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March 14, 2022

How to build a clear brand story for your restaurant

Discover why chefs and restaurateurs are natural storytellers and how to use your brand story to connect with guests on an emotional level.
March 14, 2022

In today's over-saturated market, your restaurant can’t afford to be a faceless place to eat. 

You need to give your guests reasons to book a table – reasons that go beyond just good food. These reasons are the story behind your brand. One narrative that connects what you do with how you make your guests feel. 

The story that a restaurant tells will ultimately help you establish, preserve and reinforce your brand identity.  

The good news is that most chefs and restaurateurs are already great at storytelling. They just don't realise that it’s a part of branding. 

So, how do you identify the brand story of your restaurant? Read on to learn more.



What is a brand story?

A brand story is a cohesive narrative that joins facts with feelings. But it’s not a real story. You won’t have to actually sit down and start with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” every time a guest enters your restaurant or bar.  

Before you start thinking that storytelling and branding sound like topics better suited for your marketing team, let us add this – Restaurateurs and chefs are some of the greatest storytellers on the planet. You’re equipped with incredibly powerful tools to truly persuade and change another person’s mindset. 

From the way you prepare a meal to how you present it, you have the power to move someone.

That’s your brand story in action. 

The attention to detail you invest in sourcing local produce or the way you use every stem and stalk of a plant – these add up to the pages and chapters of your captivating story. And guests read with every bite. 

Your story is the reason why you started your restaurant in the first place. The trick is making sure that you’re not the only one who knows it. 

Start with why. 

The best part about a brand story is that it answers the critical question many customers want to know - why does your restaurant exist? 

If you’re having trouble narrowing down the brand story for your restaurant, define your ‘why’.  

It starts with what you cook. 

Ask yourself why you cook what you do. 

Regardless of who you are as a chef, you know exactly why you’re cooking and why it’s important to you. 

How would you explain that to someone else? It can be something super aspirational like cooking to show that sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing flavour. Or cooking to show that your city does have the best seafood on the planet. Whatever the reason, tell it to yourself. And then tell it to others. 

Executive Creative Director of Kontrapunkt, Philip Linnemann explains, “What makes restaurants so special and unique is that it's multi-sensory. An experience that activates all of your five senses. 

Very few companies or brands can work on all of these different strengths at the same time. There's a real superpower for restaurants to think about how they can use that to their advantage. By activating all of the different senses, you're able to reach people on an entirely different level. It’s a very powerful tool to have.”

It’s natural for chefs to think holistically about food and the guest experience. They tell stories with each ingredient they choose and every plate they send through the pass. 

To a large extent, it’s not necessary to talk about brand storytelling with a restaurateur because they already do it daily. You call it normal… the world calls it branding. 

Once you understand your why – and you do, naturally – you’ll be able to see how it plays out in your restaurant or bar. The story you’re telling is read on everything from the reservation system that starts the guest experience to the Instagram post where you announce your sommelier's latest accomplishments. 

And your guests are eager to hear more. 



Is anyone listening? 

It’s true that most people won’t immediately hear your brand story. But they’ll see and taste it.

Most of the branding your restaurant will do rests on how you present your food. That’s one of the best ways to tell your story. 

Jenia Nelisova, Creative Director of the Ark Collection restaurants in Copenhagen, Denmark, describes how the hand-thrown ceramic plates on which their food is served starts the story by framing it in the most beautiful, bespoke way possible. 

It’s the food that continues that narrative and captures the emotions of the guest. 

“There's a lot of thought put into which side of the plate a mushroom is on and what’s on top of it and how the colours balance. It's essentially like painting a picture, but what people don't see is the story behind it. 

Every time we serve a dish, we invite the guest to hear the story behind it. We explain that it’s from our co-owned mushroom farm, and they grow specialty mushrooms that you can't get anywhere else. Knowing that (little bit of information) helps enhance the entire experience because it’s a cool story – and the food tastes better because of how it was grown.”

The brand story is important for restaurants like the Ark Collection because they are plant-based… not the easiest market to succeed in. Instead of being pushy or overly aggressive with your restaurant's marketing tactics, learn from their example. 

“We let the place speak for itself, but we do a lot to enhance the experience. We need to make sure that everything we're doing is top-notch, if not more. It’s a subtle, mature and bespoke way of doing things. We have different restaurants, but our red thread is the quality.” 

Guests want to do more than just hear the story as you present a dish to their table. They want to feel it. Taste it. Smell it. 

In a sea of sameness, get out of the water. 

It’s not about going with the flow or finding what makes your restaurant crush a success and then copying it. Your story is unique to you. 

Here are 4 strategies to help you identify your restaurant’s brand story and tell it. 

Figure out what sets you apart from the competition. Ask yourself the following questions to get started:

  1. What does your restaurant or bar do that no one else does? Focus on what aspects make you unique. For example, think about how your restaurant began and how it has evolved. Guests want to know your individual story and what makes you different. 
  2. How are your food, service and guest experience different from other restaurants and bars in your area? When you hone in on your differences, you can provide guests with the knowledge that you offer value. Value goes beyond price and encompasses the entire experience from the first booking to the final bill. 
  3. What greater social topic(s) is your restaurant tackling? Take sustainability for example. It’s not just the environment. Social equality is a part of sustainability that gets overlooked. 
  4. Customers are growing more and more concerned with where they’re eating, and they want the restaurant they choose to match their values. They want to understand how the food is being produced and how it's sourced. 
  5. As labour shortages are a major talking point these days, they’re also interested in your staff – how are they treated? Why are so many people leaving the industry? Think about how your restaurant can answer these questions as part of your brand story.
  6. Are you trying to follow trends and fads? Philip Linnemann says, “One of the biggest pitfalls for restaurants is to think about being trendy. Instead, think about what story you want to tell. If that's your starting point, then your innovation and creative thinking will become so much more interesting to everyone.”

Storytelling is a key element in your restaurant’s branding, and it will truly help you stand out from the competition. 

While it may sound strange for some chefs and restaurateurs to think about storytelling – it’s already a natural part of your process. 

The only thing left to do is make sure your guests are hearing it.

Listen to the full interview with Philip and Jenia here.  

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