Philip Linnemann: “Sometime in the future, I imagine that a lot of different brands will come to chefs and restaurateurs for inspiration about how to create engaging multi-sensory experiences. So I think there's a real superpower there for restaurants to think about how they can use that to their advantage.”
Hello, and welcome to The Recipe, a podcast about the new generation of restaurants and the people behind them. I’m your host, James Clasper, and this week we’re talking about branding.
We’ll hear from the creative director of one of Scandinavia’s most sustainable restaurants about how to make plant-based cuisine more appealing.
Jenia Nelisova: “What people don't see is the story behind it. A lot of that rests on, and a lot of our branding rests, on the presentation of the food, because that tells the story.”
And we’ll also get a little “woo about the loo” when we meet a brand expert who says that every restaurant should have an on-brand bathroom.
Maggie Spicer: “Most of us can relate to going into a super-styled restaurant — everything from the ceramics to the coffee service to the sourcing practices and the style of service, the lighting, et cetera, the texture of the linens — and then you go into the bathroom and it's sort of an afterthought.”
But first, I want to understand why restaurants should be seen as brands at all.
Of course, think of restaurant brands and some obvious names come to mind. McDonald’s. Burger King. TGI Fridays and so on. Fast-casual chains, for the most part.
But I’m pretty sure there’s more to being a brand than having an eye-catching colour scheme or a snazzy logo.
So, if every restaurant is potentially a brand, what does good restaurant branding involve? Why does having a brand identity matter? How important is storytelling? And what, if anything, can other brands learn from restaurants?
To get some answers, I went to see Philip Linnemann. He’s the executive creative director at Kontrapunkt, an international brand experience agency with an impressive roster of clients in the culinary arena, including Noma, Cofoco and Chamberlain Coffee.
To get the ball rolling, I began by suggesting that restaurants never used to think of themselves as brands before asking what he thought had changed and why it matters.
Philip Linnemann: I think one of the things that certainly has changed a lot in past years are two major trends. One is sustainability. You can see it as a shared sense of understanding worldwide on the major challenges that we are facing as a society at large. And the other thing is digitalisation, which gives brands a completely new platform and ability to engage with consumers at a much faster pace, a frequent pace, and it’s also changing the dynamics of their communication entirely, from being one that is about selling to one that is about education. It's made all companies realise that they need a proper understanding of their role in the world. And when you start from that starting point, then you have a very good opportunity for creating a brand. Because essentially that's what branding is, what differentiates a company from a brand. It's not just a business where you earn money. It's a higher sense of purpose that ultimately reflects everything that you do, where things start to become more consistent, much more engaging, and essentially you're starting to build a community around your idea, your passion, and not just selling food for the sake of earning money. The interesting thing is when you start with the foundation about your role in the world, your purpose, and your values, then the task from there is, regardless of what touch-point you're working with, to align that with that purpose and those values. So that would be anything from the narrative throughout the menu from the very first entrée or starter to the main course and the desserts. It would be the narrative between that and your wine pairing. It would be the interior of your restaurant. It would be the type of cutlery, the type of plates that you have. It would be the music that you're playing, down to the lotion in the bathroom, the tonality that the waiters are meeting the guests with, in the beginning, what they are saying. Now we're talking very much about the customer experience, but equally, it's the same on the employee side. So that will be about your leadership values, how you speak with your staff, what kind of meetings you have internally to represent the values that you have defined in the first place. So if you say you're a curious restaurant, what does that really mean? How has that really translated into the way you meet chefs and staff around the way you talk about food, and so on?
James: When you're out and about as a diner, you must see examples of restaurant concepts and brand identities gone wrong. Do you wear your professional hat when you go out to eat, even if it's just, subconsciously, you can't help observing what restaurants do and don't get right?
Philip: I think what I always look for, and I think what most people will look for, is authenticity. And I think authenticity can be found in so many different ways and on so many different levels. It often starts with the people. It starts with — again, back to the values of what you are representing — it's very easy from the first minute to sense whether this place is a genuine place that is curious and generous and passionate about what they do. And if you can sense that in the beginning, then you know you're in for a good dining experience. So that's what I always look for, first and foremost.
James: What are some examples of “the good, the bad and the ugly” that you've seen in restaurant branding?
Philip: Oh, that's a tough one. So I would rather have a great customer experience and not the best food than great food but a really bad customer experience because it tells me so much about how much they care. If they are genuinely curious about who you are, feeling welcome and things like that, then you also know the staff are being treated right, because they're not being overstressed and things like that. And I think all restaurants should be aware that if they get that right, then often they will get all the other things. Noma’s René Redzepi is maybe a master example of someone who really understands this notion of building something much more than just a business — building a movement, essentially. Back when we did the brand identity, which in Noma’s case is just a typeface, something that's used very sparingly — they care so much about branding that they wanted to stay in the back of the experience as much as possible and not be disturbing — I remember René said that it's very important to understand that Noma is a project. I think what René means by this is the idea of being an inclusive institution for all of the learning that they are gathering as they go along and that's a very interesting thought for all restaurants to really think about.
James: In terms of branding, one can fall victim to fads and trends. Is that a danger for restaurants, that if they're all searching for the same kind of identity, they end up becoming indistinguishable?
Philip: Absolutely. I think the biggest pitfall that you can do is think about being trendy. Think instead about what story you want to tell. All the great restaurateurs and chefs around the world are incredible storytellers. And if that's your starting point — what story do I want to tell? — the outset becomes completely different. If that's your starting point, then your innovation, your creative thinking, will become so much more interesting to everyone. Going forward, I think we will see more creative ways where chefs and restaurateurs will think, "how do I communicate my story? Am I really still in the restaurant business after all? Are there other means for me to tell that story?” One thing is through a dish, but if the story is — and your role is — your starting point, then maybe there are other ways of reliving or retelling that story in other ways to stay top of mind.
James: There may be a lot of restaurants without big-name chefs who may be sitting thinking, what is my story here? How do I find my story?
Philip: Well, if it all starts with what you cook, then ask yourself, why do you cook that? And regardless of who you are as a chef, everyone knows why they're cooking, why they're passionate about cooking, and the type of food you are cooking. Why is that important to you? And then you can go down several layers to the extent where it becomes very aspirational. But regardless, I think why you're cooking and what you're trying to tell with your cooking, if that's the starting point, then you've come a long way already. To me, what makes restaurants so special and so unique, and also the reason for my own passion for food in general is that it's multi-sensory. I mean, we are really talking about an experience that activates all of your five senses. There are very few companies or brands that have the ability to work on all these different strengths at the same time. And I think that’s really the opportunity that restaurants have and where chefs and restaurateurs are brilliant at creating immersive experiences. And sometime in the future, I imagine that a lot of different brands will come to chefs and restaurateurs for inspiration about how to create engaging multi-sensory experiences. So there's a real superpower there for restaurants to think about how they can use that to their advantage because by activating all the different senses, you're also able to convince people about things that you want to tell them. I think that's a very powerful tool to have.
James: That's a really interesting idea. To what extent can a Danske Bank or a public institution like the post office learn about branding from restaurants? Or what can you, as the agency in between, give them that you’ve learnt from a restaurant?
Philip: To some extent, it can be ironic talking about branding with restaurateurs, because most of them are really great at it already. They just don't know it's called branding. For many chefs, it is natural to think holistically about the experience, to tell stories with food. Mindset-wise, I would argue that a lot of chefs and restaurants are ahead of all the marketing directors in the big corporate organisations. There is a lot for them to learn. At Kontrapunkt, when we want our clients to think differently about their entire situation, several times we have invited them to see my good friend Mark Emil [Hermansen] at Empirical Spirits, to their tasting room where they talk about how they break down the entire value chain of spirits to create something new. Through the conversations and experiences our clients have when talking to the guys from Empirical, we have been able to open up completely different conversations with them on the other side. And we are talking about people in the financial sector and various other things.
James: I want to circle back to the first thing you told me, which is the way a restaurant's brand identity matters now. You said digitalisation was driving it, but you also said that sustainability was driving it. If I've understood you correctly, driving change through their actions and having that conversation about what they're doing is now becoming part of their identity. Have I understood that correctly?
Philip: Sustainability should be thought of as not just the environment, but equally social equality, and tapping into these matters will increasingly be important, as it increasingly becomes important to all customers. You will see customers becoming more and more critical around where they eat. They want to understand how food is being produced, how it's being sourced. And if we should talk about a trend that would be interesting for all restaurants to care about, it would be sustainability, both from an environmental perspective and from a social perspective. This is also where a lot of inspiration can be found in what stories you want to tell. All of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are now providing great inspiration for brands to tell a bigger story, something that's larger than just what you stand for on your own. And the same goes for restaurateurs. I think restaurateurs and chefs are some of the greatest storytellers we have, with the strongest tools available to really persuade and change people's mindsets. I think there's an exciting future for all restaurateurs to think about how they can contribute to a better world through the way they cook and the stories they tell their customers.
That was Philip Linnemann of the Kontrapunkt brand experience agency in Copenhagen.
Now, speaking of contributing to a better world through food — and of doing so through a strong brand identity — our next destination is Ark.
Founded by Australian restaurateur Jason Renwick, it’s the flagship of the Ark Collection, whose restaurants, “pose a variety of high quality, plant-based food concepts, with cool contexts, that happen to be good for the planet".
Located on a busy corner in central Copenhagen, Ark used to be known as Souls and instead of fine dining, it offered casual fare, like vegan burgers.
But, as we’ll hear, the first lockdown provided Jason with the impetus to rebrand Souls as Ark and to lean into plant-based fine dining with executive chef Brett Lavender in the kitchen.
The restaurant group hasn’t looked back, rebranding its other branch of Souls as Bistro Lupa last year.
To make sense of all the branding and rebranding, I sat down with the Ark Collection’s creative director and brand designer Jenia Nelisova and began by asking her to describe her role.
Jenia Nelisova: I guess the best comparison is to say I feel a bit like an octopus. I’m a self-titled creative director in a sense, but that basically means I'm a creative filter. And so I talk to external agencies about how we translate our brand into something physical and make sure that everything is a little bit more streamlined and on-brand. I'm also that annoying person that pokes Jason and reminds him, “Hey, you know, is that sustainable enough? Are we practising what we preach? Can we do this better?”
James: Right now we’re at Ark, but it used to be a restaurant called Souls. So can you explain how the brand has evolved from Souls to the Ark and the Ark Collection?
Jenia: We always knew we wanted to do something better. Souls was a lot about plant-based comfort food and we kind of have mindsets that are always growing. We're always trying to think of the next thing and we're always trying to be better. For us, Souls as comfort food, and the way it was, we were like, “This is not good enough. We know we can do better.” As we were talking about how we were going to redo things, we started to move away from what Souls was, and by making the menu better, by making the design better, we started to understand that we were changing the concept. Then lockdown happened and we were … I mean, Jason, being a good businessman, was like, “That's it. Now it's time. Let's get this renovation done. Let's get these menus changed. This is our opportunity, right?” Once we opened as Ark, we were all scared shitless, but within the first three weeks, we got our first food critics in, from Berlingske, and we were like, “Okay, thanks.” Usually, you give a restaurant at least six weeks or something. And we actually got a pretty amazing review. And that gave us so much momentum and so much confidence that we were like, “Okay, we made the right choice, rebranding, calling ourselves something else.” So when Ark started to gain momentum, it was shortly after that ‘lockdown two’ happened. Any person that knew us, or anyone that has any sort of business sense, told us not to do what we were about to do, but we decided to move forward with that anyway. We decided to rebrand our other location. So our other Souls location was going to become something else as well. Which is a little bit dumb in hindsight. You don't really take a concept that's working and kill it and create something new. That's super fucking risky, but we thought again, lockdown two, perfect opportunity for us to take that time and to make it better. And when we started to redo Souls in Østerbro, we started to talk about what's going to be the concept there and how does this change our whole brand architecture and what's going on and what is Ark and what is Souls and blah. So we essentially had to draw up a brand architecture structure. And so we decided that we would have a mother company called the Ark Collection, where Ark, which we are sitting now, is the flagship. And then the location in Østerbro was transforming from Souls to what we call Bistro Lupa. Lupa is Ark’s little sister, but it's a bistro, which means it's a little bit simpler, it's a little bit more casual and laidback. We have shots with the guests and lots of different natural wines and a little bit more of a party vibe. And at that point, we were just like, "Okay, what do we do with Souls? What does that become? Does it just disappear?” But we had the universe align and there was an option for us to go into Carlsbergbyen and there was a pretty sweet deal with that. And so we thought, “Alright, that gives us time to kind of regroup, rethink and do Souls in a new location." We don't make anything easy for ourselves that's for sure. But the idea is that Souls is going to be an all-day eatery. And it’s a place you can go to once a week — I’m talking budget-wise — let’s say once a week, Lupa is somewhere you can go once a month, and then Ark is more of a special occasion place. That's all relative to anybody's income, but for simplicity’s sake that's how we're structuring it now.
James: Ok, so if I’ve understood your brand identity correctly, the red thread is that you wanted to take plant-based cuisine to a much higher level, right?
Jenia: We have from day one, even with Souls, made it part of our mantra that we don't want to do typical hippie vegan shit. And that has worked for us. Because we find that stereotypes, especially the vegan stereotype, can unfortunately be very off-putting and it has a certain element of aggression, even just the word “vegan". So we decided that our tone of voice and the words we use will be a little bit more informative. So we prefer to use the word “plant-based”, even though there's absolutely no meat on the menu or in the furniture or anything like that. But we want plant-based food to be the next normal and, for that, you need normal surroundings, if not slightly elevated surroundings, so there's an extra addition to the experience since we're essentially taking something away, right? We're taking away the meat. But we don't ever talk about it like that. We always focus on what we're adding rather than what we're taking away. And so, again, we're steering clear of any sort of stereotypes through the design, but also through the way the food is crafted.
James: Can you talk about how you decided and established your brand identity? What was the process for that?
Jenia: Essentially what that started off with was a lot of meetings. A lot of meetings. And it's a very difficult thing. We were four people at the time — like, the core team — and we all have visions and we're all very stubborn, so the most difficult part was to fish out everybody's ideas about what we are actually going to do here and what's our plan. And we did a lot of workshops where we would sit and talk and write down what we value and, like, what’s the point of all this? Basically trying to write down a purpose. Our key phrase was “casual fine dining”. That has changed. Now it's fine dining. But off the top of my head, the actual paragraph was something like: “Plant-based fine dining surrounded by sustainable Danish design, with an interesting Nordic cocktail menu and European wines, European organic wines.” Something along those lines and that's still very much true. I mean, we call it our statement. Writing that stuff down, and concept definitions, really paints a picture and then at least internally we are all on the same page. And that made it a lot easier for us and also for a lot of the external help that we got to understand what we're trying to do.
James: Can you describe the look of the brand and how it translates aesthetically at Ark?
Jenia: We knew we wanted it to have this reference to nature. So the sunrise-sunset concept was perfect at the time. The design group came up with the idea that it would follow the natural motion of the sun. So where we're situated is on the super-busy corner, but the sun rises at one end of the restaurant and that's mimicked in the design elements in that room, which we call the Sunrise Room, and it follows through the restaurant and sets in what we're sitting in now, which is a Sunset Room. But we also made it pretty clear that we didn’t want to use typical associations. So less greenery in that sense. We still love plants and plants actually add so much to the room. So. of course, that doesn't get eliminated just because we’re plant-based, but it was important to stay away from neon greens or anything like that, or any sort of tie-dye associations. But then it's way more than just following the sun. We have lamps made of seaweed. The upholstery that I'm sitting on is made out of, basically, trash — it’s repurposed, or it's trash that they've taken spun into yarn and made into a beautiful fabric.
James: And finally, can you tell me how you ensure your brand values and your brand identity are translated into what diners experience when they’re here?
Jenia: When this food is served, it looks beautiful. It's presented on this wonderful ceramic that is made for us by a lady called Hannah, and she hand-throws every piece, so every piece comes out looking slightly different, which is beautiful in itself. So of course when the food comes out the plate, the framing has something to do with it, but the food itself, there's a lot of thought being put into which side of the plate we put, you know, that mushroom on and what do we put on top of the mushroom and how do we balance the colours. It's essentially like painting a picture, but what people don't see is the story behind it. So a lot of that rests on, and a lot of our branding actually rests on, the presentation of the food, because that tells the story. And so every time we bring out a dish, we give you in a nutshell how the dish is made / if there is some sort of sustainable story to it. And so, for example, when we bring out our mushrooms, we explain that it is from our own co-owned mushroom farm, and they grow speciality mushrooms that you can't get anywhere else, and that of course also helps enhance the entire experience because not only does the food just taste better, but it's a very cool story. And the guys that create the mushrooms are like some Breaking Bad geniuses, they have this little dungeon where they grow everything and their mushrooms are mind-blowing. And so again, that might not be something you see, but you hear from us, right? And also if there's something that we do with the offcuts, or if we use peas on the one part of the menu, then we use the pea husks and we juice that and turn it into a juice that goes on top of something else further down the line, or we try to do nose-to-tail, but like root-to-tip or root-to-petal — I don't know what you want to call it — we try to incorporate that as much as possible. Essentially, when you're sitting down to eat with us, you're also getting a bedtime story. I wouldn't say we're super corporate, or we're definitely not, our marketing isn't pushy. As I said, we kind of let the place speak for itself, but we do a lot to enhance the experience and we already are in an uphill battle being a plant-based place. So we need to make sure that everything else we're doing is top-notch, if not more so. It’s a little bit subtler and a little bit more mature and a little bit more bespoke the way we try to do it. It's more the sort of quality that you're going to get, so that if you go to Ark or to Lupa or to Souls, even though they are three different concepts, you're going to get good-quality plant-based food, and that's the red thread.
That was Jenia Nelisova, creative director of the Copenhagen-based restaurant group the Ark Collection.
Now the idea of the red thread connecting every aspect of the guest experience is something we’re going to talk about with my next guest.
Maggie Spicer is the founder and Chief Operating Officer of Whisk, a brand strategy and brand experience agency whose clients have included Airbnb, Twitch, Medium, and Salesforce. She’s also launched six businesses in the last decade, including a modern convenience store and a restaurant meal distribution service, as well as a multimillion-dollar fund to aid Bay Area restaurants.
But what I want to talk to her about are bathrooms.
Remember what Philip Linnemann said earlier, about how all the different touch-points in a restaurant help shape its brand identity.
“....it would be the music that you're playing it, down to the lotion in the bathroom.”
That will be music to Maggie’s ears because she has, and I quote, a particular fascination and appreciation for on-brand bathrooms — once even going so far as to write a guide to the top 10 restaurant bathrooms she deemed to be especially on-brand.
Maggie’s also an old friend of mine, so when she came through town recently, I invited her on a tour de toilettes, wherein we visited some of Copenhagen’s most on-brand restaurant bathrooms.
Our tour included a quick stop at Alouette, a Michelin-starred restaurant with a beautifully designed dining room and, as co-owner Camilla Hansen explained, a deliberately striking bathroom.
UPSOUND OF VISIT TO ALOUETTE
Afterwards, Maggie and I sat down for a little toilet talk and I began by asking her what distinguishes an on-brand bathroom from one that’s just bog-standard.
Maggie Spicer: For me, an on-brand bathroom is a bathroom in which the restaurant or establishment has taken the attention to detail and the aesthetic of the main dining experience and then extended that brand expression, aesthetically, and also from a tonal and sensory experience into the bathroom itself. So, for example, I think most of us can relate to going into a super-styled restaurant — you know, everything from the ceramics to the coffee service to the sourcing practices and the style of service, the lighting, et cetera, the texture of the linens — and then you go into the bathroom and it's sort of an afterthought. There’s white tile, the bathroom may or may not be super clean, the lighting might be really harsh, the hand soap is generic. If anything, it probably strips the natural oils from your hands. Or let's say the hand towels or the toilet paper is really thin. And I think you've also had the experience where you dry your hands and the paper lingers on your hand or, worst-case scenario, they haven't gone into the restroom to check or to restock and then you go in and you have to — well, not that this is common, but occasionally — dry your hands with toilet paper. And it’s the worst!
James: It sounds like you've had some slightly traumatic experiences. Are you surprised by top-tier restaurants that let themselves down in this respect? Is it fairly common in your experience that this really is an afterthought?
Maggie: That's a great question. I think maybe a decade ago it was really difficult to find an on-brand bathroom, to use that term, unless you were perhaps in certain restaurants in New York, or perhaps Paris. It definitely wasn't as common in San Francisco. I don't think it was as common in Copenhagen. But it does seem like it's become more of a trend and a realisation that an establishment needs to have some sort of thought and attention to detail that's gone into the bathroom.
James: It seems like a fairly obvious question, I suppose, but it deserves unpacking. Why does it matter that a bathroom in a restaurant of any calibre is on-brand?
Maggie: It matters so much. A bathroom provides, first and foremost, a space to take care of business and/or wash hands. Outside of that, it provides a space to reset one’s senses and one’s nervous system, if you will. And, in my mind, it needs to be a space that allows one to feel comfortable and refreshed. And having an on-brand bathroom is really paramount because you want to have an extension of the experience of wherever you are, certainly in a hospitality setting. And so, again, going back to the nervous system, I think a bathroom is a place to really have that space to take refuge, if necessary. If you're having a conversation with someone and you just need space to reset, or a space to feel refreshed if you've had a long day and you've been looking to this meal, going to the bathroom during the middle of this dinner is really the only moment you've had to check in with yourself for the day. Sometimes that's the case when you have a super-busy day. A bathroom is not meant to be a place that you per se hang out in, but I love it when a restroom has a different soundtrack or a different sensory experience, or sometimes the hand soap has a pumice or some sort of textural element that makes you really aware that you're washing your hands or sometimes there's a fun element with a restroom. There's a place in Sonoma County, in Northern California, a modern wine bar that opened recently and one of the things that's a bit kitschy but fun is they typically have a candle that's lit, and then they have a huge matchbook next to it. And it sort of mischievous in the sense of, is this their backup stash of matches for you to help them if the candle burns out and that they leave there for service? Or is it intended, is it placed there intentionally for you to take a matchbook? It used to be very common in restaurants in the 1990s and early 2000s, and now I think matches are actually having a comeback. But it's like this little play on: what are you supposed to do with this? And it's almost like you're having a non-verbal conversation with the restaurant itself, which sounds a little woo! They also developed a custom hand soap, which I think can be really smart because it helps someone remember a place by its aroma and they might want to take that with them. So, in that sense, it's almost a business opportunity for the restaurant to continue its brand experience outside the restaurant.
James: We spent some time today cycling around Copenhagen checking in on some bathrooms that were interesting for one reason or another. Alouette, a Michelin-starred restaurant, is a very interesting space and beautifully designed restaurant, and then you get into the bathroom and it's a totally different colour scheme, totally different experience.
Maggie: I loved the experience at Alouette, going from this beautifully custom-designed dining room with opulence within the lighting and the mirrors and the texture of the fabrics and the couches and the quality of wood that's used in the tables and the build-out of the kitchen, and then you turn the corner and you're immediately greeted, or confronted if you will, by this alarming red tone, everywhere from the lighting to the walls, that's both provocative and comforting, in a sense, because it's so monochrome that it fully envelops you. And so you're immediately transported into this other dimension and space and it becomes this little cocoon, and so you are having a very individual experience in the restroom. I loved that they were very specific about allowing little touches of colour and texture to remain apparent. So, for example, the brass toilet paper holder and the door handle itself had this sort of Alice in Wonderland effect where the knob is almost at eye level and you're going into this space where, again, it transports you. And it immediately takes you from whatever mind-space you've been in leaving the dining room into this other realm. So I thought it was quite fun. It's also quite minimal, which is handy, I think, because the colour is so intense.
James: One of the co-owners, Camilla, said that it's become the most “selfied” bathroom in the city. So it can become part of the brand, that little aspects of a restaurant, like a bathroom, can become part of its identity as well.
Maggie: Without a doubt. It was clearly designed in a way that they wanted it to be a conversation piece, both during the dining experience and beyond. It also makes me think of other restaurants. For example, there's one in New York, I'm blanking on the name at the moment, but it became quite famous because of its restroom. Effectively when one enters the restroom, there's a glass panel, almost like a window, and it looks into the kitchen near the pastry chefs and what the patron doesn't realise until they of course know what's happening is that it's one-way glass. So it appears as though they're being, or can be, observed while using the restroom. But in fact only they can see out. So it's quite fun because it plays on, again, that sense of what's the expectation when you use a restroom, particularly in a semi-public space like a restaurant. The other thing that's really nice about having such a distinctive restroom experience such as at Alouette is it becomes more of a palate cleanser. It's sort of forcing you to think about something other than what you were just discussing at the table or the experience you were just having. And so when you returned from the restroom, not only are you physically refreshed, but you're also mentally refreshed in the sense of, “Oh, I've just been transported to this other space and now I'm returning to this space where I was before I had this transportation”.
James: One of my favourite words to describe that sort of experience is “eye-scrub”. It provides a kind of an eye-scrub. Let’s have some tips for restaurants. What can a restaurant that doesn't have an on-brand bathroom do that's a quick and easy fix?
Maggie: There are little things that can be cost-effective. You could put up funny wallpaper or something that has a textural component to it on the walls. One other way is playing with mirrors, both in terms of placement and size. Also with the quality of lighting, that's huge. Having something that has more warm tones. Even just in some cases changing the bulb or putting a little cover over the bulb itself, if it's an exposed bulb, and diverting the light in a different direction. Again, playing around with hand soap. You know, not everyone's going to do a custom collaboration with the hand soap, but playing around with the type of hand soap that's offered. It’s very common to have gel hand soap, but places can do a bar soap really well. There's a wine bar in Paris called Early June and they have a shell that's turned upside down. So it acts as a soap dish, and there's just a bar of white soap. It's nothing fancy. And, yes, it's common that everyone who uses the loo and wants to use soap is using the same bar of soap and everyone lives, it's okay! They also have little washcloth hand towels and so it's almost like you're having this high/low experience where you're getting that individual, more luxurious hand towel to dry your hands, but you're touching the same bar of soap that everyone else touches. I think we went too far in the direction of gel hand soap in recent years, that makes you feel like you're having your own soap experience, but it's that simple play on challenging the sort of mass belief of what using the bathroom looks like.
That was brand strategist Maggie Spicer on the importance — and value — of having an on-brand bathroom.
And while I admit that it can all sound a little woo, as Maggie put it, it does make sense when you consider what Philip said was the difference between a business and a brand — that a brand has a higher sense of purpose that is reflected in everything it does.
In a restaurant, of course, that means everything from the food to the interior design to the way the staff greet customers to the kind of soap in the bathroom.
Consistency is the name of the game, I think, and what I like about it is the potential for storytelling. That is, how even a restaurant bathroom can be a talking point in its own right and provide a further opportunity for the restaurant to talk about its higher sense of purpose.
And as Jenia Nelisova explained so well, the stories that a restaurant tells go a long way towards establishing, preserving and reinforcing its brand identity.
In the next episode of The Recipe, we’re going to take a closer look at what, for most people, is probably the first touchpoint they have with a restaurant — its name.
Rasmus Christensen: “If it's too weird, too difficult to pronounce or anything like that, well, it doesn't stay on top of our customer's mind.”
Beau Clugston: “Every name is stupid until you say it 20 times and see it on paper and see it in the newspaper.”
We’ll hear from a brand expert who helps restaurants come up with the right name and find out how these successful restaurants got their name.
Jonathan Tam: “The direct translation is ‘Yes, thank you.’ Or ‘Yes, please.’ You know, it sounds very polite.”
Matt Orlando: “I liked the idea of like gathering but Gather was such a lame name. So I just put it into Word Hippo and all these synonyms came up for it.”
Jenia Nelisova: “I mean, we came up with so many different names. I think at some point we had even thrown out the word novel, but we couldn't use it because Corona was a novel virus.”
All that’s to come on the next episode of The Recipe.
This episode was written, produced, and hosted by me, James Clasper, for Superb.
If you’ve enjoyed listening to it, help us get the word out by sharing it with your friends, family and co-workers.
Many thanks again for joining me, I’ll see you next time.