Sometimes food takes a backseat to entertainment, such as on a barge that focuses mainly on arcade games and, in some ways, on homemade snacks. Other times, food is the star of the show, such as when pasta is served next to the table on a hollow cheese wheel or when an Old Fashioned comes with flamed orange peel. The most obvious way that themed restaurants benefit businesses is through social media. Photographing food and restaurants is commonplace, so having a unique or eye-catching theme can amplify your digital marketing strategy and get your business more visitors and attention, perhaps enough to go viral. For example, themed restaurants inspired by different cultures, historical periods, or fictional worlds offer an immersive atmosphere that complements the meal and enhances the overall experience.
Saved by the Max, a traveling restaurant with the theme of “Saved by the Bell” based on the restaurant from the popular comedy of the early 90s, has had a long life between a short-lived pop-up restaurant and a more permanent restaurant. Then, as consumer tastes changed and people began to value the quality of food over table-side entertainment, themed restaurants began to close their doors. Then, of course, there are restaurants at the theme parks, such as Disney establishments in California and Florida. A theme restaurant is more than just a concept; it's a comprehensive vision that is based on an idea and improves the entire gastronomic experience.
Gary Stibel, CEO of The New England Consulting Group, estimated that over the past two decades, the number of themed restaurants has declined and human traffic has declined. However, Saved by the Max, a replica of Saved by the Bell's restaurant, has done very well as a temporary restaurant in Los Angeles. A classic French-style bistro with artwork, fixed-price menus, and a solid wine list is a classic restaurant theme. They can go to other extremes, such as Medieval Times, with a dinner and jousting show, or Casa Bonita, Colorado's Mexican restaurant and theme park.
A barbecue restaurant with that well-defined Wild West theme developed over decades is easy to reproduce. These themed restaurants share a unique value proposition that is easily marketable, shareable, and that attracts a crowd. However, Beer points out that it's not just about making money; as themed restaurants also give visibility to brands and that can be good or bad. When deciding what your new restaurant should look like, consider first if it needs to have a planned theme.
However, with a new generation of diners looking for fully immersive, Instagram-friendly experiences, themed restaurants seem to be on the rise again. SafeHouse owes much of its 52 years of success to choosing a topic with great appeal. Agent Blonde (also known as Peggy Williams-Smith), Senior Vice President of the SafeHouse Restaurant Group said: “We have seen an increase in demand for themed restaurants in recent years. People are looking for something unique and memorable when they go out to eat.” Themed restaurants offer an opportunity for businesses to stand out from their competitors by creating an immersive experience for their customers.
By incorporating entertainment into their dining experience they can create an unforgettable experience that will keep customers coming back for more.