The restaurant industry is a competitive space that requires a significant amount of knowledge from various topics to be understood properly. Knowledge of the market needs to be blended with the technical know-how of how a restaurant works and combined with a solid presence and identity to ensure success. This complexity also extends to the clientele, requiring a strategy to both bring them in and maintain them.
Building a restaurant brand is an essential step in this process and should also be used as a starting point for the business. Creating an identity and seeing how it fits into the market, along with a clear definition of the goals and objectives will ensure that the business has ampler room to thrive.
While branding in restaurants is a long discussion in itself, these are the 6 fundamentals steps you need to take in order to lay down the framework and start expanding.
1. Start by defining your mission statement
The process of building a restaurant brand starts with the foundation, which is represented by a mission statement. This will inform all future steps for establishing the restaurant brand identity, from the big decision all the way to the granular aspects.
A clear mission statement will make every step of the restaurant brand identity process flow much more smoothly. It will guide the early stages of development until the business starts to experience growth. It’s essential to spend some time on it to create a comprehensive statement you can follow to establish the business.
The mission statement encompasses the core values of the establishment and provides a set of goals that everyone can work towards. You can also read this article for more information.
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The mission statement needs to answer a series of questions:
Who are we? – This is the first step of establishing your identity, determining what type of restaurant you wish to create, what food to serve, a general idea of your name, and how customers will refer to you. Answering these questions represents the first step in establishing the restaurant’s brand identity.
What are we doing? – Think about what type of food you wish to serve, an idea of the menu structure, type of distributions, and what type of online presence you are targeting. While the previous question deals with identity, this one deals with more practical aspects of the restaurant’s identity.
Why are we doing it? – While the main objective of any business is to make a profit, there should be more driving the desire to create the establishment. Passion and personality play a key role, especially in restaurants, where hard work is required for success. As such, there must be more driving the business, rather than simply profit, and this passion should be a core component of brand love. Passion is immediately noticeable to the clientele, and should not be hidden away.
What are we looking to accomplish? – Clearly state and express what your goals are for the business, from all points of view, professionally and personally. Through the process, these long-term goals will be developed into short and medium-term objectives.
2. Study the competition of your restaurant brand
A competitive analysis is fundamental to establishing a successful branding strategy for the restaurant. It also helps you further define your market position and target audience.
Once the mission statement is established, it will also inform the niche that the restaurant will sit in. This will then in turn show who the major competitors in the niche are. This will be extremely important, as understanding them will grant you the opportunity to better understand how they positioned themselves and more importantly what they are doing right to cement their position in the market.
A comprehensive understanding of who your competitors are and how you are positioned in relation to them is fundamental for building a restaurant brand.
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Once the niche is established, start by categorizing your competition. First, look and see who they are and how they sit in the niche, taking a birds-eye view of their approach. Once this macro level is done, you can start going more granular. With a bit of research, you can find out about their own mission statements, methods they use, and even financial figures. All this can help paint a quite clear picture of the overall health of their business.
Go into further detail and look into their branding and how that relates to their day-to-day operations. How do they communicate, who is their target audience, and what is their overall strategy. It’s very important to understand what their tactics are and what they are doing right. Restaurant locations also play a large role in their business operations, with certain locations being better suited to certain restaurant typologies than others.
While it is important to find out what they are doing right, it is just as important, however, to find out what they are doing wrong and how you can improve on that. Be wary of copying their strategies though, instead see how you can apply them to your own situation.
3. Position your restaurant brand on the market
With the mission statement crafted and a good understanding of the competition, the next step is to see how the restaurant will position itself in the landscape. Restaurants can be a particularly difficult business to enter, so establishing a niche, an area where you fit is very important in connecting further with potential customers.
Branding strategy for restaurants focuses on communication, which works best when we have a clear idea of who we want our customers to be. There are many restaurants in any market, many of which compete for the same customer base.
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In order to understand this, there are 5 key areas that have to be understood:
What do you serve: The mission statement should have established this, now it is time to get more specific. While it is not necessary to create a complete menu at this point, it is important to conceptualize it.
What is the value proposition: Just serving excellent food is not enough, you need to establish what benefits you offer to your customers.
Who is your customer and what are they looking for: Think of who your target demographic is and what they value. How can you implement this to further establish your customer base?
Collect as much data about the market as possible: Establish a knowledge base and specific know-how of the market in your area, such as revenue statistics, popular food items, popular areas, and so forth. This information will require a bit of digging but finding it can give you a step up in terms of starting out.
4. Build your restaurant brand identity
All the previous steps have helped create a coherent foundation for the restaurant brand identity. With a good understanding of the business, it is time to create the identity of the restaurant. This will be what clients see, how they understand the business, and how the business communicates with the target audience. The concept of branding in restaurants revolves around communication, in particular how the business communicates with its audience.
The more in tune the business and its communication is with its audience, the easier it is to build a loyal client base and grow the restaurant. Brand identity needs to make sure that what the clients expect and how they read the business are closely aligned.
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There are several components that make up the restaurant brand identity. While the list is by no means exhaustive, these can be summarized as follows: the name of the restaurant, the logo, the tagline, the face of the brand, and the voice of the brand. All these elements need to be developed together in order to function effectively.
The name is the first thing clients will see before having any contact with the restaurant. It will be everywhere and will determine how the first interactions will go between the business and the clientele. It needs to be intimately linked to the mission and convey the basic values of the business. It needs to suggest the type of establishment, as well as the type of food served.
A logo will help cement the restaurant’s brand identity, by creating a memorable visual representation of the business that can remain in the mind of the customer for a long time. It can be as simple as the name of the restaurant in an interesting typeface or use more creative visual elements. Ultimately, the logo and the name need to go hand in hand to establish brand love for the establishment.
The tagline can be optional in some instances, but it can go a long way to further establishing the identity among the target clientele. It should ideally be simple and under 5 words. A short, eye-catching slogan will be far more memorable than a longer one.
The staff also plays an important role in the spatial experience of the restaurant, with the style of serving and their attire becoming a living component of the restaurant brand. We still strongly associate ‘’upscale’’ with white shirts and ‘’casual’’ with T-shirts. Consider the type of audience you are targeting, what type of atmosphere they like, and how they socialize. All this is encompassed by the brand love of the business and connection with the target clientele.
Finally, there is the face and voice of the brand to consider. This refers to how the business presents itself to the world, through images and written pieces. This aspect is very important for social media marketing, ensuring that the brand has a coherent communication style in every aspect of its presentation.
5. Build the right menu for your brand
The menu is linked to the mission statement and the restaurant brand identity, and it plays an important role in the development of the business. It is also linked to the practical aspects, such as the size and organization of the kitchen, the required investment in the physical locations, as well as the expectations of the clientele.
The menu design will have a large impact on the profitability of the business as well. Generally, the menu is either designed by or with substantial input from the head chef, as it involves a strong collaboration between the front and back of the house. Pricing also factors into this as well, with the brand and target audience of the restaurant being closely associated with what you will serve, as well as their respective pricing.
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The menu design is an involved process, requiring a discussion on expectations, the way potential clients will interact as well as their emotions towards your brand, as well as profit margins. The menu needs to be closely allied with the branding strategy for the restaurant.
There are many important decisions to make here. It starts with the size of the menu and its structure. This needs to take into consideration the time customers will spend at the restaurant. Some items can have a fast turnaround time, while others will require a bit more time to prepare. This also ties in directly with the drinks menu, and how that will be structured, with a focus on certain beverages over others.
The menu should be focused and designed with a few specialties in mind, with the input of the head chef. The menu should clearly communicate with the clients what type of restaurant it is and also establish their core expectations towards the experience. Naming the dishes can be more forwards or creative, depending on the identity of the restaurant. Another decision that has to be made is should the names the accompanied by descriptions of photos. All of these resonate with customers and further create the restaurant’s brand identity.
Finally, there is the design of the physical menu and whether one is necessary. While some establishments can simply use an online menu, having a printed menu also plays an important role in how the clientele perceives the experience.
6. Creating the operational location that your brand needs
Once all the steps are in place, it’s time to consider the design of the location where the restaurant will function. There are a few factors to consider here, from the overarching design and ambiance, including how it relates and fits within the brand of the restaurant, as well as the seating arrangement and the way the client moves through the space.
The size and structure of the menu will inform the size and requirements of the kitchens. It’s a good practice to consider the size of the kitchen first before deciding on the other aspects, as it has a much more specific list of requirements. The menu and the branding strategy go hand in hand, so we can trace the impact of the restaurant brand identity all the way here. Our previous article is an excellent resource for example that goes into more detail about choosing the ideal restaurant color palette. You can also read the following for a general overview of restaurant design fundamentals.
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There are 2 components to the location: the interior design and the exterior. The interior design of the restaurant is a large topic in itself, bringing together the identity and branding strategy of the restaurant with technical aspects such as the size of the space and what it can accommodate.
The materials, lighting, sound, and furniture used in the restaurant will create part of the customer experience and play a large role in how people relate to the business. This should also tie in with the type of food you serve. A certain ambiance should work to bring the customers into the experience and help them enjoy it. While the food plays a key role, we still strongly associate the restaurant with the idea of physical space and the concept of dining out. Every detail can play a role here, from the color of the lighting to the presence or absence of a tablecloth, to the style of glass used, to the serving experience.
While the interior is the larger and arguably more important component, it is very important to consider how the restaurant looks from the outside as well
Create a successful restaurant brand conclusion
Building a restaurant brand is an involved process with many steps. It requires a bit of introspection and firmly deciding who the business is, what it represents, and who will it communicate with. At its core, it’s a strong decision-making process that will have an impact on the business for a long time.
Every other decision then stems from this, so a good dose of brand love is important to ensure that the business grows. It is not a process that can be done overnight and it involves many different aspects.
It is also important to keep in mind that the restaurant brand identity will have to grow and develop alongside the business. It is not a static component, that once established never changes. Periodically revisiting it with a critical eye is fundamental in ensuring long-term success.
But by establishing it from the onset, the odds of a profitable business that connects on a deeper level with the client grow substantially and play a key role in the development of a successful restaurant.