Restaurant Alternatives for Entrepreneurs with a Taste for Food Service

A lot of people talk about recession-resistant careers, but when it comes down to it, there’s really only two: feeding people and burying people. As long as more people need feeding than burying on any given day, the choice for entrepreneurial speculation seems ridiculously simple. Of course, the first thing you’ll hear out of a loan officer’s mouth when you try to secure a loan for a food service business is that most new restaurants are forced to close down within a few years. That is why you may want to shift your entrepreneurial spirit and your love for the culinary arts to one of the narrow niches within the broader food service industry.

The growth of food trucks is a prime example of what they call "the new authenticity economy"—a trend toward favouring unique, eclectic, local and artisanal products. Source: University of Michigan 

  • Mobile Food Station

More and more restaurants are pushing local politicians to pass laws that force food trucks to park a minimum distance away from brick and mortar eateries or that allow them to park in one spot for a limited period of time. The good news for entrepreneurs with a flair for food service is that this trend indicates that mobile food service is a growth industry. If you want to get a piece of this pie before saturation sets in, follow the advice of the above study. Either offer food selections that are eclectic or grown locally or else come up with a unique twist on the truck itself. For instance, an old Winnebago could be converted into a mobile food station with a "Breaking Bad" theme or you transform a boring truck into something that immediately grabs the attention of diners.




  • Local Restaurant Delivery

If you can’t beat them, join them. One alternative when you can’t get funding to open a restaurant is to go into business with existing restaurants. Unless you live in big downtown urban area, the only food you have delivered to home on a regular basis is pizza. That means there may be a wide open opportunity to go into the business of contracting with local restaurants to provide food delivery. Design yourself an attractive website, invest in a dependable vehicle, download the very best GPS apps to your phone and print enough brochures and doorhangers to penetrate every restaurant and every home within a geographical area large enough to build a clientele, but limited enough to keep fuel costs from sucking away your entire profit margin. 

"Bacon is one of the most versatile products in the market today. It can be used as a standalone item or in innovative ways for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and now desserts. Very few products can do the same.” Joe Pawlak, Technomic, Inc. V.P. Source: The 2012 Bacon Report.

  • Bacon Domination

Pawlak’s outlook for bacon in 2012 flew in the face of the conventional wisdom that the Great Big Bacon Fad was about to come to an apocalyptic end. If anything, bacon has only gotten bigger. Bacon shakes. Bacon gum. Bacon-flavoured potato chips. Bacon wrapped turkey for Thanksgiving. Bacon lollipops. Bacon peanut brittle. The point? If banks are consistently turning down your applications for a restaurant, the next time you apply, arrive with a wheelbarrow overflowing with every different bacon product you can find. Oh, and don’t forget to show up with a business plan for a restaurant alternative based on bacon. As for bacon itself being merely a passing fad, ask yourself which of these items that Forbes Magazine listed as the hottest food trends in 2012 are in relation to the popularity of bacon:

  • Peruvian cuisine
  • Seaweed
  • Infused pasta
  • Kid’s food for grown-ups
  • Bison
  • Non-Bacon fried fat

What may be most interesting about the list in Forbes is that nowhere to be found are food trends that wound up being far hotter and longer-lasting such as pretzel bread, avocados and, of course, the continuing popularity of everything bacon.

“It seems that now more than ever customers are ordering appetizers. Desserts are hit and miss, but not the appetizers.” Terry Conte, Executive Chef of the Oval Room restaurant. Source: FSR Magazine.

  • Appetizers-Only

How many times have you made a meal out of appetizers in a restaurant? You are not alone. As Chef Conte makes clear, everybody loves appetizers. So if you can’t get funding to open a full scale restaurant, how about opening an appetizers-only alternative? You don’t need full service restaurant kitchen equipment to whip up potato skins, quesadillas, fried cheese, egg rolls, stuffed mushrooms, mini-quiches and all the other varied assortment of finger foods that makes the appetizer menu so popular. Which means it’s a perfect choice for kiosks, the limited space inside a food court spaces or even a catering service run from your home.

  • Specialty Salads

Here’s a great way to get a little more face time with a loan officer when trying to raise capital for a food service business. A restaurant that doesn’t even need any cooking equipment. Exploit the desire--however short-term it may be--of people to eat healthier by offering specialty salads made at home. The key to success here is based on two elements. You must find a way to create tasty salads that are not easily found anywhere else and those salads must be aesthetically appealing. If you can’t find a way to make something new with produce or you aren’t able to put that produce together without it looking like something whipped up at a salad bar, then this alternative food service idea is probably doomed to a quick death.

  • Theme Caterer

No, not a simple catering service that whips up food based around a theme. In order to make an immediate impact within a field as crowded as catering, you become a theme caterer. That means choosing hot pop culture themes and memes and turning the act of food catering into performance art. For instance, you and your employees show up to cater an office party looking like the leading characters from the zombie apocalypse. Or catering a sweet sixteen party in chalky makeu and Victorian garb as part of your vampire theme. Or turning the serving of food into a pitstop at Daytona by showing up wearing NASCAR jumpsuits. The only limit is your imagination. Well, that and probably your budget when first starting out.

  • Holiday Food Designer

Have you noticed the explosion in popularity as well as creativity in holiday food? Have you noticed how holiday celebrations are no longer limited to just the one day? That combination has created a niche food service market for the creative person capable of working in various food media. Whether it’s heart-shaped pretzels for Valentine’s Day or an American flag cake for the 4th of July or mummy meatloaf for Halloween or a Christmas wreath salad, if you have a talent for transforming food into iconic holiday images, you will never find yourself short of customers. Lest you think that there simply are not enough holidays to make this a viable business opportunity throughout the year, check out the extremely partial list of less well-known holidays and observances custom-made for creative food designers.

  • Fruitcake Toss Day: January 11
  • Alien Abduction Day: March 20
  • National Golf Day: April 18
  • National Teacher Day: Mary 6
  • Bacon Day: August 30
  • Talk Like a Pirate Day: September 19
  • Doctor Who Day: November 23

Source: Brownielocks Holidays

The opportunities for making money in the food service business, even if you can’t yet make your dream of owning a restaurant come true, are wide open. Advancements in food prep technology place the ability to create restaurant-quality foods of all time that were solely the domain of well-funded professionals not very long ago. The steady movement toward specialized, customized and offbeat food ideas further strengthens the possibility for an entrepreneur with an original idea to meet a need overlooked by established eateries. 


Image Source: dinner-still-life-cash-change







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