Stop Competing and Start Standing Out in Your Market

Do you have competition? Most would say yes. Many would argue that competition is healthy and good for business. Your goal should never be to compete with others. It’s a losing mindset that just becomes a game of one-upmanship. Restaurants that compete become drawn into pricing wars and that makes you a commodity. Once you’re classified in that category... watch out! You might start to see profits slowly slip away as you give away more to “keep up with the Jones.”

Basically, competition is for suckers. Instead you must aim for outstanding.

You want your brand to stand out so far ahead of those others that now you set the pace and they try to catch you. It’s always better to be the lead dog on a dogsled team.

So, how do you stop competing and start standing out?

First thing is you will need to get comfortable being a little uncomfortable. When you are heading into new territory, there will not be any road signs to guide you. In order to get what you have not had before, you must be willing to do what you have not done before either. That scares people. If you are a little scared right now, good. Being scared is the first step.

Tell Them Why You Are Different


Here is a common scene. Two pizza places in the same market. One is your typical cookie cutter chain concept (no offense to chain concepts). They offer the standards at a very economical price point. These concepts have their niche and they tend to dominate it.

Then, there is Joe’s Pizza. A local place that takes great pride in the quality of ingredients they source. Local sausage made by a man down the street. They use basil grown in their own rooftop hydroponic garden. They only use San Marzano tomatoes in their sauce. Only the best.

When guests come in they see a pizza that on the surface looks the same as the sausage pizza down the street at the chain concept. They can’t justify the extra $2 for the pizza, because they don’t see the value or the difference. The reason why is because Joe has not done marketing 101…

Tell your unique selling proposition.

If you are not consistently telling your guests why you are different, then shame on you for assuming they know. They don’t.

Now some won’t care about better ingredients and that’s okay. They are not your ideal guests and you should not try to be everything to everyone. Some people want an economical price point. McDonald tried to do the gourmet burger with the upscale attempt to market their Angus Premium Burger. It failed because that is not their niche. Find your niche and market the hell out of it with what makes you unique.

Joe would be smarter to stop competing on price point with the chains and instead be obsessed with what he does have and do better than those concepts. Market why he prefers the sausage from the local guy. Why he decided to start his own hydroponic herb garden.

Tell Them Why They Should Work with You

Another area restaurants struggle with is attracting talent. You put up that same help wanted ad as the other restaurants in your market and wonder why no one applies? Just like with the example before, you haven’t told people why you are different from all the other restaurants trying to hire them. Hey, the restaurant industry has a bad reputation for long hours, average pay, and very little benefits. What makes you different?

Don’t just say it in your ad with boring words. Show them with video. Show them with testimonials from people who work there and let that authentic energy shine through. Show them how you encourage growth. Show them how being on your team is the smart choice. Show them through video why you are the employer of choice.


Stop competing with other restaurants on the hourly rate and show your culture. Make them want to be apart of something bigger than a restaurant. Make them want to belong to your team. If you don’t, then you are just another restaurant that will pay them an hourly rate and will just be another dead end job. No thanks.

There is a lot of negative beliefs about working in the industry you will have to overcome in order to rise above the rest. You say you are different? Talk is cheap. Don’t show them the money, show them your culture!

Be More Aggressive with Marketing

So, how many times have you posted to Facebook recently? Can you do better than these stats?

  • Only 22 percent of restaurants had posted in the last last days
  • Only 17 percent of restaurants had posted in the last week
  • Only 9 percent of restaurants had posted in the last 36 hours

Many restaurants are not taking social media seriously and playing too small in their market. You will never dominate your niche by playing it safe and posting only a few times each week. The purpose of marketing is to keep your brand top of mind. With the amount of people on social media today, that means you need to up your social media game to stand out in the market.

Yes, it’s scary to post more than you do now. Remember that being scared and out of your comfort zone is good, right? Time to push past that little voice inside that says it’s too much and instead tune into the voice that says, you own your market!

Here’s an easy way to start:


Double your current social media posts. For some, this will be a major improvement to getting your brand out there more. Look again at those statistics: only 9 percent of restaurants posted in the last 36 hours! You cannot make an impact and stand out if you are throwing pebbles into the ocean and expecting to make a splash.

Standing out in your market requires that you just be willing to push it further than you are currently. Einstein once said that, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Stop the insanity in your restaurant and take a leap forward to making an impact in your market.

Tell your guests why you are different, tell future employees why you are the employer of choice, and tell them more often so you are always on the top of their mind.

By Donald Burns, Industry Expert