Being a legacy chain with a fiercely loyal clientele is on every executive’s wish list, but there can be two sides to that coin. The flip side is that the freedom to innovate can be extremely limited. Such was the scenario that Steven Micheletti, president and CEO of the 25-year-old Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill restaurant group, says was a driving force behind the creation of Taco Guild, a new concept the company opened in central Phoenix in late 2013.

Customers seldom rave about good service, but they sure take note when it’s bad. For QSRs and upscale eateries alike, long waits at the counter, drive-thru window or dining table can wreak havoc on business.

Just what is an izakaya, anyway? Often described as a Japanese gastropub, not even operators and designers involved in their development agree definitively on what constitutes an izakaya. But however you define this Japanese hospitality meme, the concept continues to find fans and footing in the U.S.

Advancements in lighting design and technology make it easier for restaurant operators to think outside the box. Once-standard fixtures are giving way to design-integral expressions ranging from industrial-looking, repurposed fixtures to fantastic, custom artistic expressions that take statement lighting and its place in restaurant design to a whole new level.

Opened last fall by Seth Glassman and chef Vic Casanova, whose Gusto earned Esquire’s best new restaurant honors in 2012, Pistola is a modern Italian steakhouse in the heart of Los Angeles’ West Third Street.

When the retro-themed Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club opened last spring in Brooklyn, N.Y., it won over hipsters with regulation-sized courts, craft beer, trendy cocktails and food-truck dining. On another front, the bowling industry is undergoing an evolution, as smaller alleys close, giving way to larger, multi-entertainment venues. And bocce, once the province of elders from the old country, is gaining new cache at Millennials’ haunts.

From luxury resorts to lively gastropubs, the red-hot Phoenix/Scottsdale market has plenty to offer in the way of innovative, well-designed restaurant concepts. Headed out to the Super Bowl or the upcoming RestaurantPoint in Scottsdale? Here are three inspiring restaurant concepts to check out while you're there.

Mariela Alvarez is an architectural designer, writer and teacher.