When you first open a restaurant, you invest time and money in making the big, exciting decisions that define your brand identity. Are you a small family business, or the playground for a celebrity chef? Are you open 24 hours a day, or do you close at 2 pm? Once you choose a concept, it can seem daunting to shift gears. However, it’s important to continue growing your business – and sometimes that means making changes to the original plan. If you’re ready to improve your brand, here are 3 questions to point you in the right direction.
1. Is your concept resonating with diners?
The idea of a restaurant concept is widely misunderstood – because the term is purposefully vague. Is your business a buffet, a café, or a full-service restaurant? Your answer to that question describes your concept. For most restaurateurs, this is a one-sentence answer: “We’re a burger joint,” or “We serve sushi in-house and cater events.” For some, the concept is more complex and specific – like Soneva Kiri, a tree-top restaurant in Thailand where waiters travel to your table by zipline.
For those of us who serve food while standing on the ground, it’s far easier to make changes to a restaurant’s original concept. This could be as simple as offering a lunch hour buffet with pre-existing menu items. Do some market research into your guests’ favorite ways to eat, and implement a strategy that appeals to them.
2. Is your brand working for you or against you?
Melissa Dawn Simkins is an author and president of the brand consultancy Velvet Suite. Simkins believes that entrepreneurs tend to focus on the execution and performance of their restaurant, and creative endeavors like branding are often left as an afterthought. As soon as restaurants need to launch larger promotions to continue their growth they realize customers expect polished branding as part of their restaurant experience. “Branding is everything,” Simkins said. “Branding truly is creating a mark of value that says, ‘I have to have this.’ “
Branding advice is becoming more popular as restaurants continue to push the creative envelope. Following online advice is a good start to any rebranding strategy. Restaurateurs also need to consider how their base might react to serious rebranding efforts. Poorly-researched branding can lead to legal issues like those faced by Kuma Burger before they even opened.
But as we learn from Standard Burger’s journey into rebranding, there’s always hope. Even if your brand isn’t working for you, founder and co-owner Sammy Lazoja reminds us that failure “isn’t always the worst thing in the world. It’s actually a benefit in business…it lets you look at the situation, re-map, and recourse, and figure out how you’re gonna fix it. Sometimes that’s what you need to do. And sometimes you need to be a failure in order to be a success.”
3. Do you have the tech diners expect?
Technology has long been just another idea restaurateurs leave on the back burner, while they focus instead on the successful day-to-day operation of their business. Today’s technology isn’t just for show – it drives real results that entice diners to return more often. For example, Subway’s rebranding was matched with an extensive addition of new technology to streamline service and improve guest satisfaction.
New menus and dishes are great ways to get diners excited, but implementing new tech can be even more effective. Restaurants can create lasting relationships with guests by reaching out with online ordering, mobile apps, and online promotions. Online ordering isn’t a niche market anymore; some restaurants and foodservice businesses are even walking away from retail storefronts to focus exclusively mail and online orders.
Streamlining technology makes your restaurant faster and more efficient. Inventory management software can reduces overhead expenses and food waste, while ensuring fresher ingredients on every plate.
It’s never too late to revisit your concept and branding to increase success and customer retention. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Evolution means adapting to current environments, and that’s exactly what restaurants must do to remain relevant and engaged with their customer base and local community.