I am a huge fan of restaurants which offer a single product - by this I don't mean just one item on the menu, but just one comprehensive and well designed product offering for the customer. I will give you a few examples of such offerings.
• Rajdhani (http://www.rajdhani.co.in/) - Gujarati/Rajasthani Thali
• Barbeque Nation (www.barbeque-nation.com) - Kababs on the table and an Indian buffet
• Maiyas/MTR (www.maiyas.in) - Traditional Karnataka Meal
• Buffets in Restaurants
Why do I like such offerings?
• There is exceptional clarity to the customers on how much they are going to spend at the restaurant and what exactly they will get at the restaurant. So if you have a good product offering, satisfying customers and generating repeat customers/referrals becomes easier.
• Typically with such offerings, it will be difficult for the customer to NOT feel satisfied at the end of the meal. Out of the various dishes, everyone will like a few items, you typically can get unlimited servings of the items you like and of course you always have a couple of dessert options that will please the customer even if everything else was not that great. If customers leave your restaurant satisfied, it is really good for your business.
• Operationally it makes things a lot easier (This is a big one if you run/manage a restaurant)
1) There is no confusion with order taking and fulfillment. In a typical restaurant, communicating the orders to the kitchen, prioritising the food preparation, assembling the food for a table and serving the right order to the right table is quite a process - during busy times, the kitchen area is literally like a warzone.
2) Since the food is prepared in advance (i.e. the cooks don't start preparing the dish once the customer places the order), the customer gets the food quickly. No one really likes waiting for food in a restaurant - that is why even in a lot of fine dining restaurants, you will notice that they will serve complementary bread/nibbles immediately after the customer gets seated at the table to keep them happy till their order arrives. This is particularly critical during busy times, when your kitchen will invariably delay orders and frustrate your customers.
3) Billing once a customer has finished the meal is easier - no need to track specific orders for a specific table. This minimizes possibilities of errors, wrong billing and scope for any hanky-panky by the cashier/restaurant staff.
4)Menu Planning and Cost Control: This is another big one for me.
* Since you don't have a fixed menu, managing and controlling your inventory of raw material becomes easy.
* Within your broad concept, your chef can play around with the specific menu options, make changes easily (based on customer feedback) and have more scope for innovating. Running Food festivals/thematic events is easier - e.g. Holi Special, Diwali Special etc.
* Also with the way raw material costs have fluctuated over the last few years, a good chef can quickly remove high cost offerings and replace them with alternatives. e.g. If the cost of Capsicum goes up signifcantly, the chef need not buy Capsicum for that particular period, and instead prepare a brinjal dish that is aligned with the overall concept.
Hopefully I have convinced a few of you about this theory of mine.
Business Tip: I think there is fantastic potential in India for an All-Day Buffet Restaurant - in the lines of Ryans (www.ryans.com), Old Country Buffet (www.oldcountrybuffet.com), Cici's Pizza (www.cicispizza.com) etc. in the US.