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Making the Brand: Restaurant Edition

Restaurant BrandingNew restaurants come a dime a dozen, and for a good reason: many of them don’t work out. One of the main reasons there is so much turnover in the restaurant business isn’t because of the market itself, but because the restaurant industry is saturated with eateries that fail to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. When consumers have a handful of options for eating any given type of cuisine, successful restaurants have to develop their brand as a tool for attracting clients, or they’ll fail.

Burger King is the “Home of the Whopper.” Dairy Queen serves up “Hot Eats and Cool Treats.” And if you can’t identify a branding or niche for your own restaurant, you need to re-envision how your business plans to build a reputation with its customer base. Developing this brand can be done in a variety of ways. Between the traditional mediums of print and television advertising, plus the new marketing offerings of social media and the Internet, restaurateurs have a variety of outlets available to help them connect with a diverse customer base and emphasize the unique qualities that sets their business apart from the rest of the competition.

Capitalize on Trends

When a new restaurant opens its doors to the public, one of the best ways to attract new clientele is to implement features that are trending in popularity. For example, developing a health-conscious menu or menu section can be attractive to individuals who want to enjoy a meal out without taking on the heavy doses of calories, fats and sodium that are often piled on to entrees. Depending on what demographics you are targeting, developing menu sections for seniors or children can also be advantageous, showing that your business is willing to accommodate these individuals.

Also trendy in this day and age are green-friendly restaurants that adopt energy-efficient cooking methods. Many businesses are able to lower their operating costs by adopting these eco-friendly methods, such as purchasing energy efficient equipment from places like Food Service Warehouse, and they may even pass those savings on to the customer. Regardless of how energy efficiency affects costs, many customers are eager to bring their business to companies that try to reduce their carbon footprint.

Employ Introductory Specials and Coupons

Naturally, marketing is a no-brainer, but with so many diffuse distributions channels, it can be a challenge to carve out your own niche. One interesting phenomenon is that of food trucks utilizing Twitter to essentially broadcast their menus and hourly locations to their followers. Food Service Warehouse is something of an authority on all things restaurant, and a visit to their marketing page will like address any entry-level questions you could possibly have about marketing your restaurant.

Another strategy promoted by FSW and others is the use of coupons, introductory specials and seasonal menu items to bring in business. When you are just opening a restaurant, a good way to infuse your restaurant with instant traffic is to provide a big economic incentive for customers to roll the dice on your establishment. Because many consumers display brand loyalty and habitually frequent the same businesses, many restaurants find success in spurring them on to go outside of the box.

Coupons can be distributed a number of ways, including through direct mailings, print advertisements and as vouchers passed on social media. For example, consumers can be rewarded with a coupon for choosing to follow your business’s Facebook profile. This rewards them, but also helps you build an online audience through which you can promote future deals and specials.

Promote Happy Hour

Many businesses are able to draw in clients by offering happy hour specials outside of peak hours. This is a tried-and-true approach to boosting revenues during slow time periods, such as before and after the peak dinner hours. Businesses can publicize happy hour deals through social media and other outlets, and the increased traffic can also increase alcohol sales — a vital component of most successful restaurants.

No matter how fast the Internet moves, it takes time to develop a brand. If you can’t create a marque that piques interests within the first few years of existence, chances are you may never get there. There is room for mistakes, but the first few years of a restaurant’s existence should be devoted to building and cultivating that brand for the long term; nobody wants to be the owner to that cool place that used to be on 21st and Broadway.

About the Author:

Felicia Baratz is an avid branding and marketing guru living in Indianapolis, IN. As a frequent contributor to Technected.com, she discusses branding and marketing tactic examples similar to that of Food Service Warehouse , and other nationally recognized brands.


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6 Responses to “Making the Brand: Restaurant Edition”

  1. Great post from marketing perspective. I’d like to add legal perspective. The idea of branding as “Home of the Whopper” really speaks to the importance of selecting one’s trademarks carefully. Restaurants all too often forego strong distinctive trademarks and forget about the crucial step of protecting their trademarks and their brand. With regard to coupons or other techniques such as contests in social media or other marketing media, it’s important to remember that there are state and often federal laws that apply. Finally,for more information on legalities of advertising happy hours, see my blog post at: bit.ly/IbFs1M

  2. alanc230 says:

    All the branding and Twittering in the world isn’t going to pull a restaurant up out of a slump if the food and service aren’t worth going around the block for.

    • Hi Alanc230,

      Social Media is an amplifier, and if you sell a crappy product people will find out sooner, and you’ll probably go out of business sooner (negative reviews).

      On the other hand, I see many struggling entrepreneurs offering a great product, but not reaching their right audience. The people who would love their product, doesn’t even know they exist. And that is where Social Media is super powerful. For those great small businesses that can use a few more (or a bunch more customers) to make a consistent good living, instead of struggling to make ends meet.

  3. Shane says:

    This is just so helpful for those people who are just still starting out this kind of business and have no idea at all on how to run a restaurant business or on how to promote their business. Do you still have any tips aside from this one? Thank you very much for sharing it with us. I definitely learned tons of things already.

    • Gary says:

      Branding and finding your exact niche in the restaurant world shouldn’t always be your number one priority … or even a priority at all. Yes, if you are a large chain this carries more weight, but not necessarily for the independent owner of 1 – 3 units. You are just not going to be able to pull off anything of any significant magnitude that will become a moniker forever. Most likely, it simply because it costs too much. How much money did Burger King have to spend to be know as “Home of the Whopper?”

      You may serve very good food, but so does the guy down the block. And unless you are doing something spectacularly different with an ingredient or a preparation, this is most likely not your ticket to stardom either. Food consistency is imperative, but for the local, fine dining spot, you need to distinguish yourself with personality … and personality comes from the front of the house.

      Professional and efficient service is terrific, but it’s just not enough. You have to make your guests feel comfortable, and remind them why they chose you in the first place. Server personalities need to shine. That’s what distinguishes you from the competition. People “love” eating out at your place … and it’s never only about the food.

      It took me years to learn this, as I was always a back of the house person. I was classicly trained in the kitchen, and “food first” was a concept drilled into me from the beginning. Once I owned restaurants, I moved to the front. It was then that I realized that customer interaction was crucial. Less important than attracting new customers, I saw the value of thrilling your existing ones. Loyalty is what makes a restaurant successful. Yes, I needed to market mostly to my existing customers. And it paid off!

      Coupons work for fast food restaurants, but they are the kiss of death for upscale establishments. Especially the dime a dozen variety available via email and the web … Groupon styled ones included. They’ll all give your brand a kick in the gut! Every day fine dining restaurant owners cringe at having to issue coupons, but then are forced to do it as a last ditch effort anyway. So the issue then is how to build loyalty without hurting your brand.

      The answer is not revolutionary, but the question is, “Are you taking advantage of this very obvious opportunity?” Incredibly, most owners do not. They are still thinking that their food is the ticket. A restaurant loyalty program designed for independent owners of upscale restaurants. If you are interested, please check out fulltablemarketing.com

  4. Ruth Bown says:

    There’s this local franchise that has good food but sometimes, you don’t want to eat their food plainly because you might find a hair strand on your food. Many people have experienced this but they still go back to the restaurant. I don’t know how they do it.

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