Branding your restaurant is easy – right? You just set up Instagram and Facebook, regularly post updates, create paid advertisements once in a while, and then wait for guests to notice your restaurant – right? Wrong.
Check out 5 steps to brand and position your restaurant for success: Strategy, Social Media, Word of Mouth, Influencers and Events.
The goal of branding can be boiled down to one word: Visibility.
If you’re thinking: “But my food and guest experience are great and my customers love it. Isn’t that enough?” It is, but to stay relevant, several steps need to be taken. These will help your restaurant come to mind when potential guests look for a place to dine.
Philip Linnemann, the executive creative director and partner at Kontrapunkt (clients include Noma, Cofoco and Chamberlain Coffee), says that digitalisation has given restaurant brands a new platform and ability to engage with consumers at a faster and more frequent pace. It’s changed the way your business communicates – a switch from ‘come eat’ to education and inspiration.
According to Philip, that’s what sets a normal restaurant apart from a brand. “It's no longer just a business where you earn money. It's a higher sense of purpose that reflects in everything you do. Things start to become more consistent, more engaging, and you start to build a community around your idea, your passion. You’re not just selling food to earn money.”
A strategy is an outline of your goals and how you attend to achieve them.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’re starting a new restaurant or rebranding your existing one, it’s about figuring out which channel(s) to use, what type of content you want, when to post and how often. The main thing is that you always put the guest experience first. Think about what your guest would find interesting, fun and exciting, and act accordingly.
It’s about creating relationships and realising that the entire experience around your restaurant matters.
Think about your branding goals: do you want to gain customers, do you want to create a better guest community experience or do you just want to increase visibility? Maybe all of the above?
Start by answering these questions:
An easy way to make sure you’re on track with your branding project is to ask: What, how, why. What is your goal? How will you achieve it? Why is this relevant?
Your restaurant’s performance is the number one value creator. All of the other possibilities will be second to running a successful restaurant. But these efforts can help elevate the entire experience of your restaurant and service.
Social Media platforms have shaped our society into what we see today. This is why a social media presence is essential to a well-executed restaurant branding strategy.
For starters, it’s a service that you provide your guests by being easy to find on various platforms. They can check your opening hours, find menus or click a link to your website for more info.
The most-used way to look for a restaurant today is with a smartphone. Making sure that you have a sharable reservation link is key.
Social Media is great for making your restaurant seem more relatable and personal. Storytelling is a buzzword you may have heard before. By telling stories about yourself, your employees and vendors, you create a community around your restaurant, which reflects on the overall perception of your restaurant.
We’ve seen customer service move away from restaurant websites to Facebook and Twitter. By being active in returning inquiries and comments from guests, you can establish a bond with your customers and have a greater chance of them coming back to your restaurant.
Last but not least, having a plan makes it easier to pinpoint stories that fit in with your branding strategy. Click here to see how often you should post according to each social media platform.
People trust other people – at least more than they trust traditional paid advertising. Getting a reputation happens organically because you’ve offered something to the world – great food and a great experience.
It’s important to generate 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 the slowest to spread.
Try to generate buzz by focusing on the Social Media aspect (as mentioned above). Encourage people to use the check-in function on Facebook or participate in an Instagram competition.
Reviews are one of the most important determinants when it comes to choosing a restaurant. Most review sites allow you to create a restaurant profile, where you add a description and post an inviting picture of your restaurant. Go through different review platforms and make sure your info is updated with descriptions and pictures.
A good review on Facebook, Yelp or Tripadvisor can help you to generate positive buzz about your restaurant.
Encourage guests to write about their experiences on your social platforms. This will boost your online reputation and affect how potential new guests view your restaurant.
The choice to collaborate with influencers can increase your reach to a specific audience, e.g. a food blogger who has 15.000+ followers will generate business and buzz. It's important to note that in most countries, influencers must state if a post is sponsored, which takes some of the authenticity away.
First, identify the most relevant influencer(s) for your restaurant and brand. Check that your chosen influencer(s) aligns with your values and has a good reputation within the community.
Reach out and ask them to come by and try your restaurant. Arrange to take pictures or ask them to write about your restaurant. If the guest experience is good enough, they’ll share it. But if it’s bad, they might share too.
There’s no guarantee of how this will turn out, but that’s the beauty of word-of-mouth branding; You get a genuine reaction from an influencer. And it seems more relatable than your restaurant’s paid branding efforts.
By using happenings and events to branch out, you get a change of scene but also reach a different audience than you normally would – and maybe even media attention in the process.
To start, stay on top of your local food scene and events – food festivals and food markets are perfect for showcasing your food.
Try engaging in different brand deals and collaborations that compliment your image. Think of company events that you can cater or even a campaign where your restaurant uses a specific product – mutual branding through each others’ channels. Strategic co-branding lets two or more brands benefit from each others’ image and reputation as well as reach audiences beyond their own.
Another creative way to brand your restaurant is to do exclusive dinners and events: After-hours cocktails and tastings, menu tastings, inviting guest chefs and more.
When you know your purpose – the ultimate goal of your restaurant brand – you’ll need to align that with every touchpoint in your restaurant or bar.
That’s everything from the narrative throughout the menu to the wines paired with each dish.
The interior of your restaurant, the type of cutlery you use, the plates you serve on, the background music, the smell of the soap in the restroom. Every touchpoint plays into your brand and tells the story of who your restaurant is.
Your brand goes beyond just the guest experience. On the employee side, your leadership values, the way you speak to your team, the style in which you hold meetings and communicate information… all of these are a part of your brand, too. And perhaps they’re even more important because they are the foundation for the customer experience.
When it comes to restaurant branding, it’s important to constantly track and measure the performance of your marketing and branding efforts.
We’re not expecting you to use heavy-duty excel sheets and drown yourself in extra work. Simply be aware of what impact your branding efforts have by seeing what type of posts people engage with and what types of reviews guests leave.
Branding your restaurant (especially online) is not a post-and-forget process. It takes time. But the time you put in will make your brand stronger and increase your visibility.
Restaurant branding includes making, maintaining and elevating relations and putting the guest experience first at all times, but also managing your brand across channels. If you do that, your restaurant's brand will grow and guests will become regulars.
One of the biggest dangers with restaurant branding is the temptation to go with trends and fads. Why is that so bad? Well, if everyone is fighting for the same identity, no one will stand out.
Instead of thinking about being trendy, think about the story you want to tell.
As a restaurateur, you’re a natural storyteller. Don’t believe us? Look at the menus you create or the guest experience you design. That’s your story.
When your story is the starting point, your brand won’t get trapped in what’s cool now or the trends that keep Tik Tok going.
We hope to see more and more restaurants considering their brand as a part of their story – not as the colours on the wall or the logo they use. Yes, those are aspects of a brand… but they are born from the story you have to tell.