Uncover Your Restaurant’s Uniqueness: A Path to Standing Out

Restaurant operators are always looking for new tools, promotion channels, and advertising options, but they might not be quite sure what they need to say to tempt a potential guest.

Before dealing with promotion of any kind, you should determine your restaurant’s base: the value of the establishment, its uniqueness, target audience, and the place that the restaurant occupies in the minds of guests.

It often happens that restaurateurs are bogged down in operating activities and don’t really think about this. However, when they need to attract guests, the question arises: “What kind of restaurant have we created over the years?”

Usually, the longer you run your restaurant, the more challenging it becomes to identify its uniqueness. Often there is no need to invent or search for something new. It is better to collect all the available data and, on its basis, form your restaurant’s uniqueness.

Instead of looking at a new field, it is better to examine the already-harvested crop.

What kind of restaurant have we created over the years?

When determining a restaurant’s uniqueness, an owner might consider an establishment as a single system, but it is better to look at each sector of the restaurant separately.

What sectors should be considered?

  • Idea
  • Menu
  • Interior
  • Personality

Each sector is a potential opportunity to find a unique component of the restaurant.

Idea: In this sector, consider the idea and the concept of your restaurant. Do they stand out from your competitors? What are their features?

Menu: Does your restaurant offer unique dishes or drinks that set it apart from competitors? Do you use unique technologies when preparing food or beverages? Do you use some unique ingredients? Is there a dish or drink with history on your menu For example, is a dish made using an old family recipe?

Interior: Share with customers the process of creating the interior of the establishment, what inspired you, and what effect you wanted to achieve.

Personality: Is a restaurant owner a public figure? Is there some interesting story associated with them? Perhaps the restaurant’s staff is united by a common theme that is worth talking about.

Consider why do guests come to your restaurant? Do people often hold business meetings, have breakfast, drink morning coffee, have lunch, spend romantic evenings, or celebrate holidays there? 

The main thing is to look at your restaurant from different perspective. This will help you better understand the establishment and determine its uniqueness.

Let's explore some examples how restaurants that initially lacked uniqueness managed to create it themselves without incurring significant costs.

The first story is about an Italian-style restaurant that competed with eight similar establishments in the small town where it is located. It was challenging to differentiate one from the other, as they had similar menus, interiors, advertising messages, and social media posts.

So, what were the available options?

During my work with the restaurant owner, we concluded that introducing new dishes or changing the interior wouldn't make the restaurant stand out. Therefore, we decided to refocus on the establishment's core value: giving guests the opportunity to experience Italy in their hometown, taking them on a brief journey filled with new emotions. It was crucial to convey the Italian vibe to the guests and hoping that connection would encourage them to return.

Consider why do guests come to your restaurant?

We developed a strategy to host ongoing exhibitions of photographs with themes related to Italy in the restaurant. These exhibitions could feature solo displays by Italian photographers or collective exhibitions where various photographers explored the theme of Italy. We sought out photographers who specialized in this particular subject, even from other cities. The exhibitions were refreshed monthly, with some incredibly successful ones lasting for two months.

The results:

  • The restaurant attracted new guests who were interested in the photo exhibitions.
  • It positioned itself as a place where customers could not only taste Italian dishes but also immerse themselves in the atmosphere of Italy and discover something new.
  • It crafted its uniqueness among the competition.

Let's move on to another example, a coffee shop in a big city. What could set it apart? After all, its products—coffee, sandwiches, desserts—and its promise of a "cozy atmosphere" are similar to those offered by every other coffee shops. So how can it stand out?

Here are two coffee shop cases I worked on to develop their unique voices.

One was a coffee shop located in the city center, surrounded by numerous offices and business centers. Although it seemed like an ideal location, there were already several similar establishments nearby. How could this coffee shop establish its uniqueness?

We carefully analyzed the target audience and discovered that the coffee shop mainly attracted top and middle managers from nearby companies. We identified their interests: business, marketing, management, HR, and personal growth. Based on these insights, we created a weekly event featuring speakers on these topics. We invited regular customers to become speakers themselves, sharing their expertise or experiences in various aspects of work. The coffee shop promoted the events through posters, announcements, and social media posts. As part of this project, they even began conducting weekly interviews with the speakers, generating increased interest in the event.

How did this strategy work?

Imagine working in a company where your boss is a speaker at an event. Would you be inclined to attend? Most likely. Moreover, you might invite friends from other departments to join as well. Additionally, the speakers often had connections in other companies, resulting in further invitations and potential future speakers.

Over time, this coffee shop became synonymous with a business-oriented audience, hosting meetings and activities related to the corporate world. This unique positioning, coupled with its prime location, helped increase the number of guests significantly. Consequently, an event that closely aligned with the coffee shop's target audience and emphasized its value became the establishment's uniqueness.

In my other coffee shop experience, the initial conditions were similar to the previous establishment: located in a large city with numerous competitors offering almost identical menus and interiors. In this case, we decided to establish the coffee shop as an expert in the field of coffee.

Our first step was to launch a series of social media posts exploring various aspects of coffee, such as different varieties, unique features, and captivating stories. It was crucial for people to receive informative content and learn something new about coffee from this establishment, thus associating it with knowledge and expertise in the coffee industry.

The second step involved organizing thematic events. The baristas started conducting coffee-making masterclasses and hosting tastings of new beverages. By actively involving guests in the creation of these drinks, they showcased the coffee shop's dedication to innovation and engagement.

The third crucial step was the coffee shop's involvement in a city event: the Barista Championship. Many coffee shops from the city participated, but this establishment took on the role of the organizer. The event had extensive media coverage, increasing brand awareness of the coffee shop. Moreover, customers began perceiving it as a leading authority in the local coffee scene.

By focusing on these three key steps, the coffee shop established its uniqueness as an expert in the field of coffee within the city.

These examples demonstrate how restaurants and coffee shops can craft their uniqueness by carefully identifying their core values, appealing to their target audience, and offering experiences beyond the typical food and beverages.