Building a restaurant’s brand is like perfecting a signature dish: you not only want it to look, taste, and smell perfect once, but you also want perfection for every dish. Whether it’s Monday, Friday, your worst day, or you best, you want consistency. You want your brand, like your dish, to be consistently good.
But building your restaurant’s brand in the 21st century can be tough. The usual methods – advertisements, mail, commercials – have become almost obsolete. When given the choice, 86% of Americans skip commercials; 44% never open direct mail; and 91% have unsubscribed from company mail, according to NewsCred. With these forms of communication losing their hold, how can you communicate your brand’s identity?
As a firm that’s worked with several big brands, we have a few suggestions for your restaurant:
1. Create a Brand-Consistent, Mobile-Friendly Website.
By this time, every restaurant should know the value of brand consistency. Just as your fruits and vegetables must be fresh for your salads to be fresh, so, too, your brand must stay consistent for the customer experience to remain good.
The goal, then, is to transfer this knowledge to your website. Every restaurant should have a powerful server that supports a website 24/7. This means keeping your loading speed to a minimum, preventing crashes, and supporting all photos and videos on your pages.
In addition to preventive maintenance, you must create a website that’s consistent on all mediums, whether it’s an iPhone, Galaxy, MacBook Pro, PC, or tablet. In other words, a mobile-friendly website.
50% of millennials use their smartphone to research products or services while shopping, and 41% have made purchases using their phones, according to gaming platform Badgeville. However, nearly half of Internet users say a website’s design is their number one criterion for determining a company’s credibility. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you may lose not only a huge chunk of your customer base, but also your authority.
2. Start a Blog.
In addition to a mobile-friendly website, start a blog. Write branded content, that is, content that revolves around the core message of your restaurant. 72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR, according to NewsCred.
What should you write about?
You could choose to post experimental recipes using ingredients common to your restaurant. Or, you could write about new menu choices, customer reviews on popular dishes, the chef’s favorite foods. The content you choose should be varied, yet always consistent to your restaurant’s identity.
3. Hire Employees who Express Your Brand.
Behind the story of your brand are the people who make the brand. If you are the owner or general manager, you control the majority of your brand’s values. But not all of them. A significant portion is controlled by your employees.
Keep this in mind when you hire. Ideally, you want to find employees who care about your brand, whose personality echoes the brand’s values, whose behavior is consistent every day. You want people you can trust, people who can run your business when you’re away, people who treat others with respect.
Remember that you’re in control of your brand’s core values. If you hire the wrong people, they could easily ruin the name and face of your brand. Be smart about who you hire.
4. Start a Pinterest Account.
41% of ecommerce traffic goes to Pinterest, according to RocketPost. Compare that to Facebook’s 37%, and you’ll quickly understand the power of Pinterest marketing.
Food is the most searched for, and the most pinned, category on Pinterest. Restaurants, then, should create Pinterest accounts and pin photos of their food.
5. Make the Energy Right.
This is where restaurants often go wrong. Even if they have the best dishes, a beautifully designed website, and a functioning blog, if the ambience isn’t right, the restaurant will never rise above average.
Cafes are good examples. In addition to buying and drinking coffee, people go to cafes to read, write, talk, meet friends, and have business meetings. For these purposes, people want a relaxed atmosphere. White walls, fluorescent lighting, tables with picnic chairs, and too much natural lighting make the worst cafe atmospheres. On the contrary, cool colors, instrumental music, comfortable couches, and paintings fit better.
Restaurants, too, must evoke the atmosphere most fitting to their brand. Everything from wall paint to floor tiles must tell the customer, this place is different than your kitchen.
6. Make Customers the Center of Your Story.
What makes a restaurant successful is not just the taste of its food, but also the quality of its story. Organic farming, home-cooked food, “Mom and Pop” restaurants. The reason these have appeal is that behind the food, a powerful story keeps the restaurant running.
And if the story of your restaurant revolves around customers, in other words if you care more about people than money, then you will create a powerful brand identity.
So be generous. Offer a free glass of wine with dinners. Give student, veteran, and senior discounts. Create daily specials that favor the customer. Be creative with your days. Karaoke nights, trivia, live music with local bands, poetry readings – make your restaurant a place where locals can express themselves.
Hang local art around your restaurant, or commission artists to paint murals outside and in. Hire a local graphic designer to remake your menu. Support the local arts by becoming a patron. Whatever you do, never stop writing your story with the customer in mind.
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