By Dustin Myers, Foodable Industry Expert
As a restaurant owner, you are probably always thinking of ways to improve. You want to attract better employees, have more customers in the door, or improve processes so that you can have more freedom. Have you considered the health of your brand? Your brand is made up of all of the interactions between you and your customers. It includes your food, customer service, environment, design, promotions, music, exterior, website, social media presence, and more.
Before you spend more money on marketing, you need to make sure that you have an action plan for cultivating the brand (or reputation) you want. Otherwise, your advertising efforts will be inconsistent and fall flat.
How do you want your restaurant to be perceived? Have you ever invested time and energy into creating a step-by-step plan? Do you have clearly articulated brand values? These are character and personality traits that should guide decision-making throughout the company. Do you know what makes your restaurant different from any other place in the world? If not, you should spend time working on this with a brand strategist. Read “5 Tips for Developing an Effective Brand Strategy.”
Defining your brand strategy and aligning everyone on your team is vital to creating a thriving business. Strong brands attract better employees and more loyal customers.
Let’s look at four areas that will help you get a pulse on how customers see your brand.
Many articles could be and have been written on this point alone, but this will get you started. Get out a notepad because you are going to see many opportunities to strengthen your brand online. Search for your restaurant as if you were a visitor in your city.
- Are you able to be found ahead of your competitors?
- Is your unique selling proposition communicated clearly?
- What are the reviews saying about you?
- Your social media pages will usually outrank your website. Are they up-to-date?
- Is your menu up-to-date on the different sites?
- Is your website mobile-friendly and able to give you the important information within seconds?
- Are your logo, colors, and design presented consistently across the different channels?
- Is your social media presence reflecting the perception you want?
- Are there good photos easily accessible?
Many diners use online research before trying a new restaurant. They will see your brand in a list of all your competitors. You need to stand out with creativity and trustworthiness.
The exterior presentation can make a significant impact on how you’re perceived. There may be potential customers going by your restaurant every day who have never felt compelled to come in. Your messaging and creative execution has to engage your target customer.
- Does the quality of the building invoke trust?
- Is there a cohesive look that reflects your values?
- Does the logo on the sign match the logo on your website?
- Are the window decals informative and engaging?
Your presentation on the exterior speaks to everything you do inside. The way someone dresses reflects how they think, who they associate with, and what is important to them. Your brand is no different.
As you evaluate your interior, you need to put on a fresh set of eyes. If this is too difficult, have a friend help you who is less familiar with the restaurant.
- Is the environment welcoming?
- Are customers greeted upon arrival?
- Is it clean and well-kept during all hours of operation?
- Does the interior design reinforce the brand personality?
- Does the menu design match the website and exterior?
- Is your brand positioning being communicated so that people know what you are all about?
- Are there inconsistencies in design and messaging on any of the touchpoints you see?
For these first three, you may be too close to get truly objective insight. Have a friend or relative do this, or hire a professional. The opportunities you may be missing are worth whatever small investment is needed.
4. Customer Validation
If you really want to understand your brand, you have to understand what people are actually thinking. Your marketing ROI will increase when you actually understand what your customers are thinking. Keeping surveys anonymous encourages honest and useful feedback. Here are a few questions that you may want to ask.
- Why do they choose you over the competition?
- How do they prefer to receive communications from you?
- Do they have questions about sourcing or preparation of your food?
- Which aspects do they appreciate about your restaurant?
- Which aspects do they say could be improved upon?
Besides just customers, you should survey employees and vendors, as well. This will give you a well-rounded view of how you’re perceived.
Don't be an inconsistent brand. It takes work to shape your reputation, but the returns are well worth it. You will stand out in the marketplace and connect with your customers in a personal way.