Is Your Restaurant Brand Telling a Memorable Story?

Nearly everything you encounter in life has a story to tell.

That saved concert ticket, that photo of your grandparents, and even that person sitting near you at the coffee shop – all have a unique & memorable story. Your restaurant should be no different.

The truth is, restaurant brands relying on worn-out keywords such as "locally-sourced" and "hand-crafted" to tell a ‘story’ must learn that this is simply not enough anymore (nor should it have been relied on as a strategy in the first place).

These phrases have become ‘cliché’ in this over-saturated industry...welcome to 2019!

Restaurants must now make their story meaningful, personal, emotional, simple, and authentic.

Despite the word “story,” it isn’t even confined to the written word. Colors, decor, vendors, staff members, plating, glassware, packaging—even the simplest visual segments within your brand ‘messaging’—can paint a picture worth a thousand words.

Your brand story should start however, by first identifying the following:

  • Who you are: How your restaurant came to exist today.

  • What you do: The food, beverage, entertainment, and/or experience you provide.

  • Who you do it for: The people you want to serve within your community.

  • Why you do it: Your larger goal; how it benefits your ideal guest & community.

  • How you do it: Visibility into your food, beverage, and/or experience strategy.

  • Where you are headed: How you are evolving and working to create the best for your guests & staff.

This may sound similar to the questions you need to answer when developing your four core statements; vision, mission, values, and culture.

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This is where it all starts. This is the foundation for your story.

Your curated story needs to grab your ideal guests attention and activate their emotions—and that goes for story-telling across all mediums; including your restaurants interior design, curb appeal, advertising, social media, website, supply chain, training, and service – to name a few.

As humans, when you’re invested in a good story, your brain physically responds to it.

How do you feel your guests are currently responding to your story? I am willing to bet that your guests are no different and crave engaging stories, a dynamic in which your restaurant-guest relationship should be built on trust, mutual respect, and common interests.

They want to connect & interact with you as a brand and to be acknowledged as unique individuals.

And not only will a unique & memorable story improve your relationship, but it will also undoubtedly improve your bottom line.

You can do that by focusing on the following, all of which is in your control:

Architectural Design: You have perfected your statements, brand identity, and the main underlying story you want to tell - now it's time to translate this narrative into compelling visuals.

Restaurant brands and visual presentation go hand-in-hand, it should be no secret. You can have a fantastic brand, but if presented in an unimpressive way, it gets lost in the mix while quickly creating brand confusion. The interior & exterior design of your concept is an opportunity to humanize the story of your brand, creating an experience people want to both interact with and build brand loyalty with.

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Generated Content: Powerful content has a great impact when telling the story of your brand. Invest time in unique image & video content as part of your marketing plan. For example, how will your ‘hand-crafted’ pizza using ‘fresh, local toppings’ stand out from every other pizzeria on social media claiming the same narrative? This is your opportunity to create something meaningful, personal, emotional, simple, and authentic. Get creative and think outside the box. Get your entire team involved in helping tell your unique and memorable story.

Food & Beverage: Taking a multi-sensory approach, your food (plus beverage options) must play on the fact that guests not only take-in pleasure through taste, but also from the positive emotions and memories the flavors may evoke; as taste (gustatory), smell (olfactory), and visual senses are forever interlinked into our memories. When you truly understand your target market, you can extract emotions and personalize the food & beverage experience through the use of effective story-telling. If executed properly, stories can stick in the guest’s mind, much longer than a memory of a bite of food or a glass of wine.

Guest Experiences: Whether you’re a neighborhood bar, a QSR with a strong off-premise program, or if you’re a dine-in restaurant, you must believe that every interaction matters. Train your staff to tell the stories behind your food & beverage. Who created them? How did the dish or drink come to life? Don’t rely on words or a long list of ingredients within the menu. Your team should tell a different, highly engaging story for each food & drink option to ensure guests return at a faster rate to try more of your options, resulting in a beneficial bottom-line.

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Culture Management: Your brand personality and culture are what makes your brand unique. This should be reflected in your restaurant's story through a strong (and human!) brand voice. You should ensure you have culture-focused ‘systems’ in place to make sure stories lived by all staff, from leadership down to entry-level positions are easily shareable. In a true and managed story-telling culture, everyone participates. Everyone has stories that they live and that are worth sharing with your target market. Don’t be scared to make this change in your strategy. It’s time to humanize your brand.

It isn’t a coincidence that brands with a story last longer than the ones without. The power of your brand reflects how well your restaurant's guests resonate with your story and tell their networks about their experience with you – leading to their networks telling their networks, and so-on.

Story-telling can also be the fundamentals of a successful brand ambassador strategy.

While story-telling has been around since the start of mankind, in today’s world, we have at our disposal more tools than ever before to tell our stories. Let’s not waste that opportunity!

Underutilized Fish Species: Collaboration and Education Create Balance

Today, consumers across the globe are relying on seafood as a primary source of protein. This has sparked an educational movement to limit overfishing in an effort to promote seafood sustainability. The idea is to use less of an overused species like Salmon, and substitute it with a less familiar and potentially more abundant species, like Pollock.

On this Foodable.io talk, brought to you by Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, our Host Daniela Klimsova, and panelists Warner Lew, Taho Kakutani, Taichi Kitamura - explore how we define an underutilized species. They also discuss the need to not only market to chefs and restaurants but to the consumer, who has a significant role to play in a more sustainable future.

Taho Kakutani, a fishmonger at Pike Place Fish Market, leads by saying discussions about sustainability started to stand out about five years ago, which lead the fish market to prioritize seafood sustainability and advocation of the practice.

“There is a need for story...the seafood industry is particularly compelling,” said Kakutani. “From the sea to the table is this amazing journey that’s happening. So when we have these touch points like sustainability...there’s this opportunity to create this really interesting story that I think consumers are really looking for.”

Taichi Kitamura, executive chef and co-owner of Sushi Kappo Tamura, agrees that as chefs, they are responsible for educating consumers on underutilized species being included on their menus.

“I have to be very careful about what I say to my customers, and actually what I practice in terms of what to put on the menus,” said Kitamura. “You really have to be on top of this issue...it wasn’t the news then, but now it’s the news.”

Bristol Bay’s Fleet Manager, Warner Lew, got his start in the 1970s as a deckhand for local fisheries. He now is known as a crusader for getting Americans to eat canned, smoked Alaskan herring. With a nod to chef Taichi Kitamura’s herring sushi dish from a chef’s seminar, he speaks about how a species could become underutilized.

“The herring, it’s...underutilized in this country because few people know how to handle it… [or] how to enjoy it. That’s the trick [when] utilizing the fish, is how do you make it enjoyable and easy,” said Lew.

Mainstream seafood is often overfished and over marketed. Experts all agree that to create a significant change in reducing overfishing of certain species, industry leaders such as fishermen and chefs need to collaborate, educate and expose the underutilized species market to the masses.


The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Restaurant Marketing

Getting your marketing message attention today can seem like you are throwing rocks into the ocean, trying to make a splash. While social media has made it easier than ever to reach a global market, it also has become saturated with millions of posts and videos all vying for users' attention. Those rocks you are throwing hoping to make an impact in the ocean of social media are sometimes not doing anything except making you frustrated.

How do you create a marketing plan that gets your brand out in front of the rest? How can you be the leader and not a follower on social media? How can you parlay those likes into people in your restaurant?

Let’s break it down in this Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Restaurant Marketing!

Become Obsessed

Getting to the top of the social media game is about getting serious about owning your space! That means you are going to have to get busy making bigger waves across your social media channels. In order to do this, you’re going to need a couple shifts in your mindset.

Post consistently. Nothing quite confuses people like the hot and cold relationship! One week you are steady and sharing the love of your brand everywhere and then you disappear for a couple weeks. People crave a little consistency in their lives. If you fail to remind them you’re there, they soon start going to another restaurant that shows them a little more love than you have. Shame on you for not being more committed to the fragile guest-restaurant relationship.

Post more often. Yeah, the restaurant marketing gurus will argue that you can post too much. It’s a safe bet that you are not posting enough.

The best way to see how far you should go with your restaurant is to push the edge and see how far you have to go to start getting some pushback! If you are not getting complaints about posting too much, then you are not posting enough! Do you think McDonald’s runs only two commercials a week? Oh hell no! They want you singing that jingle in your head when you are driving and they want you dreaming of Big Macs!

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Play to Emotions

If you stroll through any social media stream right now, it would be easy to say that 95% of restaurant posts are one-dimensional pictures of either their food or a beverage. If, your hungry or thirsty at that moment you might take some action and head to the restaurant. The odds are that you’ll just keep scrolling.

Stop to think about the emotions behind your posts. What emotional heartstrings are you pulling on? The real secret to marketing anything is to transfer emotions. The same if you want to sell luxury cars, real estate, or getting people to come to your restaurant. Emotions are the meaning behind the message.

Ruth's Chris Steak House doesn’t just sell steaks, they sell status and an image of being the best. Chipotle doesn’t sell burritos, they sell food that is hormone free and their guests identify with that lifestyle. Same for Whole Foods. Consumers don’t shop there because it’s the best price. They shop there for the status that you can afford to shop there!

What are some emotions behind your brand? Local? Sustainable? Are you a status brand? Are you a convenience brand? The trick is to find your tribe and then speak to them.

Video Is King

If you haven’t looked at the calendar lately...it’s 2019. If you want to stand out in the crowded social media ocean, you must start putting out video content. A few years ago, it was a nice addition to add to your marketing message. Today it is required if you want to get a hyper attention deficit audience to listen!

Video is the dragon slayer to the big brands. You have access to a noble video studio in the form of your smartphone or tablet. The cameras on these things are incredible and they get better every year! You also have apps that you can download to edit your videos and then make them public with your own channel on YouTube. You don’t need a fancy website or thousands of dollars in professional video equipment to get started. Just get started!

It’s shocking that most people know the power that video can play in marketing and yet they don’t use it. If you’re one of them, let’s break down a few reasons you still might be on the sidelines about using video.

You're afraid it might not be good.

Okay, it’s a legitimate fear, however, people are more interested today about the message. Look at some of the videos shot on smartphones and the millions of views they get! If you speak from the heart and share your story with the world of why you do what you do, someone will listen and they will share that to someone else, who will share that with someone else. That’s how things get viral.

You don’t like the way you look or sound on camera.

Okay, you’re not going to like this...no one really cares. Seriously, stop worrying about how you look and refine what you want to say! The message always beats out over looks. They are plenty of actors in Hollywood that are not the definition of good looking and they find a way to get their message heard.

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Use the 80:20 Principle

Gather close because here is the biggest secret to social media marketing...it’s about being social! Not much of a secret is it? The sad thing is that too many get stuck on the “all about me” wavelength that they fail to see it.

Social media needs to be more about others than yourself. That’s not only smart marketing, but it’s also smart business! People might pay attention to a self-centered brand for a few minutes, however, it won’t last long term. You need to show people you are interested in them too if you want staying power. Brands that last always put others first.

A good rule of thumb to follow is the 80:20 Principle or also known as Pareto’s Law. Basically, 80% of your efforts come from just 20% of your activities (or actions). On social media, that means you should be liking other people’s post and commenting on their stuff 80% of the time. The other 20% is about you and your restaurant.

This small shift in attention will have a huge impact on your marketing. Why? Because people want to know you are listening. They want to see you engage with them. They want you to be human. They want to know you care.

Drop the pretentious bullshit and just be authentic. Be you. That is your number one marketing advantage. There is only one person who is you.

The moment you stop marketing and start sharing your story with the world is the day you stop competing and you begin to dominate!

Be Different

For the love of all that is holy, please (and I really mean please): stop posting the same boring stuff! Yes, the majority of the population just go along with the crowd and don’t rock the boat. If you want to stand out on social media then your only option is TO ROCK THE BOAT!

Playing it safe is like aiming for third place in a race. It doesn’t really get too much! You want to make it a goal to get a little edgy in your marketing. That is how you get attention today, by being clever, being unorthodox, being different, being memorable!

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Food posts, specials, and reminders about your happy hour just are so commonplace that the majority of your followers just tune out. Replace that boring stuff that everyone else of doing with:

  • Video at the local farmer’s market.

  • Volunteering at the local food bank.

  • Rave about your team.

  • Rave about your guests.

  • Showcase the ingredients you methodically select for your restaurant.

  • Take us behind the scenes of a catered event.

  • Let us see your menu planning session with your chefs.

Just stop posting the same things that 99% of your market is and dare to be different.

As it was mentioned earlier: with the advancements in technology today, you can shoot a video, edit, and upload it all from your smartphone. The only excuse you have is that you don’t want to really market your restaurant effectively and would rather just complain about business being slow. Complaining gets you nothing and nowhere in today’s market. Taking immediate action does.

Are you going to always hit a home run with each post! Of course not. That’s why you must track your data to see what sticks and what people ignore. Then all you do is create more along the lines of what they like!

Social media isn’t a science, it about connecting with people on their level. That’s critical to remember, marketing is about how your guests see you. Too many times we think marketing is about us. No. You want to connect with people to what is important to them. When you can get past the it's “all about you” mindset, you’ll finally have the real secret of social media marketing down.

Want more tips from Donald Burns on how to improve restaurant? Check out the recent episode of The Barron Report below where Burns breaks down some of the psychological principles that get in your way from building the restaurant and life you truly desire. Stay tuned for more insights from The Restaurant Coach in an upcoming episode of The Barron Report releasing soon.

How Will These Business Trends Impact the Restaurant Industry?

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2018 was a good year for the economy, which is always a great thing for the restaurant industry.

But what will 2019 bring?

The U.S. Federal Reserve predicts that the gross domestic product will grow by 2.5 percent. The unemployment rate is expected to continue to drop too.

But when it comes to labor, this means the labor pool will only be more shallow. However, this is a good thing for restaurants in the sense that more consumers will have a deposable income to spend.

That just means it’s time to take your business to the next level. In a recent “Entrepreneur” report, it outlined five business trends expected to reign in 2019. One of which is that there will be more personalized experiences because these resonate with customers.  

“Next year, take a page from Dunkin’ Donuts. The breakfast brand recently reported a 3.6 percent redemption rate for a mobile coupon campaign aimed at a competitor’s customers in Rhode Island. What’s more, ten times the number of redeemers took a secondary action, such as mentioning it on social media,” writes “Entrepreneur.” 

In 2018, data privacy became a hot topic, especially after the Facebook data breach.

In a recent episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron breaks out the Cambridge Analytica scandal and how it may be affecting your restaurant. Listen below to see how users are engaging with your Facebook content and how this data debacle has been impacting your restaurant sales.

With a series of data breaches being revealed in 2018, customers have become much more weary to share their information and for good reason.  

“In the coming year, avoid purchasing data or otherwise acquiring it without consumers’ consent. Not only is regulatory pressure increasing on companies that do so, but Deloitte reports that 71 percent of purchased data is inaccurate,” writes “Entrepreneur.” 

Instead, interactive content is a great way to collect guest data. Whether it be offering free Wi-Fi, collecting guest info for a waitlist, etc. With these methods, guests are willing to share their data for convenience.  

Although meal-kit subscription services struggled in 2018, “Entrepreneur” predicts that other subscription-based companies will continue to flourish.

See what the other business trends are that are going gain momentum come 2019 at “Entrepreneur” now.

Find Out What Consumers and Chefs Can't Get Enough of in the 2019 Flavor Trends Report

Find Out What Consumers and Chefs Can't Get Enough of in the 2019 Flavor Trends Report

Today's consumers are looking for new ways to spice up their plate and palate. Whether it be with a new exciting protein or a dish they know and love that features a new flavor.

But consumers' tastes are constantly changing. With that in mind, every year we release reports pulling from our data index to see what consumers are craving.

For our latest report, we used Foodable Labs data to analyzed 910,309 social conversations on multiple social media platforms. Our dataset is made up of chefs, independent restaurant owners, corporate chefs, multi-unit brands, and food influencers.

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