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DamjanApr 13, 2020
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Restaurant Branding 101 - How To Create a Successful Restaurant Branding Strategy

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: ‘No one makes [insert food] like my mom!’ While there is no shortage of inventive restaurants and recipes, remember that food is still a subjective experience. So what makes or breaks one mama’s recipe in the big world of restaurants? Great branding.

Restaurant branding is essentially just small business branding. You’re not wrong in thinking that. However, bear in mind that you’re operating in a highly competitive market! Statistics show that 60% of new restaurants fail within the first year. And nearly 80% close within 5 years.

Great food is certainly going to give you a sporting chance, but if you want to make your restaurant a success you also need a strong branding strategy.

Today we’re guiding you through several key elements of successful branding to make your restaurant a success.

What is a restaurant branding strategy and how to do it

Think of your mama. Why did she cook? What did she cook? How did her food make you feel?

Ok, that’s a bit wishy-washy, but it does capture the essence of what branding for restaurants should be like. The wonderful thing about food is that it’s both incredibly personal (no one eats for you) and, very often, a unique shared experience. As a restaurant you deliver so much more than a meal: you deliver social, aesthetic and gastronomic experiences.

When devising a branding strategy, these questions are a must to consider (and mind the order!):

  • Why do you exist: do you want to bring your grandma’s secret recipe to the world or show that healthy food can be yummy? Who are you: a food truck, fast food place or a luxurious restaurant pioneering gastronomic innovation?

  • How are you going to achieve your mission/vision: by franchising and reaching as many people as possible or becoming the “it” spot of your neighborhood?

  • Who are your customers: busy professionals out for a quick bite or rowdy families on a weekend gathering?

The answers to these questions help you determine your unique selling point (or USP). In other words, what differentiates your restaurant from all the rest.

Think about the last time you went to a restaurant and were left in awe. What were the things that made your experience so amazing? It could be anything from their exceptional service to interior design.

Now think about which areas of your own identity you can excel at. Maybe you have a unique purpose, or the way you deliver services/products (e.g. zero-waste restaurants)? Or you cater to a very specific audience? Survey what your potential fortes are and make sure authenticity is at the heart of your branding efforts!

The proof is not just in the pudding: Creating your restaurant’s visual identity

If people are desperate for sustenance, they whip up a microwave meal at home. Going to a restaurant, they are after much more: be it a place to eat and catch up on work, have a romantic date or celebrate a family occasion.

No one is saying that you have to create a full-on theatrical experience like some of these crazy restaurants. At the very least, however, you need to assure your guests that this is not eating at home (even if you run an “honest family business”).

The way to do that is to create a compelling, consistent visual identity. From your logo to the plate of food you put in front of your guest everything needs to tell your brand’s story.

Logo

Yes, McDonald’s logo is a great example. It’s simple, memorable and uses colors which make us feel hungry. However, the famous ‘M’ we think of today, came about as a tribute to an architectural feature of the original McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino: it represented the golden arches found on each side of the restaurant building.

Don’t have to overcomplicate and put your entire life story in a logo. Instead, enforce your brand’s story with a logo that shows what you do (red ketchup, golden fries) and who you are (a building with giant golden arches).

A creative restaurant logo can include anything from custom typography to a loveable character. With clever design, there are really no limitations or strict rules when it comes to your logo. You could think that a character logo wouldn’t be serious enough for a fancy French restaurant. But this logo from celebrity chef Micahel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche is playful, classy and, most importantly, all-so-French! (The name comes from Les Misérables, but has became a colloquial term for mischievous child.)

le_gavroche logo.jpg

Interior

Unless you are going to exclusively deliver food to people’s homes, the space where your customers experience their meals is critical to your restaurant’s branding efforts.

When devising your restaurant branding strategy, you need to think about what feelings your brand should evoke. Don’t shy away from safe choices. If you have a sushi restaurant a 1950s diner interior just doesn’t make sense.

However, don’t do whatever the textbook says either. A great example to look up to is Sketch in London. It has one of the most creative spaces in the industry, and what helps it stand out is probably the clash of several different styles. From this all-pink, old Hollywood interior; a magic garden boho tearoom to its futuristic toilet pods. It’s eccentric and luxurious: and this is what Sketch and its clientele are all about!

sketch restaurant interior 1.jpg

sketch restaurant interior 2.jpg

sketch restaurant interior 3.jpg

Menu

If your restaurant has a really great origin story, it’s totally fine to include this in on your menus. But remember, that as a piece of written content menus serve a specific purpose: they need to help your customers make a decision. Keep menus focused on your offer.

However, there are many creative ways to do that, from whimsical names of dishes to pictures. If you don’t have any professional pictures of food from your restaurant, don’t try to substitute them with stock photos! An image showing shrimp as a garnish, will ultimately leave people very disappointed when they see your humble carrot.

Use language that is descriptive and evokes a sense of flavor. Would you rather have ‘chicken’ or ‘crispy, golden, chicken that melts in your mouth’? Finally, if you get a designer on board to create your menus, and of course if this makes sense to your brand, you can get super creative and have menus that are fun, interactive and still centered around food!

creative menu.jpg By Elle Benway

Food

No, you don’t need to have your logo in powder sugar on every desert. But it won’t hurt!

While, more often than not it’s the flavor of food that matters, when it comes to restaurant branding what you serve and how it looks is certainly something you need to think about.

Before you start developing your brand, you will need to know what your restaurant concept is (why do you exist). This will also include decisions on the type of food and type of service you provide.

A simple burger won’t do anything for your brand if you’re operating a high-end fine dining place. It isn’t to say that some of your customers won’t like burgers (who doesn’t), but they are not coming to your restaurant to eat burgers.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: you cannot be everything to everyone. And this is particularly true for your restaurant. Choose wisely what to include and where to take a step back and let other people take over. Like your mom, make food that you are passionate about.

A happy customer is your brand ambassador

As we’ve already discussed, there are many approaches you can take towards a good restaurant brand identity. But, there is one basic thing that any business (hospitality or not) must have. That is good customer service.

In marketing, you are taught to view each and every one of your customers as your brand ambassadors — be that positive or negative. What we mean by this is that if your customers had an exceptional experience at your restaurant they will share it. The problem arises when the experience was exceptionally bad.

restaurant branding customer satisfaction.jpg

An unhappy customer will share their negative experience with all of their friends. And this can very easily create a domino effect—which in turn will have a negative effect over your restaurant’s brand. As Reputation Refinery tells us, “96% of unhappy customers won’t complain to you but will tell 15 friends.”

It’s important not only to achieve but exceed your customers’ expectations. A positive experience will spread like fire through word-of-mouth. People will be telling their friends to visit your restaurant and leave positive reviews all over the internet.

To illustrate how important online reviews are for a restaurant’s reputation and revenue, we can look at a 2011 study from Harvard Business Review. They found that a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue. The study also finds this is especially true when it comes to independent restaurants vs chain restaurants.

Finally, remember that Instagram is a game-changer in the restaurant business. It allows you to showcase beautiful pictures of your food (and some filters you don’t even need a professional photographer), but it also helps you connect to your customers. Not only will many of them have photography skills to match, or even upscale anything you can do, but it helps stay connected and create a dialogue with people who like your brand.

Conclusion

To most people, running a restaurant seems like a piece of cake. Puns aside, a lot of entrepreneurs share this sentiment when thinking of opening a restaurant. But, it’s far from it. Restaurant industry is a very competitive environment, and before you serve your very first plate of food you need to develop a strong branding strategy.

This includes a restaurant concept (what are you serving, to whom and why), creative restaurant logo and interior design that inspires your customers. Make sure you’re emphasizing your unique selling point, always thinking customer-first and are delivering the right brand message to the right people.

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