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Branding: Eight To-Do’s to Do Right Now

Jan 22, 2020

Think of your restaurant’s brand as your reputation. It’s not what you say it is — it’s what everybody else says it is.

Everything you say and everything you do affects your brand. That’s in your control. What’s not in your control is everything the press, your patrons and your business associates say about you.

The most successful brands listen. Customers will tell you what they like and don’t like. The better you know your customers — where they get their information, what they are looking for in a dining experience — the more likely you will be to establish a rapport with them.

Your customers are looking to boost their self-esteem. Every purchasing decision they make is somehow tied to this: Will I look cooler in this shirt? Will I be more confident in this car? Will I be proud to bring my friends, my family, or my business associates to this restaurant? When you make your customers feel better about themselves in your restaurant, they will become loyal customers. Loyal customers spend more, with greater frequency — and they talk about you.

Differentiation is the key to successful branding. Differentiation happens when you authentically amplify the best of you — not by finding ways to be a version of the competition, but by discovering how to be more of who you are.

Differentiation happens when you authentically amplify the best of you. McDonald’s’s Time Square restaurant in NYC. Photo: Andrew Meredith

Targeting people based on demographics is a waste of time. Your ideal patron isn’t Robert who’s in his late-30’s, makes $70K a year, etc. It’s Claire, who appreciates design so she shops at Crate & Barrel, drives a Land Rover, shops at Banana Republic because she likes simple, classic styles — not glitz and glamour. She’s well read and well-traveled, finding Paris and Rome to be her favorite destinations.

Brands should look to relate and befriend their patrons by way of common interests and aspirations. When viewed from this angle, brands are no longer about selling turkey sandwiches. They’re about something so much more. They become relationships that people feel good about.

Eighty to ninety percent of restaurant marketing budgets are spent on new customer acquisition. Yet acquiring a new client costs between 7–10 times more than retaining an existing one. Word-of-mouth advertising efficiently brings in first-time diners, so a restaurant’s energies are best spent engaging and retaining them once they’re there, and at the end of their visit.

How will you make your customers’ dining experiences unforgettable? This area is virtually limitless, but you should begin by tailoring their experiences to that thing you do best, so that your brand is cohesive and consistent — which will build trust, satisfy needs, stimulate emotions, and create positive (and return-inducing) memories. — Steve Levine

Eight brand-building to-dos:

  1. Write a manifesto that expresses your brand’s beliefs and values
  2. Empower employees to become your brand ambassadors
  3. Identify why someone should buy from you and not your competitors
  4. Complete a Buyer Persona or Message Matrix and get to know your audience
  5. Craft and share your brand’s unique story
  6. Develop your brand’s personality
  7. Find your brand voice and use it across your promotional materials
  8. Design your brand’s look and feel based around its attributes



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