Every year, Restaurant Business compiles a list of 50 Great Ideas that come from a range of restaurants around the country—from chains to independents, major cities to small suburban markets—and covering everything from marketing to menus. With just 50 open slots, though, not every great idea can make the list. Here’s some additional great ideas the Restaurant Business editors saw while out and about in their home city, Chicago, in the past year.
1. Design-incorporated trashcans
Instead of traditional trashcans in the ladies’ room, Kinmont incorporated the bins into the design. Small, blue receptacles are built into the wall, almost flush against it, and surrounded shellacked, floor-to-ceiling newspaper and magazine print.
2. Catering containers match in-store experience
Salata, multiple locations
The tossed-to-order salad trend is rapidly growing, but Salata has figured out a way to recreate that experience outside of its restaurants. When the chain opened its recent unit outside of Chicago, it sent a sample of its catered salads to local offices. Its package is divided to look similar to the behind-the-counter line, with grid-like compartments in a disposable package.
3. DIY donuts at brunch
La Stanza Ristorante, Chicago
Today’s consumers love customization. And brunch also is becoming increasingly popular. To capitalize on both, La Stanza Ristorante—the high-end arm of three-in-one concept Labriola Chicago—incorporated a do-it-yourself doughnut bar onto its new brunch menu. And it’s serving as cross-promotion for the company, too. The Donut Bar features the pastries from sister concept Stan’s Donuts; guests will start with a simple glazed doughnut, then have access to a range of glazes, sauces and toppings.
4. Prix-fixe with a choice
Instead of a prix-fixe menu that’s completely predetermined, high-end Chicago restaurant Ruxbin gives guests a choice. Printed with the phrase, “Converse, commune and curate your dinner for the table,” diners can choose 5 shareable dishes for $65 per person. The menu typically is made up of six starters, four mains and two desserts. While servers suggest tables pick two from each savory category and one dessert, guests are invited to do as they please. For those still hungry, extra dishes are available for $12 per person.
5. Sending leftovers with a recipe
River Roast, Chicago
At River Roast, the whole roast chicken is the most popular entrée for tables of two or more. The staff packs up whatever is not eaten for guests to take home, complete with a recipe for chicken soup they can make at home from the leftovers.
6. Alternate wine-corkage fee
Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, Chicago
The modern steakhouse allows guests to bring their own wine—one bottle per every two people. The catch: There’s a $40 corkage fee. There is, however, an alternative for guests who don’t want to pay. Feeding into Bavette’s philosophy that food and wine are meant to be shared, BYOBers can opt to share a glass from their bottle with another table in lieu of a corkage fee.