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Does your restaurant have an identity?

Who are we?
What do we want our restaurant to be known for?
What style of service do we offer?
What kind of food do we cook?
What can our customers get from us that they can’t get anywhere else?
How can we make our customers FEEL?
What is our color scheme?

These are all questions you should ask yourself about your restaurant long before you open your doors. The answers to these questions will determine whether potential customers will ever make their way through your doors. They need to know the answers before they will make their decision. Planning to answer them after they get to your restaurant is not good enough. Answering these questions for your customers is what marketing is all about, not promoting discounts, coupons and specials. Answering these questions, in addition to getting your customer’s feedback on your performance, IS communicating, and a lack of communicating with customers will close a restaurant faster than an “F” from the health department.

There are many ways to answer these questions. All of them are forms of marketing, and work together to make up your marketing plan.

Who are we?
What do we want our restaurant to be known for?
What style of service do we offer?
What kind of food do we cook?

These are all questions that can be answered without direct communication. You don’t have to send everyone in the town a personalized letter to tell them what you do (though that would be effective too) if you design your name, logo and decor correctly.

Your name itself, and the font you use should answer many questions for your customers. If your business is “Joe’s Crab Shack” and it’s written in a silly or fun font, your customers can deduce without asking that you are a casual seafood restaurant specializing in crab, that you are most likely “kid friendly”, and that you are probably a sit down restaurant, as “crab shacks” usually are. This is a name that communicates who you are and what you do very well. It answers questions, and people who are looking for that type of restaurant will feel very comfortable making the decision to eat there.

A logo can convey many of the same things a name does. The words and the font the name is printed in is a major part of the logo. In addition, a logo can reinforce your identity by using pictures or symbols that also say what you do or sell. Keeping these pictures or symbols simple and easily recognizable is key. A person should be able to recognize a logo at a glance. It should convey everything it needs to convey in less than half a second, as that is all the attention it will be given. If a logo is too busy, uses too many colors, too detailed of graphics, or has too many words, it’s not as likely that a person will get the message they are supposed to out of the logo. A busy logo is like a long winded storyteller. Though they think they are communicating more effectively because they are going into greater detail, the average person’s attention span isn’t near long enough to absorb all the information they offer, so much of the message is lost. Another key element in making a logo easy to remember is using a basic geometric shape in the design.

What can our customers get from us that they can’t get anywhere else?
How can we make our customers FEEL?

These are two often overlooked aspects of running a successful restaurant. Most new restaurateurs see how other restaurants run themselves, and they think it looks easy. They convince themselves that all they have to do is to do the same thing, only better, and that this will make them successful. The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t give your customers any reason to eat at your restaurant than they have to eat at the next one down the road. You’re the same. You think your food is better. All your competitors think their food is better. Both your messages tell your potential customers that YOU are the best at what you do, but by having the same message, you are essentially the same in the eyes of those customers. You need a different message, and the easiest way to have a different message is to offer something your competition doesn’t.

When we’re talking about differentiating you from your competition, we’re not talking about having a couple dishes different on your menu. That’s not enough. You need to have a conceptual difference between you and the restaurant down the street. You need to offer not just food, but an experience they can’t get there. Your concept has to be deeper than your food, because good food and service isn’t a special reason to dine with you, it’s the minimum expectation your customers have for the money they are spending. So your food is great. So what, it’s supposed to be!

What you have to do to differentiate yourself is to create an emotional connection between yourself and your customers. You need to make them FEEL something! Choose a particular emotion to build your concept around. Hardrock Cafe offers “nostalgia”. McDonalds was built on “convenience”. Applebees gives their customers a “neighborly” feeling. Hooters feels “sexy”.

Strong brands are built around strong emotional bonds with your customers. Long after people forget what they ate, and who served them at your restaurant, they will remember how eating at your restaurant made them feel. Then, when they get an urge to feel that way again, they will think of you.

What is our color scheme?

The easiest way to get people to identify you, your building, your menu and your marketing is by using a set color scheme. Choose two to three colors, and possibly a pattern, to use in the design of everything you do. Use it in your logo, your signage, your newsletter, your menu, your indoor and outdoor decor, and anywhere else you can. Having a color scheme makes you easy to identify and easy to find.

Whether you are just entertaining the thought of opening up a restaurant, or have been open for 30 years, ask yourself all these questions. Then ask some of your customers. If they can’t answer these questions, your concept isn’t communicating well with them. If they aren’t having the answers to all these questions effectively communicated to them, imagine how hard it is for them to communicate who you are and what you do to others. Remeber that “word of mouth” advertising you thought you were going to build your business with? There’s a reason why it’s not happening. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t though. Take these questions and build an identity for yourself! Let people know who you are! Communicate! Make your customers FEEL! You’ll soon have more business than you know what to do with.

Brandon O’Dell
O’Dell Restaurant Consulting
www.bodellconsulting.com
blog.bodellconsulting.com
brandon@bodellconsulting.com
Office: (888) 571-9068

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About friendthatcooks

Food service consultant and owner/operator of an in-home weekly meal prep service in Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, Des Moines, Denver, Milwaukee and Wichita

Posted on May 16, 2008, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You are right on point. Thanks

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