Florida has over 40,000 eating & drinking locations. In an increasingly competitive industry, how does your restaurant stand out? There are only so many happy hour specials and ladies’ night contests you can run. Let’s face it, success often comes down to your restaurant’s reputation. To sustain a positive reputation, you must build and maintain an exceptional brand.
FIRST THING’S FIRST: WHAT IS A BRAND?
An early definition of a brand is: “a mark made by burning, stamping, or printing to show ownership or quality.” In today’s restaurant biz, we think of the B word a bit differently, but it is still synonymous with the original meaning. Your brand is a long-lasting label that should communicate who you are and what you do.
Many assume that a brand is merely a logo or tagline, however, this is a rookie mistake. Your brand is made up of many components, tangible and intangible, that create worth for your consumer. This includes the food, service, atmosphere, and values that you consistently put forth. Upholding a brand is like upholding a promise to customers about the type of experience they’re guaranteed. If you can keep this promise, customers will trust that they’ll get what they want, time and time again.
BUILDING A RESTAURANT BRAND
To create a relevant brand concept, you must first define the type of restaurant you are and who you serve. Then you’re ready to choose your mission statement, company values, and brand personality – read about the different brand personalities here – which all directly influence your brand concept. It takes time, and often a team of skilled marketers and businesspeople to form an effective, genuine, and unique brand. Moving forth with business tactics before forming a solid brand concept is risky, so it’s worthwhile to put in the effort.
MAINTAINING A RESTAURANT BRAND
A brand being grown and maintained.
Although establishing a brand can be demanding, maintaining one can be even more difficult because certain aspects are out of your control. Once you’ve defined a specific brand concept, personality, and visual identity, you must:
- clearly communicate the brand to every employee (after all, they must embody the brand)
- create and enforce consequences for any employee who is not performing on-brand
- create and enforce a rewards system for employees who consistently go above and beyond branding standards
This is only the first step in brand maintenance, but it is the most vital. When people eat at your restaurant, they don’t interact with the CEO who developed the brand, they interact with hosts, servers, and managers. Your employees are your main brand representatives, and if they’re not on board, it’s impossible to maintain your brand and uphold your promise to customers.
If you have multiple restaurant locations, maintaining consistency becomes ever more crucial and challenging. Every aspect must be uniform: atmosphere & décor, menus & marketing materials, and all employee processes. This is where technology is advantageous. Whether it’s implementing streamlined training courses, creating a digital a style guide, or utilizing online inventory programs, technology will produce consistency in the back and front of the house.
MONITORING A RESTAURANT BRAND
Once your brand is established and consistently implemented, you may think your job is done – but it’s far from it. Brand management is a constant process that must be regularly monitored for effectiveness and relevancy. As trends, business, and technology evolve, your brand must follow suit. The internet takes branding to a complex level.
It’s essential to stay up to date with your website and search engine rankings. You also must listen to all digital conversations regarding your restaurant, its competition, and related topics. Whether it’s watching engagement on social media, responding to customer reviews, or conducting polls in a mass email to gain feedback, you must somehow ensure that your reputation remains superior.
In an industry as competitive as hospitality, the branding process never ends. If you need assistance creating, maintaining, monitoring, or re-developing your restaurant brand, contact the team of specialists at Absolute Marketing Solutions, or sign up for our E-Newsletter for restaurant marketing resources.