When you are starting a restaurant, there is a lot to consider. Beyond menu and financial matters, you will also have to think about things like your restaurant’s theme and concept. In essence, you want your business to be cohesive and to have consistent branding throughout. Restaurant themes can range from subtle to zany. While you may not want or be able to go with a more involved theme, your restaurant will still benefit from having some sort of unifying theme. We have gathered some unique theme ideas to give you inspiration as you brainstorm.
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Why Does Your Restaurant Need a Theme?
If someone suggests that your restaurant needs a theme, your mind may go to a gimmick – like the Rainforest Cafe chain. While you can go the extra mile and do things like have your staff wear costumes, it isn’t necessary. Another way of looking at a restaurant theme is that it is a way of creating a customer experience through a comprehensive concept. A theme can incorporate a variety of elements, such as the menu, the building’s architecture, decor, signage, music, and lighting. For example, if you want to have a romantic theme, you could keep the overhead lighting low, use lots of candles, and perhaps take advantage of features like cozy alcoves and fireplaces.
Another way to think about your theme is that it is a way to make sure that all elements of the dining experience are cohesive. For example, if you are aiming for a fast-casual type of restaurant, then having tablecloths on the tables might be a bit jarring. When you select a theme – which may be based rather simply on the type of cuisine that you are serving – you can make sure that each aspect of your restaurant fits within that theme.
When picking your theme, you should take some time to research the competition and your target market. This can not only give you an idea for a theme by spotting gaps in the market (such as no local establishments catering to families with younger kids) but can ensure that you aren’t duplicating an idea. Understanding your target audience can also help you hone on a theme that will be successful.
While a fun theme can be a great way to market your business, keep in mind that being super unique isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the only goal. You want your restaurant to be distinct from others – but that doesn’t mean that it has to be zany or over-the-top. You should also be conscious of your budget, keeping in mind that creating and maintaining a more elaborate theme can get expensive if you aren’t careful.
45 Interesting Restaurant Theme Ideas
Under the Sea
Street Food Market
Street food is having a moment. Once looked down upon, it is now being recognized as some of the most delicious food in the world. You can pull off a street food theme with things like cooking stations around the restaurant that are set up to look like food stalls, or simply incorporating various street foods into your menu.
What’s cooler than an arcade? This retro theme can help you expand your customer base by drawing in people who want to play old-school arcade games AND those who love your food. In addition to the games, you can carry the theme into the menu and decor, such as by having Pac-Man-style graphics on your menus. The Rad Bar in Fort Walton Beach, Florida keeps customers coming back by swapping out the arcade machines available at the bar on a regular basis.
There is something incredibly appealing – and instagrammable – about greens, flowers, and more. Depending on your setup, you can have an actual outdoor space with living plants, a rooftop oasis, or fake or real plants artfully arranged inside your restaurant.
Going Back in Time
Different foods are often closely associated with different eras – such as the 1950s Jello “salad.” While you may not want to serve Jello at your restaurant, you can pick a period of time and run with the theme. You could carry through the theme with artifacts or decorations from the time.
A literary theme can take a few different directions. You could base your restaurant’s theme around a beloved book, or simply fill your walls with shelves teeming with books. This type of atmosphere is great for a cafe and can be carried through the menu, seating arrangements, and more.
The 1950s were iconic for many reasons – including for its very particular style. You can do a 1950s theme in a number of ways, such as by having a carhop deliver food to the table, having black and white checkered floors, or featuring diner-style retro food. You can even purchase special uniforms (like poodle skirts) for your staff. The Diner is a 50’s-style diner that embodies this concept in Sevierville Tennessee.
If you’re into art – or an artist yourself – then an art-themed restaurant can be a great choice. You can have art on the walls like an art gallery, and perhaps even feature local artists whose works can be purchased by patrons. You can carry the theme through to servingware, the menu, and more.
A future-themed restaurant can go in several different directions. You might go with a Jetsons-style restaurant of the future – or have robots to prepare or serve food. Going with a futuristic concept can also be a cool way to bring in a sleek, modern aesthetic.
The modern farmhouse style is having a moment for a reason. You can take advantage of this trend with stylish or even kitschy decor, like roosters or “farm fresh egg” signs. If your menu is also farm-inspired, this is a great theme option.
What’s better than a game night with friends or family? Having a game-themed restaurant can be a fun way to bring in a crowd. You can add touches like having stacks of board games on shelves around the restaurant, naming menu items after games (like a Yahtzee burger), or even having game boards like chess painted onto your tables.
What’s better than a tropical getaway? While your restaurant may not be as cool as a trip to Hawaii, you can incorporate tiki-themed decor, drinks, and food to make it appealing to a wide customer base. There are many tiki bars located throughout the country. Secret Island in Long Beach, CA is one such tiki bar you could pull inspiration from.
Sometimes, we need to just get away from it all. A zen restaurant should be calming and relaxing, with soothing colors, soft music, and nourishing foods. You can even add little elements like a water feature for that babbling brook sound.
Jazz is considered America’s true art form – a style of music that originated right here in the U.S. A jazz theme can include a lounge-like atmosphere, live music, and more. You could also incorporate soul food dishes, as jazz was originated by enslaved people in the American south, hundreds of years ago.
There is something cool about Prohibition, a time when you had to go through a fair bit of skullduggery if you wanted to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. A prohibition-style restaurant can include fun elements like needing a password to get in – or even a secret door that leads to the bar area.
If you run a seafood restaurant, you can lean into that concept with a beach-style theme. While you won’t necessarily want to have sand on your floors or operate out of an actual shack, you can use beachy elements – like an old surfboard – to make an impact.
A sports restaurant can be based on a local team (or teams), or just have a general sports theme. It can include memorabilia, big-screen TVs, and menu items that are named after sports legends.
The farm-to-table movement hasn’t gone away – for good reason. If your restaurant features a lot of local produce and meat, your restaurant can be themed to highlight that fact. Perhaps you can include pictures of local farms on your walls or even information on the menu about where each ingredient was sourced.
The turn-of-the-century art deco style includes the use of bold colors, geometric patterns, and luxe textures and materials. This style isn’t necessarily associated with food, but it is a good match for anything that might be described as elegant. If you are running an upscale restaurant, then an art deco style could help you stand out and show off your sophistication.
There are few things that go better with food than a nice glass of wine. If your restaurant produces food that pairs well with wine or is known for its amazing wines, you can run with a wine theme. This can include basic decor like grapes – but it can also mean rich, jewel-toned colors on the walls or even an amazing wine cellar that patrons can view.
If you serve Mediterranean food, you can really lean into the theme by making your restaurant into an oasis of sorts. Bright whites and bold blues can bring the concept to life. You can also include fun touches like maps and photos for the walls.
A tea concept may seem somewhat limited – but it doesn’t just have to be for a cafe. Your restaurant can do a full English tea, or just have a mad hatter theme. Tea pots and cups are a natural decor pick.
If you want your restaurant to be geared towards couples, why not do your best to make it romantic? Your menu can include plenty of items that are designed to be shared, or that have aphrodisiac qualities (like oysters). Mood lighting, deep colors, and plenty of tables just for two can complete the theme.
Going out to eat with a big group can sometimes be a pain – but not if the restaurant offers family-style dining. A family-style theme is primarily based on the menu but can be carried through with plenty of large tables that are meant for large groups.
Pop Culture Inspired
There are so many ways to go with a pop culture theme, whether you choose a favorite TV show, movie, or something else entirely, like an internet subculture. Of course, you will want to be careful about trademark issues – but beyond that, you can name menu items after your theme, have memorabilia on the walls, and even have your staff dress in character.
In some areas of the country, former churches have been converted into bars and restaurants. If you find yourself in this type of space – or you simply want a fun theme – why not make it religious? This can include a menu that is divided into heaven (healthy) and hell (unhealthy) items, or even funny names for menu items.
Pets are part of our family like never before. An animal-themed restaurant could be pet-friendly, or simply themed around a particular animal that you love. It could even be punny – like having a “coop” or “hatchery” themed restaurant that features a lot of egg dishes and chicken decor.
If your restaurant is big on comfort food, then you can carry that theme throughout your restaurant. This could include nostalgic items if your comfort food menu is from a particular era, or simply a warm, homey feel.
Americans LOVE Halloween – so why not make your restaurant Halloween-themed? Having spooky decor (and maybe even a 20-foot skeleton out front) is sure to attract people who love the holiday. You can even match your food to the theme or have your staff dress in costume.
A health food restaurant may be vegan, vegetarian, or simply offer organic foods. You can have other elements of your restaurant reflect this type of menu, such as staging plants around the restaurant or posting information about the health benefits of a particular ingredient. Light, bright colors can complete the theme.
It can be fun to be “bad” sometimes – including with food. If your restaurant is known for its delicious, fried, sugary, or otherwise high-calorie eats, you can lean into that reputation with a related theme. Perhaps you can go with a cheeky devil theme, or even add medical elements (like the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, where diners put on hospital gowns before eating food like the bypass burger).
There is just something about an old-timey saloon that really goes with a certain type of cuisine. An old west-themed restaurant can go all out with staff wearing period costumes and rooms separated by swinging doors. You can also gussy up the interior with cacti and tumbleweeds. The Pioneer Saloon is an example of an old west-themed saloon. The saloon is one of the oldest saloons in Nevada and was established in 1913.
There is a period of life for most parents when even the thought of taking their kids out to dinner is horrifying. If you want your restaurant to be family-friendly, you can expand that concept by making it as easy as possible for families to eat out. This could include basic things like having paper on the tables where kids can draw or even a play area for kids.
Go back to school with a cafeteria-themed restaurant. Food can be served on trays, and you can even have long tables where lots of people sit together to enjoy their food. You could extend the theme with lockers or chalkboards on the wall.
If you are lucky enough to have a space in an old train station or a former caboose for your restaurant, why not lean into the theme? Train-themed decor – and even an actual train set running around the ceiling – could be a cool way to get people to visit your establishment.
Restaurants located near an airport have an opportunity to make their business airplane-themed. There are plenty of decor options for this type of restaurant, such as propellers hanging from the ceiling. You can also incorporate plane-themed names onto the menu. The Airplane Restaurant takes things a step further and serves food in a renovated Boeing tanker.
If your restaurant is a bit eclectic, a bohemian theme can help bring your concept together. You can accomplish this type of theme in different ways, such as by using unique textiles, mismatched dishes, and more.
If you want to do something unique, why not go with your favorite color? Whether it’s purple or turquoise, you can do a lot with a fun color theme – from decor to uniforms to menu items. You can even set up an area that is perfect for your customers to snap pictures in front of – which allows you to expand your marketing efforts for minimal cost.
If you serve hearty fare, a rustic theme could be a great way to carry out the concept. Perhaps you can use live-edge tables for your dining room, or highlight wood beams in the ceiling.
A Special Menu Item
If you are known for a particular menu item, why not highlight it as part of your theme? For example, if everyone knows that you sell massive milkshakes topped with donuts and other sweet treats, you can center your restaurant’s decor around it.
If your restaurant is located near a historical area or landmark or simply in a historic building, you can bring that into your restaurant’s theme. You may choose to bring in historical artifacts, like replica muskets on the walls for a Revolutionary War-themed restaurant. You could even add menu items from that time period.
Strange as it may be, zombies have been popular for quite some time. If you’re interested in the undead, a zombie-themed restaurant could be a cool way to go. This doesn’t mean that you have to take it in a gory direction – but you could add fun movie and TV show posters, dishes that play off of a common zombie trope (like brains), or play zombie shows on TV. Zombie Burger + Shake Lab is one such zombie-themed restaurant with menu items named after classic zombie movies.
A little mystery never hurt anyone! A spy-themed restaurant can require guests to engage in missions, have a mystery dish, or have a little dinner theater action happening.
How Budget Branders Can Help
It isn’t always easy to figure out how to make your restaurant stand out from the crowd. A theme can be one way to achieve that goal, whether you go big with costumes and wild decor or incorporate small touches. Once you have your theme, custom promotional items can help ensure that your restaurant stays top of mind for consumers. Budget Branders works with independently owned and operated restaurants throughout the country to help them get branded disposable products at great prices.
You can drive more brand visibility and sales with promotional disposables like branded paper cups, custom coffee sleeves, custom dessert cups, custom soup cups, branded paper bags, custom sandwich bags, and more. All of our items are high quality and can be printed with your business name and logo. We also offer the ability to order our disposables in smaller quantities, with the understanding that many restaurants can’t buy or store ten thousand items at once.
If you’d like to learn more about our full line of disposable products, we’re available to talk. Fill out our online contact form or hit the live chat button to get started.