Italian food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. If you’re considering starting a new Italian restaurant, you’re surely facing the endless options that are available when it comes to choosing the menu, the region, the wines, the cheeses, the desserts, the décor, and the ambiance for your restaurant.

Most people don’t know that there is much more to Italian cuisine than just pasta and pizza. With regional specialties like polenta from Val d’Aosta, tortellini in brodo from Emilia Romagna or truffles from Umbria and arancini from Sicily, the list is unending.

So, how can we define the target market for Italian restaurants?

In this article, we will analyze this market from different angles so you can have an insight into what attracts people to Italian restaurants, what they expect in an Italian restaurant and how they judge their experience.

Keep reading!

Who is the Target Market for Italian Restaurants?

We could segment the target market for Italian restaurants in a number of different ways, eg. based on demographics, income, gender, age, etc. But in this article, we will take a different tack which we feel you will find more useful.

We will segment this market based on the reasons why someone chooses to go to an Italian restaurant instead of a restaurant with a cuisine from another country.

Based on these segmentation criteria, we can divide the target market for Italian restaurants into the following customer segments:

  1. People who love Italian food in general
  2. People who love Italy
  3. People who like food from a specific region of Italy
  4. People looking for a fine dining experience
  5. People looking to recreate time spent in Italy

Let’s look at each of these.

People who love Italian food

The largest segment of the target market for Italian restaurants is people who love Italian food in general. These are people who know Italian food, have eaten it before, and love all aspects of it.

They may not know specific foods from specific regions of Italy but they will have a good understanding of the more popular foods, wines and cheeses.

People who love Italy

The second segment of this target market is people who love Italy as a country and as a place to visit and vacation in. These are people who typically have a strong affinity for the country and its culture.

They may have been to Italy on vacation and/or have friends or family who live there and/or might be of Italian origins. By going to an Italian restaurant they are connecting with something that is valuable to them and satisfying their longing for a piece of Italy.

People who like food from a specific region of Italy

The third segment of the target market for Italian restaurants includes people who like food from a specific region of Italy. These people are well aware of the different regions of Italy and know what each region is famous for. They might be looking for a specific dish that is popular in that region or they may want to try the food from a region they have never been to.

For example, people who have been to Milan may remember the Osso Buco and want to try it again. Or someone who’s been to Puglia might be eager to have some Stracciatella – the soft insides of Burrata cheese. Or someone who remembers their time in Sicily may be dying to have a Cannolo Siciliano for dessert. Or maybe someone’s simply heard of the pasta Amatriciana from Lazio, has never eaten it, and wants to try it out.

People looking for a fine dining experience

The fourth target market segment is people looking for a fine dining experience. These people might be looking to celebrate a special occasion or they might simply want to have an upscale meal in a high-end Italian restaurant. They are willing to spend more money on their dining experience and they expect the food, service, and ambiance to be of a higher quality.

People looking to recreate time spent in Italy

The fifth target market segment is people looking to recreate time spent in Italy. These people might have recently been to Italy on vacation and they want to continue the experience by going to an Italian restaurant. Or maybe they haven’t been to Italy yet but they are planning a trip and they want to get a taste of what’s to come.

How do customers choose an Italian Restaurant? (over another one)

Most customers will have more than one Italian restaurant to choose from. So what factors influence their decision when selecting one restaurant over another?

Good authentic food

First and foremost, people going to an Italian restaurant are looking for good authentic food. If they go to a pizzeria they will want the pizza to taste the way they expect it to. This is true even when people go to a pizzeria that doesn’t have pizzas like in Italy. If someone orders a New York pizza, they expect it to be made with a hand-tossed thin crust. If they order a Chicago pizza, they will expect a deep-dish pizza.

And of course, if people are looking for food similar to what they ate in Italy, they will either select a restaurant that they already know has authentic-tasting food or at least they will look for one that claims that it does.


The next factor in the customer’s decision-making process is price. Before looking for a restaurant people already know whether they want to go to a cheap pizzeria or a more expensive ristorante. Once they’ve decided on the type of restaurant, they will start looking for one within their price range.


The third factor that influences customers’ choice of Italian restaurants is location. People often choose the closest restaurant to them or the one that is most convenient based on where they are going to be. But if there is a really high-end, top-quality restaurant at the other end of town, that people really want to go to, they’ll find a way to get there.


The fourth factor is ambiance or atmosphere. People want to feel comfortable in the restaurant they are eating in and it should fit the occasion. For example, if people are looking for a romantic dinner, they will want to go someplace with soft lighting and quiet music. If they are looking for a family dinner, they’ll want to go to a place with a more casual atmosphere. And of course, those who miss Italy and want to recreate it in the restaurant will look for a decor that is reminiscent of Italy.


Finally, the last factor that influences people’s choice of Italian restaurants is service. People want to be treated well and have their needs taken care of by the staff. They will want the waiters to be attentive but not intrusive. They also want their food served in a timely manner.


In this article, we segmented the target market for Italian restaurants based on the motivations that people have for visiting an Italian restaurant rather than one with food from another country. We also saw the decision-making factors that influence customers’ decisions when choosing one restaurant over another.

By segmenting the target market in this way, we hope you have a better understanding of who is attracted to Italian restaurants and why. With this information, you can design marketing and advertising strategies as well as tailor the experience in your restaurant for specific customer segments.

Remember, that different customers look for different things in any Italian restaurant. When you pick a location for your restaurant, its menu, its décor, the wine list, the cheese list and you start hiring your staff, keep in mind who your target market is and what they will expect to see from the moment they walk into your restaurant till they pay the bill and leave.