50 Great Ideas

The top industry ideas we've spotted in the last year

Innovation is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days, almost to the point where it has lost its meaning. If every new menu item, piece of technology or restaurant design is touted as the most innovative ever, what truly is innovative? We think we found 50 answers here. Not only are these ideas imaginative and inspiring, they work hard to improve business and drive trends. In compiling this roundup, we spotted several hotbeds of creativity in drink menus, clever decor, sustainability solutions and hyperlocal marketing. Maybe one or two will spark a great idea for your restaurant.

Ideas by topic

Editor's picks
Design ideas
Chains Ideas
Marketing ideas
Food and drink ideas
Honorable mentions

Idea Location(s) Restaurant(s)
1. Noodles to go New York City Spaghetti Incident
2. Grocery bag? Check! St. Paul, Minn. Saint Dinette
3. Preopening for locals Chicago Nando’s
4. Coffee in the fast lane Spokane, Wash. Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters
5. Virtual pie case Rhode Island Chelo’s
6. Self-serve brews at the bar New York City Genuine Liquorette
7. Extra-meaty steak basting Chicago RPM Steak
8. On the (coffee) rocks Atlanta Queen of Cream
9. It takes a village to raise a wing joint Obetz, Ohio Buffalo Wings & Rings
10. Bespoke Oysters Washington, D.C. Passion Food Hospitality
11. CSA takes to the seas Montauk, N.Y. Dock to Dish
12. Recycling an idea: Scraps on the menu New York City Shake Shack
13. A good match Minneapolis Jax Cafe
14. Fishing floats Denver Stoic & Genuine
15. Walls of poetry Oakland, Calif. Plum Bar
16. Serving bowls Los Angeles Yellow Fever
17. Milk crate lights Washington, D.C. Beefsteak
18. Cheese grater lights Minneapolis Borough
19. Wine-barrel ring lights Minneapolis Terzo
20. Whisk lights St. Louis Whisk Bakery
21. Tapping the bitters trend Chicago Best Intentions
22. Sriracha at the pump Chicago Protein Bar
23. A saucy game of dice Bangkok Breeze
24. New ways to use trays Washington, D.C. Beefsteak
25. Crowdsourcing the sports bar Minneapolis Buffalo Wild Wings
26. A way to keep warm Chicago Kaiser Tiger
27. Dessert-drink pairings take flight St. Louis Gamlin Whiskey House
28. Homegrown menus Atlanta Mellow Mushroom
29. Communal comments Boston Coda
30. Pizza via text Ann Arbor, Mich. Domino’s
31. Barstool built for two Evanston, Ill. Found Kitchen
32. Paleo promotion Roswell, Ga. Table & Main
33. The state of the plate San Francisco Bluestem Brasserie
34. Customizable walls Chicago Ampersand at Kinmont
35. Set house rules for social posts Atlanta Chick-fil-A
36. House cocktails in a bottle San Antonio Cured
37. Putting beer on the map San Francisco Local Brewing Co.
38. Cocktails in the cards Chicago The Drifter
39. Set your glass here San Francisco Cellarmaker Brewing Co.
40. Mix-and-match cocktails Chicago The Promontory
41. Cue up the QR Philadelphia Tria Taproom
42. Real-time feedback Los Angeles Umami Burger
43. Tipping the cooks Los Angeles Alimento
44. These fries have eyes Oakland, Calif. Lungomare
45. Paper and crayons 2.0 United Kingdom Ed’s Easy Diner
46. Chef’s log New York City L’Appart
47. A bowl of pie Dallas Pie Five
48. Scents of place Washington, D.C. Masseria
49. Countdown to Happy Hour Jacksonville, Fla. Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails
50. Trash tips for customers Washington, D.C. Sweetgreen