The Small Business Administration says 30% of all start-up small businesses fail within two years, and that number reaches 50% within five years. Most businesses start strong but after a few passing months, they shut down. The difference between a successful business and unsuccessful business comes down to creating realistic goals, putting together a growth plan, spending money on the right tools, and adapting to change. Failure to monitor industry trends and evolve means being left behind.

The restaurant industry is a tough world to be in. As of Fall 2017, there were 647,288 restaurants with 190,649 of them being quick service restaurants and 31,480 full service restaurants. With so many players in the market, branding becomes critical.. A restaurant  can leverage good branding to separate themselves from their competitors  in a way that establishes a strong personality and vision. . All parts of a restaurant’s business revolves around the brand, from marketing materials such as menus, uniforms, takeout containers, napkins, to how the restaurant is furnished inside. Failure to  properly develop and define your restaurant’s brand will cause financial chaos in the long run.

Let’s take a look at social media as an example of how powerful branding can be.  upon articles will encourage your restaurant to invest in social media dollars. However, if the only goal for social media is to build a following or get as many “Likes” as possible, then you are doing it wrong and wasting money. Because Facebook and Instagram have changed (and keep changing), restaurant owners have to be smart with where their money is going. To truly get followers and new customers to see your business’ content, you need  a clear goal and some ad spend to to invest in Facebook and/or Instagram advertising. A restaurant’s brand will be the first impression people made on potential customers If the brand isn’t something a customer can relate to or doesn’t entice customers then you’re wasting money.. Instead of focusing on dollars spent in social media advertising, make the goal of your social media channels to collect email addresses from your customers so you can communicate with them when you need to.. Let the voice and personality of your restaurant shine through these emails and social media campaigns.

Let’s use The Cheese Course as an example of how to  reach out to customers’ through  brand storytelling. The brand, which has 100+ varieties of artisanal cheeses from farmers all around the world, works on educating customers in-store. Instead of focusing on all marketing channels,, they honed in on video content, specifically for Facebook and Twitter. Enrique Altamirano, owner and president, said, “It’s important for us to tell The Cheese Course story so our guests know where the food we serve is coming from, that we have unique products that cannot be found everywhere,” says Altamirano. The brand’s messaging also tells the story of the restaurant’s artisans and the history of the food. “Each Cheese Course location has a story to tell.”

If your brand doesn’t connect with customers, you might as well stop there. If you are a new restaurant, do some market research. Send out a survey to friends and family to get some feedback on the restaurant’s concept, menu, and design. If you are an existing restaurant, take time to evaluate expenses and see where some financial tweaks could be made. QSR recently interviewed a very successful branding story with Melt Shop. Melt Shop nailed its branding from its restaurant name, to the channels it markets its brand, to the branding of each menu item. Spencer Rubin, founder and CEO, indicated that when it came to marketing, they focused on three specific areas: “We’ve always found that a combination of community outreach, social media, and PR has worked well for us, but ultimately our best marketing strategy has been living by our mission, which is connecting with our guests. When we connect with our guests through great food and hospitality we win every time.”

What are you doing to differentiate yourself? Are you printing and sending direct mailers to homes that aren’t interested in your business? How do you measure success for print pieces like these? Did you add a menu item that you are continuing to purchase supplies for but no one is buying? Are you continuing to implement the same plan year after year without any change?

These types of questions have to be answered before your restaurant is launched. It is part of the branding process of your restaurant. Because all marketing dollars follow your vision and concept, if both aren’t clearly defined and – more importantly – aren’t what the customers want, it will be hard to rise to the top and stand out amongst your competitors. If all branding and strategic processes are in place, marketing dollars spent on investments like digital advertising, email marketing, online ordering, and more will support your efforts.  Focus on truly understanding your audience and using the social media platforms, websites and marketing tools that connect with them.

 


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