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How To Develop A Successful Restaurant Concept

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About The Episode

In this episode, we have a special treat for you as we dive into the world of restaurant concept development. Join us as Carl Jacobs, CEO of Apicbase, sits down with the esteemed Reoewein Niesten, Founder & CEO of Conceptional, to explore the ins and outs of creating a successful restaurant concept.

Get ready for the ultimate guide on how to develop a successful restaurant concept and fuel restaurant growth, all while leveraging the power of technology in restaurants. Carl and Reoewein will take a deep dive into the evolution of the food and beverage sector over the past decade, highlighting the role of technology in restaurants.

Read the interview

Carl: Hello, I’m Carl Jacobs and I’m co-founder and CEO of Apicbase. At Apicbase, we are building the world’s best food and beverage management platform. But in this podcast series, it’s all about finding answers on how to grow and scale your food service business. I’m talking to numerous experts and industry professionals who are passionate about building a healthy food service industry. Join me on this fascinating journey of entrepreneurship in food.

Welcome again to The Food Service Growth Show. And today we have Reoewein Niesten as our guest. And Reoewein is a F&B concept developer and he is the founder and CEO of Conceptional. And the best thing to do is always to let the person himself introduce himself. So, Reoewein, hello. And maybe first question first. Who is Reoewein?

Reoewein: Who is Reoewein? Thank you for having me Carl. And my name is Reoewein. Yes. It’s the guy with a difficult first name. I have many different names, but it’s Reoewein Niesten. I’m 52 years old, have three children, and have been actually in food service for my whole life. So after hotel business school, I started working in operations. And I loved that.

I worked in different areas. And after 10-12 years, I started within, let’s say, more development area. And that’s what I’ve done for quite a long period. Also with HMS Host. Maybe you know the company? Worked internationally in different parts of the world, so traveled a lot. I’ve seen a lot of concepts. But then about 12-13 years ago now, I started Conceptional alone with a trainee and now actually we are up to 15 people. So that’s a little bit the short story from my side. Who’s Reoewein Niesten. Yeah.

Carl: You are now almost a decade working on Conceptional. What is it?

What is Conceptional?

Reoewein: True. What is it? There’s much to tell about this. But actually, what we always say, we are kind of creative minds in a sustainable food and beverage strategy and we’re looking for solutions as well. And what we actually are is an international food service advisory services, let’s say a consultancy firm, where we’re working in different areas around the world and we have a kind of focus on three to four different kind of pillars in that way. And one of them is of course, concept development, brand and concept development, which is where I’m coming from. And secondly, placemaking where we do a lot within real estate, but also leisure parks. And thirdly, we are also focusing on performance and growth. How can you support brands to roll out to optimize? And last but not least, which is growing currently is about, it’s about sustainability.

So we created the sustainable food route where we support different kind of food service operators. To support them looking for the future with so many things are coming up. So those are the four pillars actually. We’re based in the Netherlands, in the Hague, where the government sits, and from there we work throughout different areas and the main area is Europe and Middle East currently. And sometimes we do some work in Asia like we’re doing in South Korea, and we’ve done some work also in South America. But the main focus is Europe and Middle East.

And what kind of customers do I have to envision when I think of Conceptional?

Reoewein: All different customers in that way, they are mainly food service related, but sometimes also leisure related. But just to give you an example. So actually we work for also leisure holiday parks like Romford or Center Parks and but we also work for a lot of multi-unit restaurant operators like MSOs. But also other ones throughout the world where we support them on brand development. But also working directly with brands like a Domino’s or Duncan. Where we help them in branding and positioning and also redevelopment of their concepts like we did in the Middle East together with one of the partners over there. So there’s a different range in that one.

And in terms of the, let’s say, more placemaking, we’re working for the different kind of projects developers around the world like Klépierre or Malte, but also different ones outside of Europe. So different clientele, but also theme parks like the Efteling. So as long as it has to do with hospitality and food and beverage.

All right, maybe this is a question I should end the conversation with, but I’m too curious. Dare I ask, what kind of project is it that you love to do the most?

Reoewein: That’s a difficult one Carl. That’s the same if you ask, I got three children, three boys, so who do I like the most in that way? Which is quite difficult. But I do like working, of course, with clients who are looking to the future, having a committed team in that way. And actually we do work with a lot of clients in that way around the globe. And we’re doing a very nice project right now in the Middle East where we are developing concepts between leisure and food and beverage, which is a growing segment, also part of the trends. But we also love working with different clients like we do in the Netherlands, like we work for a group here in the Netherlands as well, where we did a new burger chain.

It is wonderful when everything’s coming together and when you see this and people enter and they’re enjoying consuming or being there. So there are many favorites, to be honest in that one. But I think those two, what I just mentioned, they are very close. But also working in theme parks like we do for the Efteling, for example, for about 13 years right now, it was the first client, to be honest. It’s wonderful to see everything’s coming together from experience, storytelling, food and beverage, international people. So yeah.

Carl: So can I conclude or summarize that it’s maybe not the type of business, but it’s the journey towards the success that is what drives?

Reoewein: That is absolutely true. I think the journey and how you work together as teams and creating such a great concept at the end. So it’s a mixture of those two, to be honest. Yeah.

Carl: And if I understand correctly, Conceptional is there from A to Z? From really like the bare concept to getting it operational and having staff in the restaurants operating them. It’s the whole journey.

Reoewein: It is the whole journey. But actually we are developers in that way. So we work together of course with different kind of clients, but we starting always from the analyze phase to really understand who’s the client, who’s the audience. And then bringing it to all the next steps from a business case, from a concept plan, going into layout, functionals, etcetera.

Then we bring it into design and branding and then we can help also, really, a lot of companies as well with recipe development together with one of our partners as well, and then bring it through to real life. And afterwards, of course we can stay for a couple of weeks, but then we need to go because then the operator need to take over in that way. But normally that’s the case from the beginning till the end and that’s why we said we are kind of a holistic approach. Looking to the projects.

That is the aim. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. To stay very close not because we want to do more work, but more to be very connected together to make that happen and to see how you can work, do the training with the employees as well. But also to see the first phases and reactions of the guests, which is really, really important.

Carl: Yeah. And again because if you are working multidisciplinary you’re doing so many different stuff. Is there anything you say, “Well I am most attracted to one or the other”? Is it more, let’s say, the Conceptional phase, the market research or is it like getting it operational or you say again, it’s the journey? Not so much one of those.

Reoewein: I would say it’s the journey. It’s that everything is coming together from an integrated approach. What I mentioned before, like a holistic approach that everything fits together until the end. Because if some piece is missing, we have an issue at the end. So if we don’t work on the functionality of the kitchen and you come, we will be there in that restaurant, you will face an issue probably in that way. So all the elements, but also in terms of data, order systems, everything is so important to be part of it. And that’s why we say again, the journey, the holistic approach is really important to get there. And of course the creativity in there, which is mainly in, let’s say, the concept plan or the master plan within Placemaking.

That’s a really fun part because then you try to bring several elements together because you’re looking for creativity, which is really key. But if you only have creativity and you don’t have the functionality, operational and financial, then it doesn’t work commercial. We have an issue and we don’t want that issue for your clients in that way. So really to bring that together and having really serious discussions about how do we get there. And it’s not easy. We can say right now that everything went well, 100%. You are aiming always for the 85-90% and then you open and then you will make sure the other 10% is getting in there as well, getting feedback even more. So I think everything together makes a difference. Yeah.

And I just heard you saying that, you know, it starts with, doing research and analysis of the location or of the situation. Can you take us through that? Like there is a new business coming by and they say “Conceptional, help us get a beverage place here.” How do you go about it?

Reoewein: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think what we do is really dive into a specific country, a culture, the eating culture. We need to understand what’s the competition around it that can be within concept development, but also within Placemaking. And we try to develop great mixed use places as well. You need to understand their habits because if I don’t do that and an example of that one was also Korea, where we work for CJ, which is one of the biggest companies in Korea, and they wanted to develop a new area. Kind of, we call it, the mixed use development area with all different elements, like an arena, like a media center, like a leisure park, shopping park. We need to understand how people act, how they go to work, what kind of restaurants they are going, because you need to bring everything together.

Then you bring also the international flavor or the creativity from Europe in that way. But we put a lot of efforts in that because if we make mistakes in that beginning, then it really is difficult how you transform that in the right business case, but also in the right planning, like a concept plan or a master planning. So a lot of efforts normally done like we did in Korea as well, but also in Spain. And we normally go there for one week or two weeks beside desk research. We do field research and really understand and bring that together. And check that with your clients and then you move on and then you have a good base for further development.

Carl:Yeah, nice. And so then, you get that base, you understand the market, you understand the audience, because I guess that’s also important whether or not you’re in a business district or in a leisure district. I could imagine. So what’s next?

Reoewein: So what’s next afterwards then you probably won’t like to dive in directly about only creativity, but that is important. But before that, we need to get a business case. And I think it’s really important to understand what are you aiming for that could be fruitful, that could be about capacity, that could be about the financials, it could be about investment. How far do you want to stretch it? What is feasible if you look in that specific area? So we put a lot of effort. So of course, always together with the clients, we don’t do it. We do it together as a team, making this happen within that company. And I think we put a lot of efforts really understand what the cost could be. Are you 100% there? No. But again, if you go there for 75-90% and you can work from budget and then you have a framework and from that framework you can start with all the creativity within the process and bringing in all different kind of concepts.

Carl: That’s really wonderful actually. And it’s the first time or one of the first times I hear this, is that you actually turn it, you know, the other way around. You first start from a framework that fits within a budget, that fits within the goal of the project. And then you bring in creativity, which is basically the opposite of what, let’s say, a regular chef would do, where they say, you know, I have this great food and then let’s see what I can do with this. You turn it around almost.

Reoewein: Yeah, that’s a way of doing it. But afterwards, if it’s not the right thing to do, it’s so much work to go back again. And if you have that in the beginning, you get a clear vision of what’s possible. It doesn’t have to block your creativity. It gives the freedom afterwards. But within a framework that could be an investment or could be an operational profit where you’re looking for. Then you said, okay, then we still have so many options. We have more than 1000 options still there. But then we know this is the way how we’re going to act. This is the person we’re going to work with. This is the company we’re going to work with as well. So that helps guiding you to bring you to the next phase.

When you’re doing this research, can you enlighten us a little bit on the challenges that you come by, maybe in relation to customers? As you say your client is very important in the development of the concept, but I can imagine it’s not always sunshine.

Reoewein: No, I think you need to understand the client and their clients. That’s what it’s all about. Because if the client of the clients are successful or happy, that will bring also, let’s say, joy within that company we’re working for. That also brings money where we’re working but also for sustainable business in the future. So we really need to dive into really understand that company and then we have difficult questions. That’s absolutely true. And I think that it’s important to have those questions in the beginning and not afterwards again. And then they probably could say, okay, you’re quite direct. That’s okay, I’m from Holland.

But in general, I think it’s important to have really serious discussions with the right people within the company because then you get alignment within the company as well. And actually we did this kind of kick off yesterday for one of our new clients in Sweden and we really had a very good discussion and it was not an easy discussion, but we tried to understand how does it work within this company and how are we going to bring this further? Is everything clear?

Carl: Do you need to understand the company’s culture too?

Reoewein: It is so important because then you can push the buttons together and understand how you bring it to the next phase. So we put a lot of efforts in that one and we made mistakes as well. But we try to really understand that company and make sure how we move further to the next phases together, to make sure we get the results that we’re expecting from the beginning.

You’ve done research for, dare I say 20 years, maybe not entirely at Conceptional, but before and during Conceptional. Can you tell us a little bit about where is hospitality going? What are the trends? What have you seen changing in these past ten years or so during your time at Conceptional?

Reoewein: Yeah, I think a lot, to be honest. But in general I think it also depends which area of the world we are talking about. So I think in general, I think COVID made a huge difference and I think you sense that as well within the company as well, that people think differently. When I started at hotel business school and started as a concept developer as well, it was always brick and mortar and develop a concept within that specific area, a location, a unit. What we’ve learned I think in the last five years, and especially during COVID, that has been accelerated big time, is that we should think hybrid in a different way.

It’s also about many other things like the social media. So the impact also of the smartphones, for example, about loyalty, you can use from a social media comments, there’s so many influences from that way. You need to understand that as an entrepreneur, even if you have one location or you have 2000 locations, it doesn’t matter in that way. Coming back to the trends, I think that there’s a lot of things going on and I think if you look at the bigger trends, we call them the mega trends maybe, it’s about meaningful economy. Really understand, how can you make a difference as a company? How do you touch your specific audience? Because the generations are changing as well.

We see ‘healthify’. People think different about their offer. It doesn’t say you always have to eat salads, but there is a growing segment in that specific area as well. Like also sustainability, as we discussed initially, and that was one of the reasons three years ago where we said, okay, we need to focus on sustainability more and more. We need to understand and if you look right now what’s going on from a regulation point of view, but also ESG. If it’s not only coming from, let’s say, the company itself, and happily, that is happening a lot, but there’s so much regulation coming up and hopefully people understand what the impact is on their business. Big time. Big time. So that’s your use of technology.

Also, if you look what’s happening in Japan or you see in Korea, but also in the US and looking at the issues, the challenges we have right now is about stuff and it depends which part of the world you are. But if you look at Europe, even now the Middle East a littlebit more, but also the US, but also looking into UK, we have a shortage of stuff. We can say no, but it’s a real fact and it’s difficult to get people back within that industry, which is a beautiful industry. So how do you use tooling technology within your company to make life easier? Because that is it.

Can I jump on that? Have you worked and how do you look at de-staffing these concepts like making sure that you order through tablets and iPhones and maybe even introduce robots, because I even see those passing by?

Reoewein: How we look at it, I think is key to embrace certain things. But again, it really depends what kind of industry you are in. Are you in the quick service restaurant? Are you in a fast casual? Are you in casual dining? Are you in premium dining or fine dining? There’s big differences. Where we see where people embrace it mainly is within QSR and fast casual currently. Why? Because it’s possible within that sector, there’s volume. If you look, for example, the quick service restaurants, there’s volume where you see, let’s say sales between 2.5 million till 6-7 million there. You can bring in optimization in that way. There could be Robotization as well. Like Flippy was doing the burgers, like the pizza which you’re using in the pizza robot in Paris, for example. There are more, like, some companies.

Also, they bought other technology companies to bring that into your company, which is smart. I would say, “Why should I do it all from scratch, buy in another company in that way?” So we see a lot of things happening on that specific area, but also in terms of ordering, as you mentioned yourself. Self ordering, I think it will move, probably everything is going to move through your smartphone in the future because also looking from the cost, we can still of course make beautiful screens, touch screens in there, but it’s still costly.

They can break down, which can happen with your phone too. But in that way we don’t see. So we see a lot of things changing. I think that we look at McDonald’s, that helped the industry in that way because they already started with it probably 12 or 14 years ago, maybe even longer, with the first screens. And that worked for them in that way. And looking through COVID, I think, again, technology is becoming more and more important as well because you try to find ways how you can get income in a different way.

So it is important. And talking about how we use it currently it’s with ordering system, it’s how we use it, it’s working with social media, how that reflect into your store that you can show it. For example, we’re looking also to Robotization. We have not used it yet, to be honest, but we are talking with a couple of companies right now how we can bring that in. But you also need to maintain it. So you need to have a company to maintain this as well, which is really important, of course.

Carl: And it actually changes the type of staff you need. And probably that is still also quite a challenge to find the people to maintain robots, which is a different thing than hospitality.

Reoewein: Yeah, sure, in that way. And that’s why I said there’s a big difference between, again, fine dining or we go to the QSR or to go. It’s a different business in that way. So the models work differently. If I go to a fine dining and I expect robots in the kitchen and not the famous chef anymore, the two star, three star Michelin chef. And I think, what’s going on? Do I have to pay €150 for this meal? But maybe it’s the future, don’t get me wrong, because there’s a lot of things happening also in Japan, but other parts of the world as well that makes it creative as well. But I think for now it is more focusing on that specific segment where it’s convenience and fast as well. Yeah.

You mentioned already twice now the importance of sustainability within restaurants and within concepts. I’m going to ask a provocative question here. How much of that is real sustainability and how much of that is greenwashing?

Reoewein: I think both is happening in the world, to be honest. But I think if you see what’s happening in this world, if you see how the new generations look at this specifically like Generation Z, like the millennials, they will become your future guest. They are already your guest, but they will be future guests within the family. Look at my children as well. When they have a family as well, they have different thoughts about how you taking care of the world. Animal welfare. If you skip it, they will say, okay, that’s fine, but I’m not going to your location.

Currently, if we look at the different generation, it’s still a broader mix with the baby boomers and also at the other side, the alpha. So it has different values. If I ask my parents, they will say, okay, take care of each other. But really about sustainability and plant based. They look at me, I just want to have my steak or something else so it can be a different discussion. But we need to acknowledge that there will be a difference looking to the future, how are we going to make this happen and how are we going to take care of this world as well? So how do you bring this in within your concept plans or the development of your concepts? And it doesn’t have to be 100%, don’t get me wrong, make a start.

But the problem with sustainability in that one is it’s a beautiful word, but what does it mean exactly? You need to measure it. So that’s why we created the system like that we measure all the areas from CO2, but also all other elements about the ingredients, etcetera to really understand where can you make the difference and how much is, for example, plant based. I’m not saying you should do only plant based. No, no, not at all. But we need to find a balance because it is reflecting the needs. And at the other side it’s taking care of the world more and more. Where we’re going towards 2050, in the future.

At Conceptional, do you have KPIs on that? Like we want 50% or 70% of our menu to be in the dark green CO2 kind of area where 0.5kg per meal is the max? Or do you have KPIs as a business yourself? Or do you listen to the customer?

Reoewein: No, we want to bring them in, of course. And I think we have to be realistic in that one. So we’re looking at, okay, let’s start at least with 20-25%, but we have to work with our clients so you can push it. But if you understand what work needs to be done to accomplish this, you cannot make that happen directly. So it’s a movement that’s going on, but we try to say, okay, listen, let’s start with the 25%. Also, if you look for the reuse of equipment, for example, we started a new platform as well with other consultants. Let’s start with the 10%. It’s about making a start. It’s not about doing it perfectly, 100%. We don’t believe in that. But our objective is to make it visible, to have the discussion going, to start with all the elements that the 6 or 7 different pillars of sustainability to bring that into your organization as well. And then afterwards you also see that it’s not only about cost, it will bring money to the table as well. And that is also the discussions we have.

So sometimes you’re working worldwide. You’ve mentioned Korea and the United States. Is this sustainability topic global or is this a more Western and Northern Europe topic?

Reoewein: Very good question. Let’s say what we experienced because, I would say that if you look in Europe, we are far ahead looking to other parts of the world, especially the Nordics was in Scandinavia last few days as well. It’s really on the agenda in that way. When we were working in South Korea, it’s a different mindset. Also the Middle East, although now the last two years to now it’s really picking up. If I would have that discussion five years ago, there were other topics that were more important. But looking right now, what’s going on also in the Middle East, you look at the Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi, they are embracing this as well, big time. And how does it reflect also into your food service? So I would say there are differences. I think Europe is on top currently. Yeah.

Carl: All right. So step by step, the global problem of sustainability is becoming global.

Reoewein: Yes absolutely.

Carl: All right. You mentioned Gen Z. Tell me a bit about it. I mean, these are the people that are now coming of age. They’re becoming consumers. And also in my company, they’re now joining the team. Tell me a little bit about them.

How do you treat them? What’s their mindset? And how does a restaurant need to adapt to them?

Reoewein: I think it’s really important to understand where you look also at Gen Z and I also try to get them in our company as well to reflect and to really understand also the clients in that way. And what we see, of course, with Gen Z, is that sustainability is really important for them. It’s about personification as well as “What’s good for me?” It’s also about extreme indulgence. It’s not about the middle anymore or it’s on the left where it’s very healthy or it’s just the other side like indulge, for example. So if you develop a concept in the middle, they would say, “That’s nice, but not for me.”

I think also about the role of social media in terms of the influencers in looking at the TikTok of this world or Snapchat, which is really a communicating tool for them, which is really key. And if you see the queues bumping up right now in the US, but even in Netherlands right now because it was on TikTok and that’s really close to that generation as well and they really go there. It’s unbelievable. I’m amazed in that one. So you need to understand if you develop concept or you’re an entrepreneur, how they think in that way, how they act, why do they choose for you and how can you influence it as well? So I think it’s a really important generation to follow for the future and see how you can be connected with your concept.

And can you still do old concepts? Or how do you merge those concepts into what made hospitality great in, let’s say, in the early 2000s and before COVID to the world post-COVID? How do you adapt?

Reoewein: Yeah, I think it’s a mixture, of course. But what I said, if you are too much in the middle, it’s quite difficult. And we know that if you talk about trends that are spirit and cuisines like the Korean one, Japanese one, the Fusion, are there. A good brasserie from Paris, whatever, will remain because it’s good. It’s about the service, about the quality of the food as well. There are a lot of people who love to go there as well because it’s authentic in that way. So it’s a mixture of that. So I’m not saying you should only do TikTok concepts. We are not working, that is for a specific generation.

But even that generation, they have different needs at different moments because they will be part of the family sometimes and they will go somewhere else. If they will go with friends, they might have a choice to go to that specific concept. So I don’t believe that we won’t see those concepts anymore because we will see fast service concepts. We will keep them as well. We will see more fast casual and casual dining. I think the fine dining, which is not superb in that way, would have a little bit more difficulties in that way. But in general I would say if you stick to quality service and having the right ambience and value for money, I think that’s really important as well because I’m happy to pay a lot of money. But if it’s not the value where you’re expecting that, that’s an issue. So that needs to be in balance.

Carl: Yes. And one of the things you said in the beginning of the conversation when you were introducing Conceptional, one of the pillars that you were looking for or looking at was performance and growth. Is that correct?

Reoewein: Yeah!

Can you tell a little bit about that? Like how do you establish growth and what are the, let’s say the trade secrets, of making a business successful?

Reoewein: Yeah, sure. Happy to do that. And that also has to do, of course, with our operational experience. And if you look at our team, we have a lot of operational people as well who switched also to development and other parts and branding. But we can develop beautiful concepts. We can, but if it doesn’t work operational, if we don’t have the right people, if we don’t have the right products, we are out. Just very, very simple. So that’s why we said, okay, listen, we try to understand certain organizations how they work from a procurement point of view, from a marketing point of view, from, let’s say, human resources or human capital point of view, how does it really work? Because you need to have the right people to make great operations or great companies in that way.

So what we do first when we work with a company is to really understand that company and how can we optimize the existing business. What we sometimes see is also that they roll out directly, but they don’t have the backbone ready to do so. So what we try to do is to make sure we focusing initially on that specific organization or specific brand that can be on menu, presentation, signage and communication, people and training. In that way, it’s about managing how you look at it procurement in different ways, but also dashboarding. So the data, how do you work with data? What is the additional value of data? How can you make your life easier? And if you have a brand that has potential maybe to roll out for 50 or 100 stores, then we first want to start in that specific country or city to see how they work.

But then again, the basics need to be right and this is what we do with performance and growth. And if it’s correct, then we move to, let’s say, more rollout. That’s the growth sector of that performance and growth. And looking into the growth, then we say, okay, how can we roll out? What kind of formats do you need? What kind of players are you going to do it yourself? Are you going for franchise or license or a joint venture that really influenced your organization as well?

And since we’re coming from a concession and franchise environment, also as my partners, we understand where everything goes wrong. It can go quite wrong. Of course, and again, if you don’t have the basics right, it’s difficult to grow. So we always say, let’s focus on that one initially. And then we would love to start the growth because we have seen also some of the brands that really start directly. But then they say, okay, we have to go back because the basics are not there. Logistic distribution also very important one, if you cross the border, if you go from UK, you go to Belgium or to the Netherlands or Germany and you don’t have the logistics in place in distribution, it is difficult. You don’t get your products in or you don’t get the right products in or etcetera. Yeah.

Let’s talk about something that’s dear to me, food costs. How impactful is that? And when you are developing concepts, you know, what’s the ideal food cost? And do you achieve that in reality? Do you also experience the gap between the theory that you write down, you know, in the business model and what is then the execution afterward?

Reoewein: Yeah. We sometimes see a gap and it can have many reasons for it. But I think the food cost is a really important one to manage. If you see what happened in the last 18 months, there’s an increase every month and really increases until 18, 20 or 30%. So that’s something difficult to manage, of course, because this is happening, then you can have a look at volume procurement, which is another site. I think the other one is also using the right data also to make sure you bring waste as low as possible.

That’s another really important one as well. If you look at our business cases, we have different kind of food costs. So if you have a fine dining or a casual dining and fine dining, of course will be higher, that might be 30 or 33%. I’ll just say something if you do, for example, an Italian concept which can be fast casual, casual concept, you try to manage it as well, but then you’re looking between 20 or 25% and then again how many locations you have. It depends. We know a little bit based on the experience we have personally and also within the company altogether, you know where it should sit. So that’s the base. But you have, of course, the real cost and the theoretical cost, which you’re using initially in your business case. And I do believe that we are normally close.

If you look at hamburger chains, for example, you need to understand that there needs to be a certain possibility to make this happen based on experience and based on benchmark. But there are sometimes differences, but it has to do with waste, not training your staff in a proper way, not having the data ready that you can make it really easy, bring everything together and you know your cost price in that way so you can really change it into your menu price, which is important. Sometimes people say, okay, it costs €5. We ask €8, you have an issue. We’re up to 60% on food costs. So you need to manage that in a proper way. So there are many different factors that can influence that food cost.

I often tell people that from what I see there are a few things that are very important. The first one is the location of your business. The second one is the concept and the third one is the food. Is there anything that I’m missing? And from those three, which one do you think is the most important or how do they work together in your opinion?

Reoewein: And are you then talking to entrepreneurs? Are you talking to customers? Guests?

Carl: No. To the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs. Yes. Looking to open up a new business or to scale the business.

Reoewein: No, I think you’re right. Location is really important in terms of footfall, in terms of competition, it is key. Having said that, what we see, for example, like the destination driven concepts and locations, the location could be less important. For example, if you go to a kind of entertainment, food and beverage area, it could be somewhere else as well because they need more square meters, so they lower down the rent. And that’s not the center of the city. But in general, you’re absolutely right. I think location is really key. The concept needs to be very clear. And if you don’t have a very clear communication in terms of the location itself and also looking to how you use branding and marketing outside, I fully agree with you as well. And the food is really important. But I think if we don’t have the right stuff in that way, it can make it quite difficult.

In certain environments maybe the staff has a less impact, but I think we should add staff because it’s one, it’s a challenge. And secondly, I think we need to pay more attention to educate the staff as well. Find the balance between working in private because that’s quite a challenge. If you look at the last 40, 50 years and I’ve been doing it the same as well. I work 60, 70 hours because I love my work, but you need to find a balance as well. So I think we should add stuff to that one as well. And at the end that should generate of course a profitable business because that’s what we’re looking for.

If we don’t have the profitable business, we cannot reinvest in the concept. We cannot reinvest in people. We cannot reinvest in new recipe engineering in that way. So which is really important for the sustainability of that concept. So I think I would add staff in that way and I would say probably now as well, more than I would say five years ago, I would say marketing and social media. If you see how certain concepts are doing it, doing business currently, it really helps also on the social media. But if you do great marketing on social media and the three-four pillars we just mentioned are not in place. Not working. Not working at all. So it is, again, the holistic integrated part to make this happen, to have a great restaurant or a great cafe or a bakery whatsoever.

Final question, Reoewein. If people want to make use of Conceptional, what kind of business should be looking at Conceptional as a partner? What size and or what kind of business?

Reoewein: Oh, I must admit that we are working for bigger organizations in that way, but we also work for let’s say a little bit smaller organizations. Actually, we just started two new assignments, which is a theater with a restaurant and brewery and all different kind of elements in there as well, which we really love. It’s about culture. It’s also bringing that together. I won’t say there is not that specific customer we’re not serving because again, I think it’s really important to support them.

But to be honest, if you look in our portfolio, we working for, let’s say the brands who are having more than five stores or three, five stores or has the ambition to grow, we working for private equity where they can ask us, well, should we buy this company? And then we have a look at the numbers, we look at the concept, etcetera. A lot of multi unit restaurant operators as well, but a lot of restaurant groups as well in that way. And of course, as I mentioned from our placemaking business, it’s more related to real estate, leisure, leisure parks, theme parks. We work for a lot. So it’s a combination of those two in that way.

Carl: Sounds like a very exciting place you’re at. And this was an extremely interesting talk. Thank you very much for taking the time and I hope you enjoyed it.

Reoewein: Thank you so much, Carl. I really enjoyed it and being part of it. So really looking forward to maybe having another one in the future.

Carl: Looking forward to that. Goodbye. Thank you. This brings us to the end of the show. My name is Carl Jacobs and I hope you enjoyed this episode. The Food Service Growth Show is all about growing your brand into a profitable and healthy business. Subscribe to this channel for more hands on interviews and insights. Until next time on the Food Service Growth Show.

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Guest & Host

Reoewein Niesten

Founder & CEO
Conceptional B.V

Carl Jacobs

Co-founder & CEO

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