How to stand out as a restaurant

As people embrace the new normal, one sector is seeing a significant recovery after the pandemic. Restaurants. Those that managed to stay open during the last two years are seeing guest levels close to pre-pandemic times.

A new report for Lumina Intelligence summarises people’s appetite (sorry) for dining out; according to the UK Restaurant Market Report 2021/22, the UK restaurant market is set to recover to 94% of its 2019 value in 2022.

But in such a saturated market, where the offerings are becoming increasingly flamboyant – what can you do to stand out?

Let’s look at how some places are getting it right.


Dubbed Leeds’ most Instagrammable spot for brunch, Fléur hits all the right spots when it comes to offering guests an experience. The stunning interior is topped only by the presentation of the food and drinks; pink latte, we’re looking at you.

Their Instagram account does a great job of bringing their vibe online. Their personality shines through the content they post, and they utilise all the UGC they get by resharing it on their grid and stories.

Instagram is a visual platform, and people use it to discover new products and places. The right decor and prettily-plated food will encourage people who find you on Instagram to make a reservation and share their experience with their followers. Why? Because people like showing off. This insight is something that brands have been cashing in on for years.


Design with social media in mind. It may sound odd to recommend building your menu around what is considered ‘Instagrammable’, but any good restaurant knows presentation plays a part in making your food taste better. Making sure your restaurant and menu items look the part will make your guests want to snap and share their food before they dig in.


A memorable experience starts from your first interaction with your guests, which could be well before they walk through the doors, so bringing the same energy across all touchpoints is crucial.

When guests do arrive, how do your establishments’ aesthetics make them feel? Do they communicate your hearty family grub, or do they exude class and delicate flavours? Going beyond your colour scheme and choice of chairs – how does the music add to this feeling?

Most restaurants opt for quiet background music while guests are dining, but one restaurant in Leeds does things differently.

Sambuca brings a taste of Italy and combines it with loud music, friendly, relaxed staff and an all-around buzzing atmosphere. The food is fantastic (writing from experience), and the relaxed atmosphere makes the perfect setting for a celebration or teatime meal with a twist, and people love it. By creating this atmosphere and being consistent with their offering they’ve racked up some brilliant online reviews.


Building a space where people want to spend time doesn’t need to break the bank, but consistency is key. So consider having a theme, or better, a feeling that you stick to – this will help ensure your space gives your customers the desired experience.


The exterior of your business should be an extension of the interior vibe; you want to capture your audience as they walk past.

Take a look at Zaap Thai Restaurant in Headingley. Their open-fronted restaurant decor is chaotic and brilliant. It encapsulates everything you imagine when you think of Thai street food – hustle, bustle, great flavours, with just the right amount of garishness.

Location might be important, but with the rise of social media for discovering new products and places, it’s not the be-all and end-all. If your restaurant is off the beaten track, use social media in place of kerb appeal. People love secret venues and hidden gems, especially when they get bragging rights of being one of the first of their friends to try it out.

The Domino Club, hidden beneath a barber shop, is a 1920s-esque drinking den with all the smooth characteristics of the whiskey you’ll find here.


Transporting your guests to Thailand or providing them with a secret entrance might be a little out of reach, but making your guests feel like they’re part of an exclusive group is not. Using social media, you can tell your audience about special promotions available just to them, like a code word to get a discount or a secret off-menu item.


Offering unique menu items can be the key to standing out, don’t just follow current trends in your sector – build on them, make them better, or start your own. When you understand your target market, you’ll know what makes them tick and should be able to get ahead of the curve – tell your audience what’s new, tasty, and Instagrammable.

Experiences are at the top of people’s lists this year, so what better way to entertain them than with food cooked in front of them, at their table?

Teppanyaki does just that, with intimate tables set out around the restaurant, each one having its own chef and group of wowed guests.

Their chefs are fun and love getting the customers involved, from throwing food into mouths and getting guests to try their hands at performing trick shots with an egg – the whole atmosphere is show-like and high-energy.


People are keen to try new experiences and love sharing them on social media.

Keeping an eye on what’s trending on social media will help you predict what will work IRL – if you can bring some extra flare to your food with a little showmanship, do it.


Take the experiential factor one step further by hosting cooking or cocktail parties where guests can learn to make your best dishes and their favourite drinks. People are increasingly showing us their desire to have something more than just food and drinks – and they’re willing to spend more money at places that offer it.

Chaophraya is one of Leeds’ most popular Thai restaurants, and for good reason. The venue itself is stunning, as is the food. What’s more is that Chaophraya offers cooking classes, where the chefs give guests a front-row seat to preparing two dishes before getting to don their own aprons and make the food themselves.

If you have a smaller room in your restaurant, you could convert this into a private dining room – another way to differentiate yourself from businesses in the local area. Advertising this as a private area for business meetings or couples enjoying special occasions gives you an edge over the competition and adds a certain je ne sais quoi.


Making your space available for private hire for events is a relatively easy way to drum up interest and business. People hosting parties, work events, or other private events are likely to be big spenders; they’re also more likely to offer repeat business or recommend you to their friends.



Recurringly, we’re seeing that many people are looking for dining experiences. Having consistently good food is a must for any good restaurant, but offering guests something more has become increasingly expected – the 2022 consumer craves it.


A unique dining experience is as much about a visual appeal as the level of service provided.


From the food, to the furniture and music, decide what you want your customers to feel, and do everything in your power to make it happen.


Use social media to offer people special items they wouldn’t get by just walking in. Create excitement around exclusivity and giving people bragging rights.


Hosting cooking classes, or cocktail parties shows your expertise and gets customers involved in exciting ways.