Building a restaurant’s brand is a lot like cooking. It’s part science, part craft. It requires statistical information about your target market, your geographic setting, and your market. It also requires creative thinking and a little soul-searching. When you get your brand right, more patrons show up for you, and they leave eager to spread the news. When you get it right, your marketing ROI is higher, your tables are more consistently reserved and your revenue is more consistently flush.
So how do you get it right? Start by answering some critical questions to build a solid foundation for your restaurant’s brand identity.
Your Restaurant’s Brand Persona: Who Do You Think You Are?
Let’s start here. If your restaurant was a person, who would it be? Pick any celebrity chef or archetypal character. Is your bakery the nurturing grandmother who makes visitors feel cozy and safe at the end of a rough day? Is your cafe the edgy chef who thrills patrons with edge-of-the-seat culinary escapades? Your restaurant’s brand should be more human than design so customers naturally connect with it.
In a few words, describe your restaurant as a person. Is your restaurant an experimental artist? A cozy Italian Nona? Everyone’s favorite free-wheeling friend on a Friday night? This is your brand persona, in a nutshell.
Other tips for thinking about brand persona
Take a look at what others have said about your restaurant on review sites and in media publications. What words are most often used to describe the atmosphere of your restaurant?
Ask your most valued patrons to describe your restaurant to you in their own words. Does your idea of your restaurant match theirs?
Classify the decor, music, and other environmental choices that have been made. Does the appearance of your restaurant match the persona you hope to create?
Make a list of the restaurants (or home kitchens) that inspired your own establishment.
Your Customer Avatars: Who Do Your Customers Think They Are?
Forget demographics. Our race, gender, and hometown are small matters compared to our self-image. How we imagine ourselves determines which businesses we align with. If I see myself as a high roller, I’m going to treat myself to a posh restaurant (and expect to be catered to). If I pride myself on my social consciousness, I’m going to look for a restaurant with ethical practices. When your brand image aligns with your brand affiliate’s self-image, you’ve got the potential for overnight success.
Imagine how your average customers might describe themselves: Daring diners? Conservative consumers? Flashy entrepreneurs? This is your customer avatar, or brand affiliate. Ideally, your brand persona and your customer avatar correspond like two puzzle pieces.
Other tips for thinking about customer avatars
Take a look at patrons who have checked into your restaurant on social media. How do they describe and/or present themselves on their profiles?
Get to know your most loyal customers as people as well as patrons. What do they have in common?
Talk with your most thoughtful wait staff about the kinds of patrons they typically interact with. Are the customers you’re attracting now meeting your own expectations of “ideal” patons?
Your Unique Value Proposition: What Do Your Customers Really, Really Want?
Yes, they want a meal. They want a clean location. But most of us can get both of those things at home. When we go to a restaurant, we’re paying money for something we can’t get at home. Your customers want something special from you, but what is it? Do they want to feel rich and spoiled for an evening? Do they want to recapture the excitement of travel and adventure? Do they want a little comfort in a scary world? Look deeper than the dishes you serve. What does your brand deliver beyond a perfectly prepared meal?
In a few words, describe the experience your customers are seeking and how you provide it. This is your brand’s unique value proposition.
Other tips for thinking about UVP
Sit down with one or two of your favorite patrons and ask them why they choose your restaurant. What do their responses have in common?
Perform a competitive analysis. What do you offer customers that your rivals don’t?
Study your online reviews. Is their a common complaint among poor reviews that indicates an experience that your patrons want but may not be getting when they visit you?
Why Does Brand Matter?
The first step towards a more lucrative business is understanding how your brand persona and your brand affiliates interact to create a brand experience. As the business owner, you bring the dishes and the atmosphere to the table. Your customers bring their expectations and their desires. When your restaurant’s brand persona aligns with your patrons’ tastes, you’ve got the recipe for a blissful customer experience.
That’s why creating a consistent brand – a brand that is consistent with the actual experience of the restaurant as well as a brand that remains consistent over time – is critical to a restaurant’s success. It prevents patrons from feeling disappointed because they know exactly what to expect.