A comprehensive look at the restaurant concepts that have come and gone over the past century would require a course of its own.

There are mainstays, from all-you-can-eat buffets and sidewalk bistros to neighbourhood burger joints, pizza parlours and fine-dining destinations for special occasions. Each concept sprang from an individual idea of how to celebrate foods, flavours and a particular cuisine, or to simply to make the most of a novel preparation technique or cooking technology.

Given the creative people attracted to this profession, the future will suffer no shortage of fresh and tasty concepts as savvy chefs and operators, driven by passion and indications of a real or perceived gap in the dining market, keep adding to the mix.

However, given that defining a concept is often the first step in the invention of a new restaurant, how much should the increasingly unpredictable nature of that future affect that definition? Are there any concepts or cuisines that are best suited to nourishing urban diners in new and original ways, and that can also contribute to the resilience of food systems and the global environment?

The clear answer is yes, and we’ll explore the ins-and-out of those models throughout this course.

One of the greatest strengths of the foodservice and hospitality sector also contributes substantially to its sustainability challenge — the sheer variety of its operations. Other business sectors, from office complexes to transportation, have been able to more easily adopt sustainability standards due to the relative sameness of their products and processes.

You may think the same is true of this sector; that behind all the fine dining, family/casual, quick-service and assorted hybrid models (e.g. fast casual) is a kitchen and service area filled with cooks and/or servers. That’s essentially true, but the sameness also stops there. While most people recognize buildings and buses as necessities of urban living, foodservice outlets must rely on their popularity or relevance or convenience to determine their relative value to the communities they serve.

Shifting market forces and other factors will determine which of those concepts will flourish in the future, but another thing is also true — the increasing demand for measurably sustainable options from consumers (and governments) will be a key driver of change.

Here’s another core truth. All foodservice and hospitality concepts do share at least one essential thing in common — a menu.

A well-crafted menu tells the whole story – of the concept and the people behind it, the values and culture they share, their sense of place and time; and speaks to the type of relationship they aim to have with their customers and community.

Choosing the ingredients that make up the dishes on that menu may be self-evident in some concepts (e.g. Neapolitan pizza). But where options are seemingly ‘limitless,’ and where the goal is a smart, future-proof menu to guide the design of the rest of the sustainable operations, choices ought to abide by some commonly-used and accepted guidelines.

The next two topics cover that.

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