While the United States prides itself on being a global leader in many different areas, the culinary arts is not one of them. When we think about truly incredible food of the highest quality, more often than not our minds drift to the rolling vineyards of Italy, the cafés of Paris, or the market stalls of Kolkata. But there are actually many incredible options available in the States that will thrill your taste buds and fire your imagination. You just need to know where to look.
If you’re running a restaurant now, or considering buying a restaurant someday soon, you’ll no doubt enjoy seeing what these popular and well-respected American restaurants do to stay on the top of their game.
Variety is the spice of life at The French Laundry
The French Laundry, a now famous destination for classic French cuisine located in California’s Napa Valley, has thrived on a formula of surprise.
Describing their daily nine-course menus, the restaurant explains,
“No single ingredient is ever repeated throughout the meal. What we want you to experience is that sense of surprise when you taste something so new, so exciting, so comforting, so delicious, you think "Wow" - and then it's gone.”
While nine small courses of unending variety and a brand new menu each day may not be practical for every restaurant, can you incorporate more variety and surprise into your menu?
The ultimate slow food experience is at the Blue Hill
Blue Hill at Stone Farm is a restaurant situated on a working farm 30 miles north of New York City. Rather than offering a standard menu of any kind, chef Dan Barber offers a selection of courses from which customers can pick and choose (named Grazing, Pecking, and Rooting) which changes each month as seasonal fare becomes available.
This approach allows the Blue Hill restaurant to stick strictly to a locally-grown, seasonal selection of meat and produce, some of which is produced right on site, but all of which comes from the Hudson Valley area. Combined with an “informal but ceremonious” presentation (as highlighted in their section of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World report), this organic and locally sourced menu never fails to deliver an exceptional culinary experience.
The entire “slow food” concept is extremely popular with Millennials. Can your restaurant include some options that bring this to the fore?
Subway offers the most standard of menus, perfectly prepared
While the two restaurants noted above have won prestigious awards and boast waiting lists for reservations stretching months in advance, there are lessons to learn from the opposite end of the spectrum as well.
Subway, the ubiquitous sandwich chain has long been the second-most-popular franchise in the United States (after the infamous golden arches) and their formula for success has never really changed.
“Eat fresh” is Subway’s tagline, and no matter which of their thousands of franchise locations you step into, you’ll see the same selection of fresh and appealing toppings available to dress up any of two dozen sandwich possibilities. Now, a submarine sandwich is not a complicated affair, and it’s unlikely to win any culinary awards any time soon. But who doesn’t love to bite into a perfectly prepared turkey club with all the fixings?
Delicious, nutritious, and incredibly popular.
Whether you’re running a franchise location or a Mom and Pop diner, can you incorporate Subway’s simple and consistent quality into your restaurant’s reputation?
Sonic would be the same as every other burger joint, except…
Sonic Drive In is another very popular and successful American fast food franchise. They’re not as big or as old as McDonald’s or Burger King, so at first glance it might appear they’re just a “same as” competitor to these other fast food giants.
But, upon closer examination, you’ll see one amazing way Sonic has chosen to stand out from the crowd: their 170-option drink menu.
From standard soft drinks to slushies, limeades, iced teas, and even energy drinks, Sonic offers customers the widest array of refreshments available to complement their burger or hot dog. It’s a seemingly small thing, but when you can top off your standard meal with a different delicious beverage every single time you go, it’s a recipe for repeat business from adventurous eaters.
Is there one aspect of your menu or offering that you can expand into a specialty, something your restaurant is known for that no one else in the area offers?
In all these cases, restaurants have focused on something specific that’s set them up for success. Whether it’s the variety of food and drinks offered, the growing source and how that resonates with the customer, or simply offering a consistently good product, they all offer lessons that anyone currently running (or hoping to buy) a restaurant should take to heart.
Buying an established business is one way that you can remove some of the risk of starting afresh. Ready to take the first step? Have a look at our restaurant listings here.