5 Effective Ways to Brand Your Restaurant in 2018
It takes more than good food and great service to run a successful restaurant in 2018. Having a clear and unique brand is essential in setting your restaurant apart from your competitors.
So, branding your restaurant is easy – right? You just set up an Instagram and a Facebook account, regularly post some updates and make paid advertisements once in a while, then the guests will eventually start to notice your restaurant – right? Wrong. Unfortunately, this is oversimplifying the reality.
We’ll take you through the 5 steps that can help you brand and position your restaurant in the reality of 2018: Strategy, Social Media, Word of Mouth, Influencers and Events.
Why your Restaurant needs Branding
The goal of branding can be boiled down to one word: Visibility, which is simple in itself and that is grossly misleading. But standing out in the media landscape of 2018 apparently requires either opening a new restaurant, a random visit from a food critic, or the reception of a Michelin star – neither of which is guaranteed, obviously.
If you’re thinking: “But my food is great and my guests loves it. Isn’t that enough?” It certainly is. But we must also admit that in order to stay relevant there’s several approaches and opportunities to be pursued, which can help restaurants stay top of mind when their potential guests are looking for a place to eat.
So how would one go about that whole ‘branding one’s restaurant’ thing? Let’s explain.
1. Build a Strategy
The term ‘strategy’ is thrown around a lot these days – and with good cause. A strategy is basically just an outlay of your goals and how you attend to achieve them, which is why great and effective branding demands a strategy.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simply about figuring out which channel(s) to use, what type of content and maybe also when to post and how often? The main thing you have to keep in mind is that you should always put the guest experience first. Think about what your guest would find interesting, fun and exciting, and act accordingly. It’s all about creating relations and realizing that the entire experience around your restaurant matters.
So in general, you need to think about your goals for your branding: Do you want to gain customers, do you want to create a better guest community experience or do you just want to create visibility on all channels? Maybe all of the above? So start off with answering these questions:
1. Which channel(s)?
2. What type of content?
3. How much work do I want to put into this?
4. What do I hope to get out if this? Set a goal.
An easy way to make sure that you’re always on track with whatever branding project you have is to always ask: What, how, why. What is your goal? How will you achieve it? Why is this relevant?
It’s extremely important to note that your performance as a restaurant is always the number one value creator. All of the mentioned possibilities will always be second to running a successful restaurant but these efforts can help elevate the entire experience of your restaurant and service.
Great, let’s move on to the different focus points you can have in branding your restaurant.
2. Crush your Social Media
You cannot google ‘branding’ today without seeing ‘Social Media Strategy’ all over your feed. Social Media platforms have shaped our society to what we see today: We use it constantly. This is why a presence on different Social Media platforms is essential to a well-executed branding strategy. Why you ask?
Well, for starters, it’s actually a service that you provide your guests by being easy to find on various platforms – they can check your opening hours, maybe find menus or click a link to your website, where they can find more info. It’s just plain politeness these days. So make sure that your restaurant can be found easily on your chosen platforms.
The most used way to look for a restaurant today is by using a mobile phone. Making sure that you have a sharable reservation link is key as well as making sure your restaurant is visible on both Apple IOS, Android, and Google, which you can read more about here.
On top of that, Social Media is great for making your restaurant seem more relatable and personal. Storytelling is another buzz word you may have heard in this context before. By telling stories about yourself, your employees, and your vendors, you create a community around your restaurant, which in return can reflect on the overall perception of your restaurant.
Usually, it’s said that you can’t decide your own reputation, but you can, however, decide the identity and image of your restaurant. Each restaurant is unique – make sure you tell your story and show your passion.
We’ve seen that customer service has moved away from restaurant websites to e.g. Facebook. By being active in returning inquiries and comments from guests, you can establish a bond with your customers that have a greater chance of resulting in them coming back to your restaurant.
Last but not least, instead of posting different pictures of food in no particular order, like many restaurants have a tendency to do, make a posting schedule about what you want to include every week – it doesn’t have to be specific down to the last detail, but having an idea of wanting to post 2-3 posts, where one is about the food, one is about the staff, and the last one is about chef. Having a plan makes it easier to pinpoint stories that fit in with your branding strategy.
There are so many channels and ways of telling your story these days. Let’s run through a few:
Regular feed: Probably the best platform for any restaurant to use in terms of aesthetics. Instagram evolves around pictures and this is a great way to show the visual theme and feeling of your restaurant in the regular feed. You can create a profile with a creative grid of pictures. Take a look at our Instagram here if you want some inspiration.
Additionally, Instagram is a great place to create a community around your restaurant. The following you generate with your feed will be full of people who appreciate your aesthetics and may be or become great customers.
Instagram Stories: Instagram also has a feature called Instagram Stories – this is a feature that lets you create small stories with pictures and videos that’ll be shown for 24 hours only, in the style of Snapchat. Instagram Stories has become vastly more popular than Snapchat within the last year, so if you don’t know whether to choose Instagram Stories or Snapchat, we would recommend Instagram Stories, simply based on the fact that more people use it worldwide – and it keeps the number of platforms for your restaurant down.
Regular feed: The mother of all Social Media Platforms and somehow still relevant. As mentioned above, your Facebook account can have many different roles. It can be your announcement channel, your second customer service, your information page or all of the above. You can post competitions, special offers, pictures and stories from the restaurant. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
The only thing that really matters is that you have an updated Facebook page. The visibility is key and again, just plain politeness these days. As with Instagram, your Facebook following is a part of building your community and the bigger your community, the bigger the reach.
Facebook Stories: Can be used in the same way as your Instagram Stories. This is not a must since the number of users is very low compared to both Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories.
Snapchat Stories: We would recommend this platform if you find this kind of branding fun and relevant. Again, similar features are offered on Instagram and Facebook, but a Snapchat account could benefit you if you’re interested in creating an intimate community around your restaurant. This platform is very personal and can depict the everyday fun in the kitchen and so on. There’s charm in getting ‘behind the scenes’ of a great restaurant and that is definitely worth keeping in mind.
Tweets: The Twitter platform is a place where you can express whatever you feel like in 280 characters or less. This makes Twitter a varied platform – you can use it for everything from personal tweets from chefs about their private lives to restaurant tweets about happenings in the restaurant. Again, this is a way of creating a community around your restaurant, keeping people in the loop of what’s happening at your restaurant, setting yourself in the same company as chefs or restaurants that you admire by tweeting at them, or simply retweeting content that you like.
Connecting: Of course, we have to mention the more corporate platform, even if it may seem redundant in relation to restaurant management. However, your restaurant is a business and using this platform to connect with your professional network can strengthen your professional brand. Furthermore, giving your employees a place to connect to on Linkedin can strengthen your internal community and make your brand visible throughout their network. As well as making your restaurant known as an actual business can attract investors or other relevant people to your brand.
All in all, it’s about making sure that your restaurant is presented as a work of art and a business made by PEOPLE. This is a subject we’ll be diving deeper into in the near future.
3. Creating a Buzzing Word of Mouth
It is proven that word of mouth recommendations remains the most credible. People trust other people – at least more than they trust traditional advertising. Getting a reputation is an organic thing that happens when we offer a service or product to the world, it’s a natural thing that we usually have little to no control over.
You may be able to have several different images, but you can only have one reputation – and it needs to be good. Therefore it’s important to generate a buzz about your restaurant. This can, of course, come from just having a great experience at your restaurant, which is the organic buzz – the most valuable but also usually the slowest to spread.
Try to generate your own buzz by focusing on the Social Media aspect (as mentioned above). You could encourage people to use the check-in function on Facebook or to participate in an Instagram competition.
Another important aspect of the word of mouth is the review sites. People rely on reviews. Reviews are still one of the most important determents when it comes to choosing a restaurant. Therefore, it’s important to create a profile and update the info about your restaurant. Most of these places allow you to create a restaurant profile, where you can add a description and post inviting picture your restaurant. Try to go through all these different platforms and make sure your info is updated with descriptions and pictures.
A good review on Facebook, Yelp or Trip Advisor can help you to generate positive buzz about your restaurant, so make sure you encourage guests to tell you about their experience at your social platforms. This can help your online reputation and how potential new guests view your restaurant from the get-go.
4. Influence your Influencers
After touching on the subject of organic word of mouth, it feels natural to move on to the paid word of mouth, also know as influencer branding. Influencers have become increasingly important in recent years and today they can be seen as some of the most influential opinion leaders.
The choice to collaborate with influencers can give you a larger reach to a specific audience, e.g. a food blogger who has 15.000+ followers may help you generate business and buzz – however, it’s important to note that in most countries it has been decided by law that influencers have to state in their posts if they are sponsored, which takes some of the authenticity away from the buzz. And yes, even if you don’t actually pay them a salary for the buzz, the free dinner you give them is considered a sponsorship.
So, first, you should identify the most relevant influencer(s) for your restaurant and its brand. Make sure that your chosen influencer(s) align with your values and that they themselves have a good reputation within the community (or a bad one, if that’s what you’re going for).
Reach out to them by asking them to come by and try your restaurant. Either you can arrange with them to take pictures or ask them to write about your restaurant or you can simply rely on your restaurant and see what happens. If it good enough, they will share it. But if it’s bad, they might share that too.
There’s usually no guarantee of how this will turn out exactly, but that’s some of the beauty of word of mouth branding; You get a somewhat genuine reaction from an influencer, which seems more relatable than your personal restaurant branding efforts. However, nothing beats good organic word of mouth from your self-made ambassadors, which you can’t buy – and that makes it all the more valuable.
5. Sharpen your image with events
Let’s stay with the buzz generation for a while, since this is so incredibly important. Creating buzz around your restaurant doesn’t have to be limited to the confinement of your own restaurant or Social Media channels.
By using happenings and events to branch out, you can both get a change of scene but also reach a different audience than you normally would – and maybe even get some traditional media attention in the process.
The first we recommend you to do is staying on top of your local food scene and events – food festivals and food markets are sprouting up throughout the industry and they are perfect for showcasing your food in a different setting, where the clientele is diverse but all have an appreciation for food.
The next type of happening or event you could try is engaging in different brand deals and collaborations with brands that compliments your image. Company events where your restaurant caters or maybe even a campaign where your restaurant use a specific product – mutual branding through each others’ channels, which will let you practice the art of co-branding. Strategic co-branding lets two brands or more benefit from each others’ image and reputation as well as reach audiences beyond their own core audience.
Another creative way to brand your restaurant is to do exclusive dinners and events: After hours cocktails and tastings, menu tastings, chef-swaps and so much more. The chef-swap, in particular, is interesting. It’s pretty much like a wife swap without the drama. Choose a restaurant with similar values and propose a chef-swap – it might be a day or it may be a longer period of time, which you push through your Social Media channels and press releases. Make sure you have a clear goal in mind. Learning, innovation, or maybe something completely different?
We’ve already examined the chef-swap concept, which you can read more about here.
Remember: Test, Measure, Evaluate
A great way to figure out which channel that works best for you, or is the most appropriate for your restaurant, is by testing. Decide which channels to use and make a plan. Remember, great branding is not a one-day job.
Once you’ve decided on the channels, you should create a few core posts about your restaurant, the food, the culture and the employees and test it out on your chosen media. Which posts get the most interaction (likes, comments, clicks)? From that info, you can try to create more posts that have the same feeling as the ones that performed the best in your first test round and do a second test round. Before you know it, you’ll have developed your restaurant’s branding style and have to build a real community around it.
Tools for measuring your content
Instagram and Facebook’s own tracking devices will do just fine but if you are interested in other platforms, we can recommend the free site ‘Social Blade’ for a basic overview or check out Lifewire for the more in-depth, paid services.
Most importantly when we’re talking measuring and tracking, we’re not expecting you to use heavy duty excel sheets and so on, but simply be aware of what impact your branding efforts have on its surroundings. It’s about keeping track, so you can show appreciation for your community and elevate your relations.
Wrapping it up
Visibility is key to successful branding, that much is clear. Whether you choose only to be visible online or go all out with events, influencers and the whole shebang, just remember: It’s about making, maintaining and elevating relations and putting the guest experience first at all time. To sum it up:
1. Strategize – A clear branding strategy will help you in coordinating and focusing your efforts towards a goal.
2. Social Media – Being active and visible on the platforms that make sense to you and your restaurant will increase your brand value and help you create a loyal community around your brand.
3. Word of Mouth – The buzz around your restaurant is key. Stay on top of review sites, nudge your guests to review and focus on giving a great guest experience.
4. Influencers – A branding possibility worth exploring – but do your homework. The outcome is not guaranteed but if the influencer fits your values and your target audience, it can be worth a shot.
5. Happenings and Events – There’s nothing like promoting your brand in real life. Actually giving a genuine experience to possible guests beats almost anything but it also requires more effort and resources.
By combining some or all of these different ways of branding your restaurant, you might just discover the joy of successful branding: Happy guests, active community and, most of all, a thriving restaurant. So, what are you waiting for? Mix and match, but most importantly DO YOU. We made you the recipe, now go make it your own.
Did you get some pointers for your restaurant’s branding from this blogpost? Let us know in the comments below.