“Brand” is a word frequently spoken in the business world, but often used without knowing what it actually means. More often than not, your brand is thought to simply mean a restaurant’s name or logo. (This is where the bzzzzzt sound of a buzzer goes off!)
Your brand goes deeper than just the surface of the business name and logo. As a restaurateur, answering the simple — but still challenging — question of “What is your brand?” to those who ask can be difficult, but being able to do so clearly provides powerful guidance to your everyday business decisions, from food menu items to restaurant renovation decisions.
Your Restaurant’s Brand: The Silent Voice of Your Business
We are surrounded by brands every day. Big companies spend millions of dollars every year creating imagery, marketing, online experiences, and more to do one simple thing: to bring life to their brand for the consumer. By doing so, they are giving the company a personality.
Take a moment and think about some of the brands you interact with every day. Think about ones that you like and you’ll understand what we are talking about.
Apple, for example. With their physical stores, Apple aims to provide a place that customers can come to and resolve their product’s tech issues right away. The Genius Bar within the store gives Apple the opportunity to be more customer-centric, approachable, and engaging by providing “geniuses” that can speak directly with customers, face to face.
The look of the store itself is also a big part of the brand experience. They provide a space that has clean lines, is well-lit, and is easy to move around to contrast to their competitors’ technology, which can be complex, overwhelming, and cluttered.
This is why it’s so vital to have a firm understanding of what your restaurant’s brand is. It’s details that make up the dining experience for your customers and ultimately, that’s really a brand experience you’re looking to achieve.
The details that make up your brand absolutely include your actual logo and brand colors, but that’s not all. It’s important to expand your thinking on what makes up your brand, as every attribute you put into your restaurant counts. The fixtures on the ceiling, the chairs customers sit on, the type of menus you choose, and everything in between equate to the sum of your restaurant’s brand.
Describing Your Restaurant’s Brand
One of the best ways to help employees or vendors understand your brand is to think of adjectives or key phrases to describe your restaurant’s concept (as if it were a person). Remember, brands essentially emote personality traits. It’s the reason some of the best brands in the world (regardless of the size of their business) create loyal and repeat customers. They’ve evoked feelings and emotions that people connect with, as if the brand was a real person.
Think about when someone asks you to describe a person you’re familiar with. You typically say things like, “Joe is a great guy! He’s fun to be around, has a positive outlook and always does the unexpected.”
When it comes to describing a restaurant, people will ask their friends and family what the experience was like, and they too will come up with words to describe that experience. For example, “Joe’s Café was a great place to have lunch. The food was eclectic, the servers were friendly, and the atmosphere and décor were modern. It gave the place a hip/upbeat energy!”
Be Your Own Brand Police
In every business, restaurants included, you need to have a watchdog for your brand — or as some may call it, “the brand police.” As an owner, this will most likely be you, if you don’t the right (or enough) staff to understand the brand vision. You want to avoid inadvertently making decisions that do not align to your ultimate vision, so an informed brand watchdog is absolutely necessary.
As you upgrade and renovate your restaurant over the course of its lifespan, you may see your brand standards slip over time. While you may find great discounts on items such as light fixtures, glassware, and uniforms that may not match your original vision, the overall brand experience can start to fall off course. You may have saved money in the short term, but those slightly cheaper replacements may not accurately reflect the brand you’ve established, affecting your success in the long term.
Make an ongoing assessment of your brand by spending some time in the front and middle of the house, as a customer would. (Yes, this means spending a little time in the restaurant’s bathroom as well — this is part of their overall experience!)
Ask yourself some questions while you review your restaurant’s details to make sure they live up to the brand you want to exude:
- Do I have mismatched items, like chairs, tables, menus, lighting fixtures, tablecloths, paint on the walls, décor, tiles on the floor, etc.?
- Are all the items that include my logo and brand colors reflect the same font, colors, and overall treatment? Or have they started to vary over time on menus, signage, napkins, take out bags, uniforms, etc.?
- Does my overall floor layout — from the hostess/waiting area and the seating area — make sense for my brand? Is it too crowded, missing an area for a bar, or patio, etc.?
- Does the décor match your brand? Remember fine details such as lighting, paint, pillows, and artwork help to sum up your brand’s personality.
- Do you have a brand identity guide that you can give to any vendor or employee that explains the “rules of the road” of your brand?
- Does your customer experience match up to your brand’s personality? Have you taken time to look at online customer reviews and hear what customers have thought of your brand? And more so, does that perception match up to your vision?
The Human Side of Branding
You might have heard about the four “P’s” of marketing: product, price, promotion and place. There’s actually a fifth “P” that smart business owners also consider that is just as critical to an overall brand: people.
Part of the brand and dining experience your customer has depends on everyone who interacts with them. This includes the hostess, the server, the busser, and even kitchen staff.
It’s important to look at how your staff is trained to interact with customers: how they greet at the door, how reservations are taken on the phone, how specials are offered at the table, and even drilling down to different customer service scenarios.
To have a great brand does not necessarily mean that you need to spend millions. You just need to be conscious of the individual decisions that add up to your overall brand over time. But when you do need cash to update or start a major renovation to your restaurant, there are restaurant financing options available to help you that are cash flow friendly — and tailored specifically for the restaurant industry.