Borrowing from other Business Models

The restaurant business is much like the retail industry, the airline industry, or even the motion picture business. There’s great value in finding a formula that works. In many cases, the best available formula for a new entrant into the market is one that is already in use. That’s right; borrowing from competitors is often the best way to get a foot in the door of this business.

I’ve seen this happen everywhere in the food and beverage industry; whether it’s the hot dog vendor on a city corner parked next to another hot dog vendor or the Italian restaurant that employs not one Italian person. The restaurant business is like professional sports – it’s a copycat league.

If you’re a restaurant operator looking for an idea, be sure to scan the landscape and see what’s around. You might find the next great idea is the one already in operation.

The Upscale Steakhouse

The fine-dining steakhouse model is nothing new in this industry. It’s been a primarily male haunt since the days of Delmonico’s in the late 19th century. The steakhouse has gotten a face lift in recent years, with bright décor and petite filets taking the place of darkened corner booths and Porterhouses. The upscale steakhouse market was transformed by chains like Ruth’s Chris and Fleming’s, who saw the potential to attract women and build a strong bar.

The fine-dining steakhouse has a few mainstay features now: sizzling 400-degree plates, servers in crisp white shirts, and family-sized side dishes. But a few independents have taken the steakhouse model and tweaked it a little without reinventing the wheel.

The Modern Steakhouse

The steakhouse today crosses over to covet female patrons without offending the sanctity of a great steak. It does so by excelling at steaks and marketing to women. It broadens the scope of the business, with low-cost lunches, female-friendly Happy Hours, and events such as Ladies’ Night or charity auctions.

One example is a restaurant called Opus 9 Steakhouse in Williamsburg, Virginia. The core of Opus 9’s philosophy is Prime steaks aged at least 40 days, cooked in 1,500-degree heat and served in sizzling butter. Their filet mignon is melt-in-your-mouth tender, just the way Delmonico’s would have wanted it.

At the same time, everything about them screams “women welcome”. This includes the teal and aqua décor, fruity martini-heavy Happy Hour menu, and 10 Entrées Under $10 lunch menu.