5 Lessons to Learn From Wildly Successful Restaurants

What do wildly successful restaurants have in common?

Well, a great menu, to start. But that’s just a piece of the puzzle.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for success, there are certain characteristics that top restaurants share. The good news? You can learn from them and potentially adapt them to suit your own restaurant—starting today.

Take a cue from some of the most famous and successful eateries on earth. These actionable lessons go beyond simply offering great food.

Successful Restaurant Lesson 1: Create an Experience

Copenhagen restaurant Geranium is clearly doing a lot of things right—in 2022, it was crowned The World’s Best Restaurant. What’s their secret?

Food matters, of course—the menu changes seasonally and features thoughtful, locally-sourced appetizers, savory dishes, and desserts.

But the way the food is served matters, too—the meal is served as a 20-course tasting menu that takes a minimum of three hours to enjoy.

The setting is just as important. For starters, the restaurant is composed of multiple spaces, including a cozy fireplace-adjacent table. Just as important, it’s located on the eighth floor with sweeping views of the nearby Fælledparken gardens, which gives customers a sense of nature while they dine.

Your Takeaway

After carefully considering your food and wine menu, consider how you can level up the overall dining experience for your customers with your service and ambience.


Successful Restaurant Lesson 2: Keep it Local

Central, a restaurant located in Peru that ranks in at #2 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, keeps it local in every way.

peruvian food central restaurante
(Photo: Alferova, iStock / Getty Images Plus)

This restaurant is an absolute love letter to its Peruvian surroundings. In terms of raw materials, the chefs spend extensive time researching local ingredients to make sure that they’re sourcing the best and most authentic items, from seafood to meats and beyond. The ever-changing tasting menu is a celebration of the food, traditions, and history of the region.

And when it comes to sustainability, Central practices what it preaches. Guests walk into the restaurant through a vegetable garden filled with fresh items that will soon grace their dinner plates, and they have a very strong focus on reducing waste through recycling, composting, and decreasing ingredient waste.

Your Takeaway

Show some love for your hometown and the region you’re in! Consider sourcing ingredients from local farmers or food purveyors, and/or offering regional specialty foods on your menu. 


Successful Restaurant Lesson 3: Find Your Niche

Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City has been around—and drawing crowds—since 1888. What’s the big appeal? Massive portions of classic Jewish foods, including mile-high pastrami sandwiches.

To put it simply, Katz’s found their niche, and they stuck with it. People don’t go to Katz’s for innovative cuisine. They go for tradition, and they come in droves. 

While it’s a very different establishment, New Orleans eatery Café Du Monde follows a similar principle of finding a specific niche and sticking to it.

The cafe has been around since 1862, and it’s been crowded practically every day since it opened. Their menu consists of two key items: chicory-laced coffee and beignets, a type of pillowy French doughnut served under a mountain of powdered sugar. Once again, people don’t necessarily visit because they want to try something new—they want the comfort of the familiar.

Your Takeaway

Not every restaurant has to be a trailblazer. If you find something that you do well, keep doing it consistently. As the restaurants mentioned above prove, it’s a proven and not-so-secret recipe for long-term success.

katz deli


Successful Restaurant Lesson 4: Make it Destination-Worthy

Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York, is off the beaten path. Yet it’s world-famous. What makes it worth the journey?

The painstaking attention to every single detail adds up to an experience that makes it destination-worthy.

First, start with the food. Farm-to-table isn’t just a catchphrase here. It’s a way of life. Chef Dan Barber has become an international sensation for his “zero-waste” policy, including how kitchen scraps are turned into charcoal.

In terms of dishes, it depends on the season and what’s available, but you’ll definitely enjoy fruits and vegetables from the greenhouse and working farm on the property.

And let’s not forget the setting. Blue Hill operates out of what was once a cow barn but has been transformed into a cozy oasis on idyllic farm grounds. The dreamy setting and the staff’s dedication to every detail makes this award-winning restaurant worth traveling to.

Your Takeaway

Love is in the details. Pay attention to details and stay true to your mission statement—it’ll get you noticed no matter where you’re located!


Successful Restaurant Lesson 5: Get Featured in a Movie

If all else fails, get your restaurant featured in a movie to make the crowds come running!

This lesson isn’t just tongue in cheek. Consider the case of Mystic Pizza. Once upon a time, it was a small-town pizza place in Connecticut. After it was prominently featured in the movie by the same name, it became a sensation.

Or, consider the famous “I’ll have what she’s having" scene from the film When Harry Met Sally. Can you guess the location? A restaurant already mentioned in this post — Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City!

Your Takeaway

Good marketing can go a long way in spreading the word about your restaurant! Obviously getting featured in a major movie is a stretch, but unique and innovative marketing campaigns can help attract customers who didn't know your establishment before.


Go Forth and Be Successful

Every restaurant’s path to success will be a little different. However, there are several common threads between prospering businesses that transcend cuisine style and price point. Now that you’ve learned from the best, consider how you can apply these lessons in your restaurant to invest in your future success!


Mark Plumlee works as the Sr. Editor for MustHaveMenus, a DIY design and marketing service for restaurants with the largest collection of restaurant templates in the world. He covers marketing and design trends within the bar and restaurant industry. His writing has been published in Food Safety News, Full Service Restaurant, Restaurant Technology Guys, Cheers Online, Social Hospitality, Modern Restaurant Management, Quick Service Restaurant, Hospitality Tech, Bar Business Magazine, PMQ, That Oregon Life, The San Francisco Examiner, and Blazersedge.


Are you registered for our Crave and Crave on the Menu newsletters? Sign up today!

Plan to Attend or Participate in the 2024 Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 18-20, 2024

To learn about the latest trends, issues and hot topics, and to experience and taste the best products within the bar, restaurant and hospitality industry, plan to attend Bar & Restaurant Expo 2024 in Las Vegas. Visit BarandRestaurantExpo.com.

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at the 2024 Bar & Restaurant Expo, contact:

Veronica Gonnello ​(for companies A to G)​ e: [email protected]​ p: 212-895-8244

​Tim Schultz​ (for companies H to Q) ​e: [email protected]​ p: 917-258-8589

Fadi Alsayegh ​(for companies R to Z)​ e: [email protected] p: 917-258-5174​

Also, be sure to follow Bar & Restaurant on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest industry news and trends.