Start a Creative Restaurant


I went to a creative restaurant in Chicago where the wait staff played the roles of various television characters (ours was Greg Brady of the Brady Bunch), and were purposefully rude to customers. The place was busy, and with repeat customers! The food was pretty good. An even stranger theme that at least two restaurants have used is dining in the dark. No lights allowed, and waiters wear night-vision goggles. The New Lucky Restaurant in Ahmadabad, India has tables situated between graves in an old Muslim cemetery. There is the restaurant in Taiwan where customers sit on toilets while they eat. In Boston the Medieval Manor serves up a banquet with no silverware, and in Milwaukee the Safe House maintains a spy-theme. The list goes on.

There two most common ways to design a unique restaurant are to make the food itself something uncommon and to make the experience and surroundings unusual. Some restaurants serve insects, for example, and one in Florida serves alligator, skunk and other animals that most people have never eaten. Vegetarian themes are common now, but there are still niches here, like raw-foods and liquids-only menus. Themes focused on the setting perhaps allow for more creativity. At Casa Bonita in Denver, for example, the food is typical Mexican fare, but there are waterfalls and cliff divers. Beds and stand-up tables have been tried, and there are certainly many more themes waiting to be invented or marketed.

How Much Can You Make?

One of the advantages of a good theme is that you are not competing directly on price with other businesses. For example, my wife and I ate a delicious lunch at a simple Thai eatery in Las Vegas for just $15. The next day we paid $50 for a minimal lunch at the Rainforest Café. The extra $35 is what a restaurant owner gets for vines, waterfalls and monkeys swinging in the trees. Your initial investment is usually higher with a fun or creative theme, but the profit margins can be much higher too.

There are hundreds of thousands of restaurants in the U.S., and the unusual ones do not get a category of their own in statistical data. But for a general idea of what is possible, consider the fact that more than 100,000 restaurants do $1 million or better in annual revenue, at least 7,000 do over $5 million per year, and a profit of 25% of sales is typical in this industry.

Note: This page is from a chapter that didn't make it into 101 Weird Ways to Make Money, my most recent book, which is now available at your local bookstore or from these online book vendors: Barnes and Noble ... Amazon ... Books-a-Million

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One good thing about opening a unique restaurant is that free publicity is virtually guaranteed if you plan well. A "soft opening" is best to start, in order to be sure that employees and equipment are ready and everything works like it is supposed to. At that point it is time to announce a grand opening and inform all the local newspapers and television stations.

Qualifications / Requirements

Starting a unique restaurant is a big job. It takes a lot of money, planning, and faith in your idea. The more unusual the theme, the less likely you are to get financing from a bank, so you may need to look for investors. Have a complete business plan prepared, and get help with this if you haven't done it before.

First Steps

Do some market research to see if there is enough demand for another restaurant in the area you're considering, and to see if the theme you have in mind is appealing to people. Visit several unique restaurants to see how customers react and to get an idea about menu prices. Then get to work on that business plan.


Running a Restaurant for Dummies by Michael Garvey, Heather Dismore, and Andrew Dismore - Wiley 2004. - A ninja-themed restaurant in New York. - Articles on everything from how to design a menu to choosing a location. - Information resources for restaurant owners. - Creative restaurant in Chicago, with a futuristic theme.

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Every Way to Make Money | Start a Creative Restaurant