There are almost 700,000 restaurants in the US alone, not including fast food and franchises. What this means for new restaurants is there is a lot of competition. It’s important to stand out from the crowd and make yourself known. You might be asking how you can do this without spending heaps of money on advertisements. The answer is simple, you need a strong restaurant brand.
You can probably think of many successful restaurants that mastered this skill early on and are thriving because of it. Unfortunately, branding is not as easy and straightforward as you might think. Creating a brand that resonates with your loyal customers is going to be what keeps them coming back. Here you will learn the basics of branding your restaurant step by step.
By now you probably have your restaurant up and running or are very close to doing so. When creating your core company values it’s very important to have a clear understanding of who you are as a company. What makes your company unique and what do you have to bring to the table? Do you only use organic produce and have an environmentally sustainable business? Or are you more of an upscale dining establishment that serves foreign cuisine? Using these unique characteristics of your business will help you come up with your company values.
What’s important about your company values is that you use them to influence every decision to be made for your restaurant. Design choices, where you source your ingredients, the type of people you hire, these are all influenced by your company values.
Understand your Audience
The next important branding component is knowing who your target audience is and their behaviors. If you already have your restaurant established, you can probably get an idea of who your loyal customers are and why they choose you over a competitor. For example, if you are a café that only uses organic and local produce, your target audience is most likely customers who prefer locally sourced food.
One way to really get into the details of your target audience is to survey them. You can easily survey who you think your target audience is by asking them about what they prefer and what their needs are. If you have the money to spend, you can consider purchasing professional market research, which will collect detailed data. Some point of sale software even offers the option to collect data from your customers.
Choosing the Name
If you haven’t chosen a name for your restaurant you should probably do this sooner than later. There are a few ways to go about choosing the perfect name to represent your restaurant. Starting from square one and thinking of what you want your restaurant to be known for will help you choose a name. It's best to have one that reflects your company values as well. Using the café example again, if you know you support organic and local ingredients and promote a smaller carbon footprint, think of ideas that represent that.
A great example of this would be Urth Caffé in Los Angeles, California. On their website they say they, “wanted a name that embodied the natural richness of the earth and delicious organic, heirloom coffee”. As you can see, the name they chose fits perfectly with its brand.
Another company that has done a great example of branding is Burger Lords in Los Angeles, California. I have mentioned them in a previous article because they're very smart with how they represent themselves on social media. Their company is founded on “re-imaging the nostalgia of fast food for the modern-day diet”, thus titling themselves as “Burger Lords”.
Define your Look
You can have the most unique and clever restaurant name with an intriguing menu, but if your physical location doesn’t represent that, you’re in trouble. Physical location is everything even in today’s digital age. The way your restaurant looks is still a large part of defining your brand. You want it to represent your values and the standards you set for restaurant from the start.
Developing your look is more than just your logo. It’s all about your trademark color scheme and the overall vibe that you want people to get from your restaurant. It would be smart to create an idea of all the aesthetic elements you want to include and how you want to do it.
After defining your company values and getting a better understanding of who your audience is, you can determine where you are in the market. Again, the goal is to set yourself apart from the competition and entice people to choose your restaurant.
When you are formulating your company values you might even be answering some of the key questions that are used for market positioning. What do you do? Who are you in business to serve? How do you stand out from the competition? Try coming up with very detailed answers to these questions and compare them to your competitors. You might be serving a highly sought after coffee bean, which gives you a better position in the market than your competition.
It might seem intimidating when you start this process because there are so many thriving restaurants with innovative brands. However, by reflecting on your company values and other factors like your menu and employees, you might realize how unique you are. If you are struggling to figure out which questions to ask when determining your market position, check out this Business Model Canvas.
Customer Service Strategies
Customer service is so important for restaurants because you are literally in the business of serving people. Your customer service is yet another representation of your brand identity and helps shape it. Everything from your loyalty program, online ordering system and dining experience should reflect who you are as a company.
It’s also important that your team is well versed on your company values and your brand because they are the people that interact with the customers. They should be well versed on your mission and company values. For example, if you are a coffee shop that promotes ethically sourced coffee beans, your employees should know the ins and outs of where you get them.
You can answer endless brand questions and come up with the most detailed brand strategy, but it won’t be effective if you aren’t consistent with it. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun sides of branding like coming up with a logo or catchy phrase, but all aspects of your restaurant need to be the same. You will need to take the details you’ve created and implement them into your location, social media and products you use. For example, the logo and colors you use for your website should be reflected on your menus and carryout materials.
Now that you know all the steps needed to create a brand for your restaurant, you will need to stay on top of the strategies you implemented. Reflect on what’s working and what is not and don’t be afraid to re visit your target audience data. The best part of branding is being able to introduce the finished product to your customers and seeing how they respond to it.
When branding for your restaurant, it’s important to roll with the punches because hiccups with your strategies are bound to happen. At the end of the day they are just strategies and are meant to be improved. As you gather data about your customers and menu, get ready to change your market strategy to better address the needs and concerns of your customers.