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In restaurant marketing, you have to think about ways to sell your brand, not just your food.
When branding a cafe, there’s a lot to think about — and a lot of competition out there. By building a cafe brand that’s memorable and stays true to your values as a business owner, you can grow your business and bring in new customers.
To make an impression with your cafe branding, you need to learn how to design your mission statement, brand voice, and imagery. Cafes tend to rely on local favorites and regional dishes, so you’ll also want to develop an understanding of the surrounding market, and take customer feedback and past experiences into consideration during the branding process.
With impressive restaurant branding, you can put your cafe on the map and give it the sales boost it needs to expand.
Let’s get started!
A little bit of cafe history
Cafes have been keeping their customers cozy, fed, and caffeinated for centuries. Most United States cities now have a cafe in every neighborhood, serving as a reliable place to grab a coffee or a bite to eat. Fun fact: the concept of the cafe first took off in 17th century Europe as a convenient space for low-stakes social gatherings.
The modern cafe as we know it didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the second wave of coffee culture touched down in America in the 1960s. Ever since, whether it’s a local branch of a national chain or a mom-and-pop shop, cafes have continued the tradition of providing food and drinks to customers coming in for lunch, to study, to meet friends, and more.
With over 65,000 cafes active in the United States, it’s clear that new cafe owners are tasked with making a name for themselves in a crowded market. But with the right brand, mission, and experience, anyone can attract customers and establish a new local favorite cafe.
Here’s how to develop a strong brand that reflects your cafe’s personality and leads to loyal customers.
How do you brand a cafe?
Developing a cafe brand requires cafe owners to determine exactly what it is that makes their business so special. Essentially, your brand will express your customer’s experience.
The second a customer walks through your door or scrolls through your Instagram feed, your branding should be memorable enough that customers don’t want to go anywhere else. Think about it this way - even if you sell the best sandwich on the planet, you still want to ensure your customers remember your name. You aren’t just that one place in that one neighborhood that serves an incredible sandwich. You’re Tartine, or Paris Creperie, or Tios Mexican Cafe. And, there’s no other place like yours.
To make sure that your brand is eye-catching and speaks to your values for your cafe, create a mission statement that tells your story in a sentence or two. Then, use this mission statement as a core part of your marketing strategy in the future.
We will dive into more detail on how to craft a valuable mission statement shortly. To get your mission statement brainstorming started, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What is your purpose for opening a cafe in the first place?
- What type of customers are you hoping to attract?
- What atmosphere are you hoping to establish with your brand?
Keep your customers engaged with a cafe website so that your open mic nights are the highlight of a local artist’s week.
5 Steps to Building a Cafe Brand
Here’s how to build a cohesive cafe brand that stays top of mind.
1. Develop a mission statement for your cafe.
Your mission statement will serve as the backbone of your cafe branding. Each decision you make - from the marketing campaigns you run to the menu items you serve - will trace back to the mission statement you draft here. The ideal mission statement should encompass your purpose for opening a cafe, what motivated you to become a cafe owner in the first place, and your company culture.
When crafting your mission statement, think about the impact you are hoping your cafe will have on the community. Who are your target customers and what calls you to serve them? What promise are you making to the customers you serve? Why should they choose your cafe over the more established one down the street? By reflecting on questions like these, your mission statement will begin taking shape.
Here’s a tip: Keep your mission statement straightforward by condensing your statement into two or three sentences. Don’t try to fit too many ideas into your mission statement, or else it may come off forced.
2. Position your brand in the market.
Once you have a clear understanding of what sets your cafe apart from the competition, it’s time to identify who that competition is. Brand positioning tells you how your brand differs from your competitors by assessing your target customers, products, and marketing tactics.
To determine your brand position, use the four Ps:
- Price— develop your cafe menu pricing strategy to more accurately define who your true competition is.
- Product— include the contents of your menu, your menu design, and the theme of your cafe in the pricing process.
- Promotion— the marketing strategies you’ll use to attract customers.
- Place— where your cafe is located.
When determining your four Ps, focus on the strengths and weaknesses of your cafe. Ask your employees, your neighbors, and even other local business owners for their insights on the cafe market in your community to confirm that your brand positioning is headed in the right direction.
3. Find your brand voice.
Cafes are in constant conversation with the customers they serve. This goes whether it’s in-person, through social media, or any time someone patronizes your cafe on a review platform. The messaging your cafe uses in all of these conversations is your brand voice.
To find your unique brand voice, describe your cafe like you are talking about your best friend. Are they vibrant and colorful? Or, bold and direct? Knowing your cafe’s vibe will help you develop a concrete vision of your cafe’s personality. This personality will be part of all aspects of your cafe - from the interior design of your cafe to the language you use on social media.
Once you nail down your brand voice, remember to keep it consistent. This will make your cafe more identifiable and amicable to customers.
4. Develop the look and feel of your brand.
Now that you’ve crafted how your cafe brand feels and sounds, it’s time to focus on the look. The visual elements of your brand should match your mission statement, target customers, and brand voice. It should not only be a reflection of your values but should also be memorable.
Remember, your cafe should always provide a cohesive experience. If your visual elements don’t match the tone of your brand voice, take it as a sign to reconsider the design so it aligns more closely.
How to Create Logo Design Ideas for your Cafe
When it comes to developing the look of your brand, consider designing your logo as the starting point. While it’s true that a brand’s identity extends beyond just your logo, it’s important to take the time to create an eye-catching and unforgettable logo that will attract and retain customers.
To get started, create a mood board of color schemes, cafe themes that inspire you, and any other aesthetic elements that speak to you. Take note of the color combinations that resonate the most with your voice, audience, and mission. Once built, pass your mood board on to your design team to bring your logo vision to life.
5. Create a brand book for your cafe.
Not every customer will have the same relationship with your cafe. Some may discover your cafe intentionally, as they scope out the hottest new cafes to check out in their city. Others will happen upon it organically, maybe while taking their dog for a walk or on their daily commute. Either way, your brand book (also known as brand guidelines or style guide) will serve as the great equalizer to ensure no matter how a customer initially interacts with your brand, they’ll all have the same brand experience.
By compiling all of your brand decisions — including your company’s mission statement, your market position, your brand voice, and all visual elements — into one book, you’ll have a handy reference to use moving forward. This will be incredibly useful for those working for (or with) your cafe, ensuring that they properly showcase your cafe’s values.
Example of Successful Cafe Branding Ideas
Broad Street Cafe
Source: @broadstreetcafe on Instagram
Broad Street Cafe in Jackson, Mississippi is an active member of their community. Above all, they have a strong brand identity that is recognizable to their followers. Whether it is in their employee culture, during their “coffee with a councilman” mornings, or at one of their blood drives, everything about the Broad Street Cafe brand is infused with local pride and hometown spirit.
Source: @gourmandsethebakery on Instagram
Gourmandise in Salt Lake City, Utah is a cafe that embraces all creativity. By consistently offering high-end, inventive baked goods to their customers, Gourmandise has cemented itself in the minds of their customers as a playful brand with unique and high-quality products.
Source: @spot.coffee.official on Instagram
SPoT Coffee in Buffalo, New York is the quintessential neighborhood cafe. Whether they’re spending an afternoon studying or just popping in for a coffee and breakfast sandwich to go, SPoT Coffee customers are guaranteed the same warm, inviting, and local brand experience. Plus, one solid sign of customer loyalty is when customers rep your brand on their to-go coffee mugs.
Hound & Mare
Source: @houndandmare on Instagram
For Hound & Mare in Ithaca, NY, everything comes in pink. This coffee shop strategically uses signature millennial pink brand imagery to snag customers' attention. This bubbly branding spills over into Hound & Mare’s vibrant company culture and its friendly cafe atmosphere.
Tios Mexican Cafe
Source: @tiosmexicancafe on Instagram
Tios Mexican Cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan is a cafe that is confident in its branding, evident in its bold design choices and inclusive brand mission. This cafe pivoted to offer delivery food and drinks to help keep their community safe without depriving them of its delicious offerings. This approach saw great feedback from customers who couldn’t get enough of their mango margaritas and vegan tacos.
Create a Cafe Brand Brewed to Last
A strong brand encapsulates everything there is to know about a cafe. Will your cafe be known as a cozy place to read a book on a snowy day or a happening spot to meet a blind date? Will your brand be infused with flavors of your local community or will your menu push boundaries to deliver a wholly unique cafe dining experience?
Answers to these questions will of course depend on your very own cafe brand. But, for any cafe owner, your brand will determine the relationship your customers have with your cafe. It’s up to you to decide what that relationship will look and feel like by creating a strong brand that aligns with your values and mission, and offers customers a new experience.
To learn more about building a brand that excites, download our free Restaurant Branding Guide today.
Curious to learn more about marketing your cafe brand? Don’t miss On the Line’s latest article on Cafe Marketing, with all the tips you need to bring more caffeine-craving customers through your doors.