Restaurant brands aren’t found in the dining room anymore

by Jake Hill, Graphic Design Lead

Restaurants and bars could be some of the worst impacted by shutdowns due to Covid-19. The National Restaurant Association estimated that between the beginning of March and end of May, restaurants lost $120 Billion dollars. With those sorts of losses, anyone would be looking for a way to evolve in the current climate. 

Leading up to the pandemic, the last decade has transformed restaurants and bars into experiences that are much more than just eating. With the continual rise of social media becoming the source of where people learn about new food options, a restaurant as a full branded experience is much more visual. In essence, the restaurant’s brand elements and the physical spaces within which food is served has become as important as the choice of plate it’s served on.

A restaurant’s brand is a complete sensory experience; part food, part music, part smell, part decor, part swag. Branded items like coasters, dishware, menu boards, signage, clothing, nametags, the hand soap in the bathrooms, the music playing over the speakers, the texture of the napkins, all of these things add up to create a restaurant’s brand.

So how does a restaurant transform a well articulated physical brand, into something that can be experienced on the go and in your customers’ homes?

As take out menus have become the new normal, many bars and restaurants have had to consider how their items are experienced and served once they leave the space they spent so much time curating to express their brand. This new to-go experience must make customers feel something special so they keep coming back, even in a time of struggle.

Restaurant and bar brands materialize in the form of branded carry out bags, unique food labels, and branded tape. The more upscale a food experience once was, the more thoughtful the to-go experience should become. In some locations this means wine pairings with multiple courses, grocery boxes that allow customers to make their own dishes modeled after the restaurants, and even playlists meant to be listened to while enjoying a to-go meal. 

To help make up some of the difference in profits, many restaurants and bars are selling t-shirts, totes, and other swag items that match their aesthetic. The entire goal is to keep the business moving forward, while expressing their “vibe” outside of the walls that once made up the branded experience. 

What happens when Covid-19 restriction loosen? Will people come rushing back into dining rooms? Will restaurants invest as much in luxury soap, handcrafted mugs, or custom pens? Or will take out menus remain a prominent portion of restaurant business, and will the external expression of a restaurant and bar’s brand need to continue and maintain itself? 

We believe that well thought out branding means connecting all of these elements together; pandemic or not. It also means spending your marketing dollars strategically, to get the biggest impact in the current climate.

Our recommendation? Build out a well functioning website with online ordering capability and pair that with nice take away packaging that feels consistent with the dining room experience that your customers used to know and love. If your budget allows, this might even be branded coasters, silverware, and napkins for a true at-home “restaurant.”

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