When branding a new restaurant or rebranding a current one, it can be difficult to know where to start. Maybe you feel just a logo is needed, or a catchy sign outside, but developing a strong and comprehensive brand can be an extremely powerful tool to connect with customers.
Before diving in, it’s important to remember that from a high level, a brand is simply the impression or feeling someone takes away from an interaction with your restaurant. It’s the collection of numerous ingredients that surround the food and drink that is served to build a memorable experience. From the paper towel holder in the bathroom to the logo on the door, all of these these seemingly independent pieces can come together to make a truly unforgettable brand.
The following steps can focus your vision and work as a roadmap for developing a compelling restaurant brand.
Whether you're a food truck or a Michelin starred restaurant (or a Michelin starred chef opening a food truck), a brand should always be informed and guided by the restaurant’s positioning. Ultimately, a restaurant is a business, and carving out your spot in a competitive market is an important first step. You may have a great idea, but using business strategy frameworks like Porter’s Generic Strategies can focus your vision. Ask questions like; What makes this restaurant unique and how does it differentiate from the competition? Who is my audience? What is the price point? Where is the ideal location? Do you want to turn tables quickly or keep guests lingering? Answers to questions like these provide a roadmap to building a memorable brand.
Weaving story into a brand has an amazing potential to connect with customers. It builds meaning and context while giving life to your brand. It’s also one of the most powerful tools for building memorability. A strong story communicated effectively across the brand has the opportunity to connect the “what” you're selling to the “why” you’re selling it, and gives individuals the chance to connect with more than a great meal or a good drink. And this story can be anything, from the chef’s philosophy on sourcing ingredients to the origins of a restaurant’s name. It may not be what pulls a customer in the door, but a strong story can help guests understand, connect, and share their experience with others.
Food is somewhat unique as a product in that it is fundamentally social. Sharing a meal is an act as old as humanity, and at times the food you serve can be secondary to an atmosphere that is created to cultivate a social experience. This reality sets restaurants apart from other businesses or products and this difference should be reflected in every aspect of the experience. It means that the brand should be infused with personality, authenticity, and ultimately feel human. If you think back to a memorable meal, it’s almost always tied to the people or person you were with and the “feelings” associated with the experience, not simply the taste of the food. Look to your story and use this to build a brand with personality.
With digital and social pathways always increasing, it can be challenging keeping up with every possible interaction a potential customer can have with your brand. But creating consistency across your brand and managing these various touchpoints can make a huge impact and provide greater reach to your story. If you run a high end restaurant and a guest takes food home in a to-go box, that box and the food inside it is now the primary way a person is interacting with your brand. If that experience is contradictory to the brand, that has a potential to damage that feeling a customer has towards your restaurant. That reality exists for every brand touchpoint, from the silverware on the table to the posts on the Facebook page. Each of these touchpoints has the opportunity to connect with customers, tell your story, and strengthen your brand.
At the end of the day, the food and drink you serve is the foundation of your restaurant, but a strong brand can elevate a customer's experience and form a relationship that keeps them coming back.
Check out our restaurant branding work for Bottle Rocket and The Freehouse.