The 5 Most Important Things to Consider when Branding Your Restaurant

by Barton Strawn, Managing Partner

Branding can be an easy thing to dismiss when launching a new restaurant. We see it happen everyday, and honestly we understand why it happens. 

You have a large build out, that includes a brand new kitchen. 
You’ve had to apply and pay for alcohol permits. 
You’re starting to source plates, silverware, and linens.
And that is just the beginning of the list of things you have to think about and pay for.

Branding is probably the last thing on your mind and the last thing you’ve budgeted for. But the truth is, a strong and consistent brand can have a REAL financial impact on your restaurant’s bottom line. Your brand is ultimately what drives customers in your door and often how they decide if they’re going to make a second reservation. 

We encourage you to start thinking about your restaurant brand as one of your most important assets – possibly even as important as your kitchen – instead of just a necessary evil. With that in mind, when you start to brand or rebrand your concept, consider these 5 things to make sure you get the most out of that process and the final product. 

1. Understand your customer before creating your brand.

The easiest place to start is by understanding the demographics of your location. If you are in a downtown core, you may have more business people coming to eat at lunch, especially if you have a fast casual offering. If you are outside of the downtown area, you’re more likely to have families come for dinner service.

Another simple way to understand your customers is to stop people walking by your space and ask them a few questions. These might include:

  • Do you live nearby?
  • Do you work nearby?
  • Do you typically dine alone? Or in a group?
  • Do you have kids? Are you married?
  • What is your favorite type of food?
  • How often do you eat out?

Also take note if they are male or female and get a general sense of their age range. All of these attributes should start to help paint a picture of the typical customer you already have in your area. If you want more in-depth information, you can also reach out and join your local restaurant association, such as SLARA in Salt Lake City, who typically collects more in depth data on customers in your city. 

2. Understand your customer before creating your brand.

It might seem obvious, but when you bring something unique to market, your chances of standing out and building a following increase. Yes, your market might be in love with tacos, but if there are twelve taco restaurants on the same block, bánh mì’s might be the way to go.

Start by looking at similar businesses in your area. Understand how they are trying to set themselves apart and look for ways to alter your menu or service structure so you don’t have to compete head to head with established businesses. 

Once you figure out your differentiators, you’ve started to develop a position. This might include how you let people customize food, and the price you will be able to sell it for. Now you have a foundation you can use to brand materials, emphasizing and explaining why people should want to experience your restaurant. 

3. Understand your customer before creating your brand.

If you’re following these steps in order, you’ve now taken time to analyze your competitors, and looked for ways to separate yourself from the crowd. This information should also be used to help select a name. 

You don’t have to (shouldn’t want to) mimic the competition in your space. By understanding what makes you different and the customers you are trying to target, you have a much better chance of picking a name that makes sense.

If you are opening an upscale italian restaurant, you most likely want to stay away from anything explicitly witty and fun. You want to instill your customers with a sense of refinement with your name and brand. Conversely, if you are opening a counter service taco joint, you might want your name to be more light hearted and in tune with this fast paced environment.

Regardless, you should take time to realize your business values and leverage those to choose a name that feels authentic. 

4. Understand your customer before creating your brand.

This is really where we hope you start to think about your brand holistically, as something engrained throughout all of your decisions. It isn’t just about creating a logo and a sign. You should be using your brand to inform all of your choices, especially when those choices will lead to direct customer interaction with your business.

Start by considering the interior of your space. Does it match your name and the feeling you want to give people visiting your location? If someone orders a to-go order, are your take-out bags as visually striking as your menus or interiors?

The stronger and more consistent your brand is, the more likely someone is to remember their experience. Ultimately, this means they are more likely to return, and to spread the word about your restaurant to their friends and colleagues.  

5. Understand your customer before creating your brand.

Customers are not only interacting with your space. Every touchpoint with a staff member is equally as important and is also a part of your brand. It is important not to forget that your restaurant is a hospitality business. You want your customers’ experiences to be enhanced by the time they spend with your staff. 

If you are launching an upscale concept, then every person from the moment a customer walks in your door should be eager to help and make the experience as amazing as possible. Let’s say you’ve decided to focus on fish tacos in your concept and no one else in your city offers fish tacos. Your staff should be prepared to answer questions about the different types of fish and how they may taste different. Saying “they taste like fish” probably won’t cut it. 

The more expensive a plate of food, the more your customers expect every detail to be perfect, including how your hostess seats a group or how accurately your waiters remember an order. 

You may be starting with a new concept, or you might be expanding and need a rebrand before your new location opens. Your brand isn’t just a logo. It is every customer touch point that goes into creating your restaurant’s experience. In all situations, you should be looking for ways to be authentic in your offerings, and convey that authenticity through your brand. 

While the 5 topics above don’t cover everything you’ll need in a brand, we hope that they set you on the right path and give you a framework to start thinking about what your restaurant brand wants to and how you can get there.

Need help navigating the branding and interiors of your new restaurant? Looking for someone to come in and refresh your current restaurant? Reach out here on our contact page.

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