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Why Your Restaurant Needs a Brand


Restaurant Branding. What You Need to Know

If you’re like me, you probably would like to think that brands don’t have much control over your life or somehow you don’t feel that they are all that important. But until you step out of your comfort zone, and enter into a foreign country, does the forefront of branding power come through.

When you’re in another country you start to feel uncomfortable so you go to the Starbucks because you know the tall Latte is pronounced the same around the world, or that when you grab a cola, there’s an unfamiliar brand and then there’s Coke. So you decide to grab Coke. It’s that connection that people have a with a brand that makes a brand so valuable.

Marketers have debated about what exactly makes a brand, it’s one of those buzz words that everybody knows or has heard about, but it can be really difficult to explain.

For the sake of this article we’re going to define brand as “”Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” I would also add that a brand is also the feelings that are associated with that good or service, which also helps it be distinct from other products.

Are You Crazy? You’re Not Going to Brand Your Restaurant?

One of the major mistakes that restaurants make for their marketing, and even before their launch is that they don’t take time to carefully think about what their brand is and worse yet, because they don’t know how to articulate it, the brand ends up being controlled by the consumer instead of the actual business.

Restaurants aren’t in the business of providing food. They’re in the business of providing a branded experience. Eating is an experience of the senses. Customer service with a smile should be part of every restaurant’s brand experience. But how do you exactly know what your brand should be, and why is it so important?

Why Branding Your Restaurant Matters. Period.

It’s worth big bucks.

A brand may not mean much to one restaurant location if your food is excellent, but if your plans are expand to different locations a few years down the road, your brand is worth a lot. People in business talk about goodwill. To me goodwill is really how much you’re paying for the brand. The better established a business is, the more brand power it has, therefore the more it can charge for its goodwill when it sells the business or when you decide to franchise.

If you have a very clear brand identity for your restaurant, then when you need to open the next location you have a solid idea on the theme of the restaurant, the level of service that is expected, and to be able to explain clearly what your brand is to the marketing agency or team that you’re working with.

It’s Easier on Everyone’s Communication

One of our clients needed a brand revamp after opening up, because, quite frankly they had no brand. After working with them we were able to come up with a slogan, a logo, a philosophy that the staff follow and the way to communicate with their target demographic o our digital channels.

There’s also a competitor restaurant that I know that sells a similar product, but nobody exactly knows what their communications are like. Watching them on Twitter, I wasn’t too sure if they were aiming for people in their 20’s, or if their brand was trying to be humourous and entertaining. If so the website didn’t quite display such a brand message that this was meant to be a fun and wonderful place the way that TGIF’s is.

The beauty of it all was that after the branding work was done, it made all future communications so much easier. We ask ourselves a lot, “Is what I’m trying to communicate fitting into what we want our customers to perceive us as? Is the music we’re playing conducive to attracting the people we want in the restaurant? Is the copywrite that we’re doing on our website focused on the brand message?”

By having a strong brand, not only does your communication remain consistent until a revamp is needed, but it also helps guide your customer service. How many servers at your restaurant know what your brand is really about? I can tell you from managing my own Starbucks, I made sure that every one of my staff represented the brand well. And even though they wouldn’t use the same words that I would to describe the brand, they lived and articulated the Starbucks brand well.

What’s entailed in a Brand for a Restaurant

The Name of Your Restaurant

The name of the restaurant is vital. This is a given. Based on what you’re trying to achieve it’s important to think about the name and how it reflects the goals of the restaurant in the present and the future.

A Logo

Not every restaurant will have their own logo, but it’s pretty much unheard of that any of the big companies don’t have one. A good solid logo shouldn’t be changed unless absolutely necessary and there’s public approval. Gap clothing had a huge backlash when they changed there logo only to go back to the old one. You know your brand is strong when people don’t want to see the logo changed.

People Remember Slogans

Slogan, though not always necessary in the business, a good slogan can help strongly differentiate you from your other competitors. A slogan really intensifies and forces you to focus on what your business is all about, or how you want the public to perceive you. I have a lot of respect for the marketing team and ad agency at Coca Cola. They always come up with these wonderful slogans. Coke is It. Can’t Beat the Real Thing. Open Happiness.

None of these slogans make sense…what is “It” anyway? Or, what’s the “real thing?” Yet each drinker will have an independent opinion about each slogan.

Or how about the Energizer bunny. “It keeps going, and going and going.” Did you know Energizer hijacked the bunny from Duracell? And now hardly anybody remembers that it was the Duracell bunny. It was the slogan and the mascot that played a role in getting Energizer established in the market.

Colour Theme of your Restaurant

Colours are extremely important and some colours (like warm colours) are designed to stimulate hunger, which is why McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Hooters, use these colours frequently. The colours and the design of your restaurant play a major role in the feel of how your restaurant is. Knowing what you want customers to feel when they step in will help guide you in the branding of the restaurant.

Dress and Attire

The way that you employees dress are vitally important. Just imagine them all running around looking like customers (let’s face it, you’ve been stopped at a large department store before and asked if you worked there?)

Customer Experience

What do you want your customers to experience? What do you want them to feel? This is all part of the branding strategy as well. Once you know how you want your customers to feel, your servers will be able to have some clear guidelines on how to act so that they deliver the restaurant’s brand promise and brand image.

For some, branding a restaurant is very easy, because their concept is very sticky. For example EXP Bar in Vancouver is a bar and restaurant designed for gamers in the city. This would be the first player (pun intended) to do such a thing in the city. Therefore their brand is easier to develop with a theme around games and gamificaiton.

But for a restaurant that focuses on Chinese cuisine, you’ll need to give some deep thought on what your brand is and how that becomes part of the overall long term strategy and goals of your restaurant. After all why not play classical music at every Hard Rock Cafe if branding didn’t matter?

If you would like to know more about how you can develop your restaurant’s brand, then feel free to contact us at vince @ or at our Contact Us page.

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Vincent Ng is the founder of MCNG Marketing, and the author of Pinterest to Profits with Pintalysis and the host of the Pinterest podcast, Pictures to Profits. You can grab your free e-book on How to Search Optimize Your Pins for Pinterest and Search Engines."