Restaurants are one of the most competitive and saturated industries to break into. Because of this, your restaurant needs a solid, memorable brand that has personality, and is cohesive throughout all of your marketing, interiors, website, menus, and voice. In other words everything that your guests will come into contact with is your brand — and you need to control it.
You are selling a brand and experience just as much as food.
How do you want your customers to describe your restaurant? Chances are they will describe much more than the food — the ambiance, the menu style, the interior space, the location, and even your social media may be dropped in the description. All of these touchpoints make up your restaurant’s brand. And a successful restaurant needs their concept to stick, and to do this, their brand, as well as their food needs to fire on all cylinders. Starting off with a memorable and marketable brand will kickstart your business and build a solid foundation to grow on. Below we outline the three core aspects of your restaurant brand needs.
Having a successful restaurant, especially in the competitive Sacramento region where we are located, requires you to have a top-notch, unique, and memorable brand. We wrote a whole blog about how to choose a concept, including the four basic considerations and tips for choosing your restaurant concept.
Your name, logo, signage, menu, colors, and interior space set up expectations to the diner as soon as they spot your restaurant from across the street, see a marketing piece or advertisement, visit your website, or interact with you on social media. You want to make sure that you are in control of their expectations to help avoid any awkwardness in customers assuming something about your restaurant and then being upset or let down by false perceptions. Some of the most important touch points of your brand are:
Name & Logo. Logos and names that appeal to the ears and eyes, is just as important as plating and presentation is to the taste of food. You need to have a logo that tells people what type of dining experience to expect before ever being seated at your restaurant. Here in Sacramento, names like LowBrau with a logo that has a hipster designed pig with a crown let you know to expect a tongue-in-cheek take on the classic German-style hofbrau, while a name like South lets you know to expect delicious, traditional southern food, and the bright bold and modern colors establish that the food and ambiance will be a fun and modern take.
Menu Design. Your menu is the most scrutinized and utilized piece of your brand that your guests will come into contact with. The service style (fast casual, casual, fine dining, food truck, etc) will dictate your menu format whether it is a large menu board, a single page menu, multi page menu, if you have additional menus for specials, bar specials, etc. BUT you have control over how your menu looks, how you want your guests to interact with it, and what items you want to emphasize. Be sure that your menu supports your theme! Your layout should reflect your concept (formal, casual, playful etc) your pricing needs to ensure a profit, have a balance between expensive and inexpensive, and be in a sweet spot for your target audience.
Menu descriptions and item names are important as well — they should be short and enticing, and descriptive. The layout and visual design should utilize fonts that resonate with your theme, and colors or imagery that also go along with your concept. When is the last time you ate at a nice casual or high end restaurant that had photos on the menu? Hopefully never. Photos on menus tend to cheapen restaurants. But photography does really support sales for certain service styles like order at the counter, cafes, and food trucks.
Signage & Windows. You only have a few seconds for diners to decide to walk past your restaurant or give it a try. Outdoor signage is one of the most critical pieces of brand to attracting customers, and standing out from your competition. It is important to have a visible presence to promote your brand. Here are just a few tips for optimizing your restaurant’s signage. Consider size, bigger is typically better but maintaining your brand’s essence is important too. Don’t have a flashy neon sign if you are a low key establishment. Signs are iconic, make sure that you create signage that is photo-worthy and supports your brand such as using alternate or interesting materials like wood, steel, or interesting and unique lighting techniques.
Can you visualize any restaurant signage that you like right now? For us in Sacramento, our stand outs would be the scale and intricacy of Hook & Ladder, or the nostalgia of Gunther’s ice cream. Advertising in your windows allows your products or atmosphere to do the talking. We suggest browsing Pinterest to see the latest trends and get some ideas for how to decorate your restaurant’s storefront.
Interior & Table Design. Everything that you see inside a restaurant is a visual cue to your brand. This includes the big things like furniture, how you decorate the walls, your lighting fixtures, as well as the small things like your flatware, quality of your napkins, and even what your uniforms are. You want to make sure you deliver a consistent message with all your design. A western-style BBQ restaurant probably doesn’t need white table cloths, just the same as a fine seafood restaurant probably doesn’t want farm-style artwork and cow-hide as decorations.
This is the time to have a little fun with your concept and lay the groundwork for the lifetime of the establishment! Think about what colors represent your brand and stye, and how you want to utilize them. The leather color on the booth seats, the flooring and chair style and color, and of course your table settings. All these decisions will make or break your customer’s experience as well as set the state for creating the right expectations for your customers to keep them happy and coming back....and finally: A Solid Web Presence (and your brand will have one whether you are populating it or not).
Your brand will be utilized to attract customers whether it is day one or day 10,000. This increasingly means having a web presence online and harnessing the power of internet marketing. In fact, almost all of the biggest restaurant marketing trends of 2018 are web related — social media, social media influences opinions, geotargeting, online ordering & delivery, and cultivating new web content & photography. A successful restaurant brand must have a game plan for the web, have branded assets and photography ready to roll out, and have a crafted and clear online voice to interact with your customers.
You might wonder what a voice has to do with your restaurant’s web presence. Your restaurant’s voice is the way that you describe establishment in marketing pieces & interviews, the way you interact with customers on social media, the type of language your employees use when greeting a table, and what is written on your website to entice guests to dine. Are you sassy and fun like Wendy’s has been known for lately? Or are you formal and elegant? Most likely somewhere in between but the words that you use to describe yourself, and how you craft your message online will be picked up by your audience and be translated into expectations and become a part of your brand identity and help you set yourself apart from your competition. We suggest making lists of keywords and phrases that align with your vision and theme. Some examples of keywords are
Interestingly enough, according to OpenTable, 86% of diners always or frequently check out a restaurant’s menu online before eating out. And we know that a growing majority of those viewing your menu are doing it from a mobile device. This first impression is critical to get right and the feeling invoked from visiting your website, needs to match the feeling that you get from visiting your restaurant. You can do this by ensuring that your website is branded with your logos, colors, and your voice, but also by ensuring that your site is friendly to use on a phone (mobile first approach to design), is speedy, and always up to date. Hiring a professional website developer may seem like a lot of money at first, but the return on investment of getting that 86% of customers who will scout you out online first is definitely worth it!
Your brand needs to look it’s best online from the start with frequently updated menus, promotions, and specials, as well as high quality photography that is a mix of food, the interior, and the exterior of your restaurant, as well as lifestyle and behind the scenes imagery that promote the human side of your brand. You need to set up your profiles well in advance of a restaurant launch, and be sure to post HIGH QUALITY content often, and always have up to date information like hours and contact easily accessible.
Don’t rely solely on blatant marketing. Creating content that is a visually attractive low key product placement or just food porn can be a good way to gain followers and interactions without your audience feeling like they are just being yelled at. The great thing about this type of content is that your guests often times create it for you on Instagram and Facebook! So check out what other people are posting and try to create or share posts that are authentic and fit your aesthetic.
The competitive landscape of restaurants is constantly evolving, but having an outstanding brand is always in style! We hope that some of these tips for creating a lasting and memorable brand for your new restaurant serve you well. And if you are in the Sacramento area, let us know! We would love to check out your new spot.