Branding Strategies for Restaurants: Finding & Scaling Your Brand

In the restaurant industry, there is constantly a new guy joining the party. The entrepreneurial spirit within this industry is more than captivating – big ideas turn into big bucks. That is, for the ones that make it. One in four new restaurants don’t make it six months. Why? Settle in, we’re talking restaurant branding.

You always hear the glory stories, the husband and wife that quit their corporate jobs to start a Tex-Mex concept and made billions. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns though. Sometimes the restaurant industry can be brutal. Sometimes, you put every ounce of your being into a restaurant and it fails, not because of the food but because no one knew the restaurant was there. Branding starts long before the doors open, or the menu is developed. Branding starts the moment you decide to open a restaurant – the moment you decide to give that idea you’ve been playing with legs.

In today’s restaurant industry, it’s about the event and occasion. It’s not as simple as having good food for a good price. Now, there’s a social factor that takes branding to a whole new level of identity and persona. What’s the restaurant doing for the community and our environment? What philanthropies does it support? Does it have that “no-filter-needed” lighting? What about the music? The answer to these questions and others is where restaurant branding begins. We like to start with “the who” – let’s dive in.

Who – Who are you?

Our marketing team likes to start with a celebrity match – what celebrity best represents the restaurant/brand? From there you build a think-map or word association map – all the words that come to mind when you think of that celebrity. These words are then used to build a mission statement; a description of “who” and “what” the restaurant is. These words are used to create the restaurant’s voice and public identity – these words will bring the restaurant to life.

Yeah, it’s a restaurant not a person but the most successful restaurants have personality. Who is the restaurant? Is it a fun, easy going hamburger joint that always has the game on and your favorite beer on tap – kind of like your best bud Murray? Is the restaurant that fancy, dressed to the nines, impeccable-wine-list-having steak house – a three-piece-suit William? The “who” is what people will read about – the heart of the restaurant. The who is what will guide the mission of the restaurant. The who should be the foundation of every decision, menu item and paint color.

Who – Who are you talking to?

So, you have a fresh-faced baby restaurant that stands for and believes in “stuff”. That “stuff” is communicated through the menu, the paint colors, the tables/chairs and music. Fresh-faced is ready to open and make billions, right? Almost. It’s time to use that voice you created and start talking.

“Who are you talking to?” is the single most important question you ask yourself when it comes to branding a restaurant.

Step one is establishing a target consumer – meaning who is most likely to listen to what you are saying and act on it? Once a target consumer is established, you talk to them often and via multiple channels.

Let’s say your target consumer is a college educated millennial without kids. That’s going to be the 25-40ish age range. No kids can translate to greater disposable income, usually. So how do you talk to this group? Social media is a good starting point but keep it to Twitter and Instagram. This group only Facebooks to monitor what mom and dad tag them in. Geotargeting/digital ads are another good option. This group relies heavily on phones, tablets and laptops to get information – the exact places that digital ads show. Direct mail is making a comeback and is smarter. The demographic information available to target specific household incomes, kids/no kids in household, etc. is changing the direct mail game and this group still likes mail.

Bottom line, branding isn’t just social media or digital ads. Branding is a multi-channel and constant process. Experts tend to believe it takes a minimum of three “touch points” to make an impact. That means that consumers must have contact with the brand at least three times before it resonates, and they take action. That could be a consumer “liking” an Instagram post, getting a coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase and seeing a digital ad while reading the New York Times. But what if they “liked” the Instagram post but got distracted by a competitor’s coupon and saw a digital ad for Zumba while reading the New York Times? That is real life, why branding is constant and why you need to get Balanced.

About Balanced

Put simply, we are your partner. We help find balance in the crazy and exciting world of restaurant. Our clients are some of Austin’s favorite eateries. We help hospitality/restaurant clients with bookkeeping & financial services, human resources, marketing, operations and all the fun in between.

Ready to get started? Us too. Contact us today