There are over 600,000 restaurants in the U.S. alone, and if you include fast food and franchise businesses, that number reaches past 1 million. That’s a lot of restaurants. So how do you stand out in such a crowded and competitive space?
The answer is having a strong restaurant brand.
In fact, you’re probably already aware of the restaurants who figured this out early on. However, building a restaurant brand isn’t as simple or straightforward as you might think; it goes way beyond just having a nicely designed logo. Creating a brand that truly resonates with your customers and keeps them coming back requires a lot of hard work but the reward is a sustainable business with a loyal audience.
It’s important to differentiate between branding - the way things look, feel and tone of voice - and brand - which includes the former but makes up the perception of your business as a whole.
Let's learn how to start building your restaurant brand, step by step.
Your brand needs a solid foundation, so this step is crucial. Put pen to paper and write down what your brand is all about. The important questions to answer here are:
The answers to these simple questions will give you the cornerstones of your brand by defining your beliefs, purpose and values.
The thing that makes you different from the competition, or your unique selling point (USP) is equally important, but will most likely encompass one or more of the answers to the questions above. Having this written down and displayed somewhere prominent is useful as you’ll want to refer back to this throughout the process of developing your brand.
Now that you know your “why” it’s time to move onto your “what” and your "where." Positioning yourself in the market allows you to be able to communicate with your prospective customers effectively. The four main points to decide on here are:
A helpful tool when outlining your positioning and defining your brand is using a Lean Canvas or Business Model Canvas. This allows you to easily jot down your thoughts step-by-step using a simple process. The end result is a great overview of your brand and business.
Next up, it’s time to start thinking about the “how." Your brand voice is a vital part of what makes your brand unique and is the main tool for communicating with and marketing to your customers. The personality of your brand, they way you speak and act, makes up your restaurant identity and and is what attracts and retains customers.
Start by describing your brand (as if it is a person) with three words (ie. Bold, Fun, Authentic) and then elaborate on each until you have a good understanding of the personality of the brand. Once you know this, the rest should be no problem; when knowing what type of “person” your brand is, you should be able to easily figure out how they would speak to your customers.
Undeniably, a huge part of what makes your brand is the way it looks. You want a brand that reflects all the things we’ve already covered in this article as well as being something which stands out and is most importantly, memorable. Remember that the way your brand looks is the first thing to catch your potential customers' eyes, even before they read what you’ve got to say.
Your branding goes beyond the obvious things like logo and letterhead and comprises everything from your restaurant interior to your menu. Create a moodboard of logos, colors, designs and other aesthetic elements you like. This combined with the personality guidelines you’ve already put together is a great foundation to bring to a graphic designer or to use as inspiration if you’re doing it yourself.
Just as important as always serving great food or providing quality service is being consistent with your brand. With every interaction your customers have with your business, you want to strengthen and emphasize your brand as you’re building a relationship with them.
Whether it be online (on social media, your website, or paid advertising) or offline (such as menus, tabletop design, and uniforms) the way your brand looks, talks, and acts must be consistent. As you can’t control how or where your customers or potential customers first come in contact with your brand you’ll want to ensure that no matter what, you offer an invariable experience.
Finally, and this might sound like a no-brainer, none of the above really matters unless you actually back it up with great products and service. Your brand is only as strong as its weakest component and impacts your ability to build a relationship with your customers.
Your brand as a whole - your purpose, positioning, voice, look and consistency along with good quality food and outstanding service - is what makes up a memorable experience and a great restaurant which attracts customers and keeps them coming back.