What Defines a Good Restaurant Brand?
It takes more than good food to run a successful restaurant. Your ambiance, your service, and even your online presence are all important elements of your customer’s experience. Let’s explore what a brand is, the individual elements that make up a brand, and what makes a brand an effective part of any business. Most importantly, let’s discuss how branding can set you apart from your competitors.
What is branding?Your brand is what gives your business its personality. While offering a good-quality product is important, offering that product in the context of a strong brand is like wrapping a gift with a bow—creating a full experience for the recipient. An experience that often begins with fonts and graphics, and ends with a delicious meal. From start to finish, these elements should be cohesive.
Brands are most often associated with marketing efforts, and while it’s true that a strong brand is important for promoting your business, a well thought-out brand creates an emotional connection with customers and sets your restaurant apart from all the rest.
While you may think of branding only being important to chain restaurants that rely heavily on their branded identity, the same principles apply for all foodservice establishments, from food trucks to Michelin star winners.
Branding is important for restaurants because it gives you the opportunity to establish brand loyalty with your customers. Being brand loyal means that there’s something about that company that shows the world what kind of a person we are. The food we eat is no different. Whether you’re entertaining a client, going on a first date, or simply telling a friend about a meal you had, the restaurant you choose says something about your tastes and values.
10 Elements of a Restaurant Brand
We all have our favorite brand that we choose to support. Usually, it’s because we identify with that brand on some level. The clothes we wear, the car we drive, and the way we decorate our homes are all methods of self-expression. To create a cohesive brand, you have to have all or most of the 10 elements listed below:
This is usually the first thing a restaurant owner decides on. A restaurant concept includes things like: style of food, type of service, and other distinguishing features. Is there a need for another American grill in your town, or is the market saturated? Surprisingly, it’s not impossible to roll out your original concept, but gear it towards an unexpected demographic.
Think about who your target audience will be. Are you aiming to serve families, romantic couples, businesspeople, or some combination? Are they trendy or traditional? What’s your customers’ price point? These are all important questions to ask when considering your demographic.
3. Mission Statement
This should be one concise paragraph that explains the overall thought behind your business. What is your restaurant aiming to achieve on an emotional level? What are you providing to customers that they can’t find elsewhere? These are the kinds of questions your mission statement should answer. Once you have your mission statement worked out, you can use those words to guide the rest of your choices as you make decisions about all the other elements of your brand.
Restaurant names are important. Your name should be unique, yet memorable. Your name should give guests a good sense of what kind of food you serve and what they can expect when they walk through your door.
While symbols can be major components of logos, they’re not always necessary. In fact, a well-chosen font can be just as effective in summing up the feeling of your business on your signage, website, menu, and advertising. Symbols are not essential.
A tagline is a brief statement (typically no more than 5 words) that sums up the defining feature of a brand. You’ll often hear taglines on radio ads or see them below a logo. Taglines should be a catchy interpretation of the mission statement.
While a website has never been a traditional “necessity” for the success of restaurants, it deserves all the time and care you put into the rest of your brand elements. Your website will likely be the very first impression guests will have of your business, so designing a website that’s easy to understand and visually appealing is worth it.
Restaurant ambiance is extremely important. While it’s true that some people seek out the best greasy spoons (and there are plenty of examples of seemingly unassuming establishments that somehow become renowned as “the best” fried chicken in the country), most restaurants do need to rely on creating a distinct and pleasant ambiance.
- Interior Design Elements
- Serveware, Barware, and Other Details
- Color scheme
- Server clothing
- Even server attitude!
9. Branded Merchandise
Even though you may think of branded merchandise (like tee shirts and beer glasses with logos on them) as being mostly found in breweries, there are some opportunities to offer keepsake products in other styles of restaurant as well. Back in the day, nearly every restaurant and hotel used to provide free matchbooks with their logo and contact info on them. And while matchbooks may be a thing of the past, the same concept applies to other inexpensive items that you can either give away (like pens and stationary) or sell (like tote bags and Christmas ornaments). Especially if your restaurant hosts weddings or parties, customers may love to purchase a memento of their time there. And the more your customers share your logo, the better brand recognition you’ll get.
Menu planning is a huge component of your restaurant brand. From the ingredients you use to the name of each dish, try to check every decision against your mission statement to make sure it fits. If you advertise your restaurant as a farm-to-table establishment, make sure you focus on how and where your food is sourced. If you want to be the best burger joint in your town, take extra time to find the perfect bakery that can provide your signature brioche burger buns.
Restaurant Brand Inspiration
As you might expect, many chefs take their inspiration from food—sometimes all it takes is tasting one perfect dish to set the wheels in motion for an entire restaurant concept. And that’s an absolutely great place to begin!
But if you don’t know where to begin, taking a close look at some of your favorite restaurants can help you identify the elements that appeal most to you. Try to analyze the way that restaurant makes you feel, and what specific things contribute to that feeling. While copying other brands outright is not a productive approach, taking inspiration from an existing restaurant’s mood or appearance is natural.
Restaurant Brand Cohesion
Once you’ve settled on the major components of your brand, it’s important to stick to them and make sure they make sense together. For example, you wouldn’t serve filet mignon on a paper plate or play country music at an Italian restaurant. That’s not to say that you can’t mix and match styles in order to intentionally develop an entirely new concept (Welsh fusion, anyone?), but any deviation from the norm should come across as intentional, otherwise you risk missing the mark and leaving your customers feeling confused.
Cohesion extends to your online presence as well. You wouldn’t have a fine dining restaurant that leaves snarky Facebook comments. But if you’re an edgy BBQ food truck, maybe a little bit of snark on social media is perfectly fine! Any time you roll out a new facet of your brand, you should always check in with your gut feelings to make sure it works well within your existing context.
Failing to stay consistent in the ways you represent your brand can result in confusion from customers and will hurt your brand recognition.
Every restaurant has a brand, whether you put effort into it or not. Yes, even the diner with the 15 page menu has a distinct quality that helps customers know what to expect before they even walk inside. But the more time and thought you put into each component of your establishment, the more likely you are to be recognized and appreciated by new and loyal customers alike.