moderately priced food in a casual atmosphere.

A lot of the chain restaurants that you are familiar with, like TGI Fridays, are casual dining eateries. Many operate a separate bar for people that visit for drinks only, but this is not a requirement.

The food served at a casual dining eatery may be quite similar to fast casual restaurants in terms of quality, and they tend to have a larger menu

What is Fine Dining?

Fine dining restaurants offer a traditional dining experience. They have a specific menu, usually with fewer items, made to a much higher standard. The prices and decor also reflect this quality.

In most fine dining establishments, the decor is more upscale and uses high-quality materials. The atmosphere, in general, is more understated than most casual dining eateries and you are less likely to have things like loud music etc. In some cases, fine dining establishments operate a dress code for customers.

The style of food business that you choose depends on the kind of food you are serving and the target market that you aim to capture.

For example, if you want to open a burger bar that mainly serves families, casual dining is the ideal choice. But if you want to serve high-end French cuisine made with the best ingredients, fine dining is the way to go.


Food businesses that focus on healthy cuisine often use the fast casual model because they are geared towards people with busy lifestyles that want more choice and control over what they eat.

How have 2020 and 2021 Market Trends Changed the Food Industry Forever?

In the current climate, the fast casual concept is becoming more popular and market leaders are outpacing fast food outlets in growth. This is most likely due to an increased demand for healthier options and fresh ingredients.


There are also changing trends in the type of cuisine that is popular. Since 2014, there has been a 500% increase in the number of people in the US that follow a vegan diet, creating more demand for plant-based food businesses.


When you are deciding on your restaurant concept, it is important to take these trends into account and come up with ideas that play into modern eating habits.

2. Location and Layout

Once you have decided on your general concept, you need to consider the location and layout of your new food business. There are a number of alternatives to traditional dining you should consider, like ghost kitchens or a mobile restaurant.

Brick-And-Mortar Restaurants

Brick-and-mortar restaurants are still a viable option in 2021, but choosing the right location is crucial. Although marketing the restaurant well is important, you will also rely on foot traffic, especially when you first open. So, picking a busy location in a desirable area is key. Think about accessibility and public transport links, as well as your proximity to residential areas.

It is also important to look at what other businesses are nearby. Opening right next door to another restaurant that serves similar food is a huge risk. However, other non-competing businesses can increase foot traffic and work in your favor.

Cost must be taken into account too because rent is one of the biggest overheads for restaurant businesses. Popular areas with a lot of foot traffic may make it easier to fill the restaurant, but rents will be much higher, so you need to compare different locations and find a good balance.

Always plan for the future. When evaluating a neighborhood, ask yourself: Is that neighborhood still going to be popular in five or ten years or is it in decline?

Mobile Restaurants

Mobile restaurants have seen an estimated 7.5% growth between 2016 and 2021, so you should consider whether a food truck business is the right option for you.

Having the flexibility to move around means that you can experiment with locations and chase foot traffic. However, you are limited in terms of the menu you can provide because you are operating in a smaller kitchen.

There are also running costs of the vehicle to consider, but these will be lower than paying rent on a permanent location, in most cases.

Ghost Kitchens

A ghost kitchen is a food business that is designed to provide delivery services only. There is no storefront and diners cannot eat in. The kitchen prepares food for delivery and they are usually situated in areas with high demand.

Advancements in ordering apps like Just Eat or UberEats have changed the way that people interact with food businesses and the delivery market has grown significantly.

When deciding on the restaurant location and layout, consider the limitations in terms of the menu.

Food truck businesses, for example, are ideal for simple street food items like burgers, hot dogs, or tacos. However, if you want to serve more complicated dishes, a brick-and-mortar restaurant is the way to go. If you opt for a ghost kitchen model, you need to create a menu that is suitable for packaging and traveling.

3. Create Your business plan

Now that you have a clear concept in mind, you need to develop a restaurant business plan. These are the main points you must include:

Identifying Competition

Identifying your competition is a vital part of developing a restaurant business plan. You need to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition and offer something that they are not.

Doing extensive research into other restaurants in the area will help you position yourself as a unique food business. It can also help you make more informed decisions about your location because you can find gaps in the market.

Choosing The Right Branding

It’s important to do market research and determine what kind of branding appeals to your target audience. Your restaurant decor and your marketing materials should reflect the kind of brand that resonates with the demographic you are trying to reach.

Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition

Working out what sets you apart from other restaurants is key. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic, but you need a clear reason why people should visit your restaurant over others. Perhaps you make some of your own ingredients on-site. If you are operating a family-focused restaurant, offering healthier options for kids can set you apart.

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