Many restaurant owners think that they don't need to worry about branding their businesses. Brand strategy, however, is vitally important even for small restaurants. Your brand is what makes customers come back, tell their friends about your eatery, and follow you when you expand to a new location. It's the key to successful restaurant marketing.
Everything about your restaurant feeds into your brand: not just your marketing, but your food, your service, and the overall experience that guests expect when they visit you. When you brand consistently, you can expect to see your revenue increase by an average of 23%.
Your branding is in essence what your guests pay you for. Take a look at the key elements involved in building a strong brand strategy for your restaurant.
When you communicate your brand to customers, it's important to stay on message. The story you tell your target audience should be clear and consistent, and it should convey the sense that your restaurant is constant and dependable in its offerings.
Before you can stay on message, you have to develop that message. Start by thinking through your target audience. Who is your ideal customer? What is their income level? Their age? What kinds of food and drink do they love? Why do they go out to eat? Do they want online ordering? A kids menu? A creative cocktail menu?
Once you know who you're telling your brand's story to; you can fill in the gaps in developing your own story. Now is the time to look at your restaurant's consistency in branding. Is your marketing, menu, and website language consistent with your restaurant's brand? (For example, if you brand your restaurant as a sophisticated destination for adults, you wouldn't want to fill your ads with balloons, bright colours, and lots of exclamation points.)
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Your messaging also conveys what you value as a restaurant. Are you highlighting your creative chef? Your happy hour bargains? Your breakfast buffet? Each of those choices is actually a statement of what you consider important in a restaurant — and your guests will flock to your restaurant when they share your clearly stated values.
Visual branding is a crucial element of your restaurant's brand strategy. Your logo, of course, is at the heart of your branding. The font you use, the design of your logo, the colours you've chosen for your restaurant branding in print and online — all of these send a clear message about the type of restaurant you are. Customers who are attracted to them and who recognize the message you're sending will feel welcome before they ever step through your door.
The visual design of your restaurant's interior also plays into your brand strategy. Does your decor send a message of relaxation and serenity or one of excitement and bustle? Is your decor compatible with your food? For example, if you specialize in locally sourced cuisine and a seasonal menu, your restaurant probably doesn't sport the bright lighting and leatherette booths of a '50s-style diner.
Make sure your menu also reflects your branding in every aspect, from the graphic design and the font choices to the way dish descriptions are written and the physical nature of the menu itself. Pay careful attention as well to your color scheme, relying on bright colors to convey excitement, warm colours to evoke hunger, and cool colors to add a sense of relaxation. The dishware and glassware you serve food and drinks in and the uniforms of your servers — all contribute to your visual branding.
Added to the visuals are the aural experience of dining in your restaurant: Is it deliberately noisy to convey a party atmosphere? What type of music are you playing? Also pay attention to your customer service, beginning with the host/hostess and carrying through to the wait staff and bus staff. They're part of your messaging as well.
All the visuals of your restaurant play a part in your brand — and they let your customers decide subconsciously, from the moment they spot your restaurant's facade to the experience when they step inside, whether they want to be there.
You convey your brand to your guests every time they step into your restaurant, but that's far from the only way you transmit your brand's message. Maybe a first-time guest was attracted by the impression they got from your restaurant's exterior (which is itself a brand statement). But in this modern era, it's most likely your guests found you via the internet.
After all, even word of mouth has gone online these days, in review sites like Yelp. This development means that your brand message must be clear and consistent across multiple channels.
Take a long look at your website, as a starting place. If a potential customer doesn't like your website, they're not likely to visit your brick-and-mortar location. Calling up your home page should evoke the same feeling that guests get when they enter your restaurant. Your logo, color scheme, lighting, and overall sensibility should match across the different modalities.
Make sure to include your actual menu, looking just as it looks when you hand it to a customer. Include plenty of photos of your restaurant to help viewers feel at home when they arrive (or pick out their favourite tables).
Brand consistency should reach across your social media platforms as well. Keep your social media posts consistent with your brand and the voice you use on your website and menu. Your social media platforms are an ideal place to share your restaurant's story — for example, how you were founded, where you source your seasonal produce and why you're introducing a new dish. When you tell your story, you open the door to connection with your guests.
Throughout all your messaging, keep things simple and uncluttered. Your guests should be able to tell what your restaurant's values are with a single glance.
Creating a brand strategy for your restaurant is one of the most important things you can do to develop lifelong guests who will return over and over, as well as to build and protect your restaurant's reputation. Sending a clear, consistent message about your brand helps you connect with curious visitors and turn them into regular customers.