For a brand to be successful, it must be inspiring, comforting, or relatable enough to attract customers. Above all else, it should make people feel good about spending their money on the company’s products and services.
Admittedly, creating a brand identity in the restaurant space is not easy. This is a unique industry with many niches that cater to every type of customer you can imagine.
It helps to remember that having no brand is still considered an identity, so being indifferent doesn’t necessarily exempt you from what is a very intricate aspect of consumer culture.
If your brand is not standing out, it may have something to do with:
- An unclear mission statement
- An unspecified niche
- Lack of brand identity and uniformity
- Lack of brand awareness
Treat this five-part restaurant branding strategy as an introduction to brand identity for restaurants or as a crash course for bringing customers back.
Create Your Mission Statement
Before you dive into the granular details of your branding strategy, you will need a foundation. That’s where your mission statement comes in.
A mission statement acts as a compass that orients your branding efforts towards your most important goals. Having a clear mission statement allows you to focus your branding and marketing efforts on areas that have the greatest impact on your restaurant.
To create a mission statement, start by asking the following five questions:
Who am I?
Are you a food truck? A coffee shop? A restaurant? What is your establishment called? How do your customers refer to you?
What do I do?
How does your restaurant serve its customers? Do you only cater to walk-ins? Do you offer delivery or curbside pick-up services? Can customers make orders online? Can they make advanced dining reservations? Do you offer outside catering?
Who am I doing it for?
Who is your primary client? The answer may well be “everyone” because restaurants cater to whoever is hungry. However, it helps if you specify an ideal customer. For example, you can provide lunchtime convenience to the working-class, offer family meals, or cater to evening patrons.
Why am I doing it?
Apart from making money, why are you running a restaurant? What are your goals? Are you doing it to address a need in the community? Is it a family business?
How will I do it?
How do you intend to achieve your mission statement? Are you offering live music? Posh services? Upscale décor?
Establish Your Niche
Where does your restaurant fit in the landscape? Many restaurants have no choice but to be unique since they compete for the same customer base. Establishing your niche, therefore, is an important second step.
Now is the time to double down on specifics. Your menu should be very distinct as it’s usually the key selling point. It tells your clientele exactly where your restaurant sits in the local and national restaurant industry. Stick to one theme/cuisine, whether that means upscale French cuisine, breakfast platters, barbecue dishes, or Ethiopian dishes.
Besides the food, what benefits do you offer? Convenience? Location? Ambiance? Unbeatable prices?
What do your customers value the most? Do they like that you’re open till late or offer a quick delivery service? How do you cater to their needs?
What are your competitors doing? Doing competitor research opens your eyes to proven strategies that you could also implement.
Re-branding is much easier for restaurants that have been in business for a while if you have access to restaurant data. Exploring the customer insights, revenue statistics, menu items, and your previous brand identity elements can give you valuable insight.
Craft Your Brand Identity
Elements of sound brand identity include the following:
Your restaurant name conveys your brand identity. For instance, if you serve French food, it is on-brand to have a French name. The same applies to mom-and-pop establishments, which are better represented by personal names (Brian’s Diner, Kate’s Kitchen, etc.).
Most restaurants do fine without a logo, although it can help cement your brand identity. Strive for something simple like the name of your restaurant in an attractive typeface. What matters more is consistency. Keep your logo consistent on menus, websites, merchandise, and everything else to establish a clear identity.
What customers see, hear, and smell when they venture into your establishment, goes a long way in cementing your brand identity. Pay keen attention to furniture, lighting, artwork, and utensils, as they impact your customers’ experience.
Dress codes help to create uniformity, but they’re not always necessary. More important is that your staff’s attire matches your brand identity. Waiters at a formal French restaurant should be dressed in classy attire, the likes of bow ties and dress shirts. However, any family-style restaurant can get away with casually-dressed staff because they make the customers feel at home.
Whether you decide to use real photos or illustrations, your menu should instill wonder or interest in your customer.
It’s okay to have familiar menu items, especially for a crowd that you know well, but using different vocabulary can alter your customers’ perception of the food to the advantage of your brand identity.
Maintaining Your Brand
Maintaining your brand entails documenting your mission statement. Branding guidelines should be consistent, but more importantly, they should be well-known by your staff.
These are some areas to keep in check when you want your brand identity to be consistent.
- Customer Service – Develop a consistent formula for dealing with customer complaints.
- Kitchen and Preparation – Ensure proper meal coursing to reduce food wastage and streamline the process. Use kitchen technology whenever possible to automate your processes.
- Re-evaluation is a necessary part of maintaining your brand identity. Once you find out what works, document it, but keep going back to the drawing board to see what can be improved.
Raising Brand Awareness
Your brand only exists if people know about it. As influential as word-of-mouth can be, it’s never going to be enough, not in 2022 and beyond. The marketplace is crowded, and you need to attract customers long before they step through your doors.
For this, many businesses, small and large, turn to the internet.
Treat your restaurant website as a platform to showcase your brand. You can achieve this through high-res photography, your unique menu, and curated content. When a customer Googles your restaurant, your website is likely to pop up before third-party reviews, so in a way, you’ll be taking control of the narrative.
Harnessing Social Media
Social media is essential for brand marketing, but you can use it as much or as little as you need to. Social platforms allow you to share promotions, content, and news with customers. Social media is one of the best ways to connect because your customers are already there.
Besides, if you’d rather not be too active, you can use social media as a gateway that directs customers to your website.
Loyalty programs incentivize customers to come back to your restaurant. You can reward customers with free meals and other bonuses after spending a certain amount of money. This also instills trust because it’s a sign that you will remain operational for a long time.
Apps put loyalty programs, menus, and locations right into your customers’ pockets. If there’s one way to stay on your customers’ minds, it’s through their most prized electronic possession: smartphones.
Creating a unique brand for your restaurant will certainly not happen overnight. There are several factors to consider and special situations and circumstances to factor in.
Creating a mission statement will give you the rudder your brand needs to lead your business in the right direction. Anyone can fulfill a sound branding strategy, provided it brings forth an identity that your customers can connect.