What is a Ghost Kitchen?

A ghost kitchen, also known as a ghost restaurant, a virtual restaurant, or a cloud restaurant, is a food business that exists solely to provide delivery. In these restaurants, food is intended for off-premise dining only.

In a typical ghost restaurant model, the food is made in a rented kitchen, while being ordered and delivered through a third-party delivery service.

Ghost kitchens are often found in high-rent areas, like college towns. Instead of drawing in foot traffic, virtual restaurants work well anywhere as long as their delivery service can easily access customers.

Ghost kitchens are a fairly new concept, although some pizza places have already had carry-out and delivery-only options for years, however, they still maintain a brick-and-mortar location, which ghost restaurants do not.

Why are Ghost Kitchens Gaining Popularity?

In most cities, the restaurant business is already incredibly cutthroat, meaning there is very little room for new players. Delivery is also increasing in popularity because customers want convenience.

In fact, in many areas, restaurants that don’t offer delivery are closing down.

Many traditional restaurants, start-ups, chains, and third-party delivery services are looking into ghost kitchens as a way to manage the demand for delivery while increasing market share.

How Do Ghost Kitchens Work?

Ghost restaurants typically operate through a third-party delivery platform.

From the customer’s perspective, he or she finds a restaurant to order from after browsing through a favorite third-party delivery app, such as GrubHub, UberEats, or DoorDash.

The customer places an order and receives the delivered food from the third-party vendor.

From the restaurant’s perspective, the restaurant receives the order and fulfills it in a kitchen that does not offer a storefront. It then hands the order off to the delivery partner.

The Pros of a Ghost Kitchen

There are many pros to the ghost kitchen model. The first is that the ghost kitchen model reduces the need for start-up costs and resources. This allows new players to enter the restaurant scene in a given location without as much of a barrier to entry.

For example, if one is attempting to open a food truck, there is a cost to secure a truck and procure the right kitchen equipment for the truck.

This also opens up more opportunities to experiment. If one model fails, it is fairly inexpensive to switch gears and try something different.

Ghost kitchens also do not require new restaurants to compete over high-traffic locations, since customers do not visit the location itself. This also means that these restaurants aren’t renting dining space that isn’t being utilized.

Another benefit is that the ghost kitchen model does not require an existing customer base. Your restaurant will find hungry customers through a third-party platform.

Ghost kitchens also have fewer overhead costs because the kitchen is rented. There can also be reduced labor costs because the only staff required is the kitchen staff.

Unlike a food truck or a traditional restaurant, there is also less variability based on the weather. A restaurant with a separated parking lot or a food truck may experience a decrease in sales if the weather is poor.

The Cons of a Ghost Kitchen

The biggest problem with a ghost kitchen is that these restaurants often have to pay a high fee to third-party delivery services, sometimes as high as 30%. There can also be additional costs associated with premium placements on the third-party vendor’s site or app.

Another factor against ghost kitchens is that they don’t have that brick-and-mortar or truck for visibility and brand recognition. This is why digital branding even more important for Ghost Kitchens.

It can also be a bit more challenging for these types of restaurants to receive licensing, especially if your business is the first of its kind in the area. Inspectors may not be used to this type of business model and maybe more reluctant to license the business.

Location can be a negative factor for kitchen staff and business owners because rentable kitchens are not always in the most easily-accessed locations.

Lastly, because it is such a new model, it is a major risk.

Getting Started with a Ghost Kitchen

If a ghost kitchen sounds like a venture you’re interested in trying, there are a few key steps you’ll need to take. There’s a lot that needs to be considered when opening a new restaurant, even a ghost kitchen.

Gain access to rentable commercial kitchen space

What many new-to-restaurant-owning entrepreneurs fail to realize is that food that is sold to consumers must be produced in a licensed commercial kitchen. This isn’t the major hurdle it once was as there are now many shared-use kitchens or commercial kitchens you can rent by the hour, day, or month. Think of this as a coworking space for chefs, caterers, food trucks, and other food producers without traditional kitchen spaces.

You’ll need to gain access to a rentable commercial kitchen in your area before you begin. Prepare for a somewhat lengthy process when it comes to starting out, as the kitchen will want to vet you and your business before agreeing to rent to you.

Apply for inspection

Once you’ve locked down your kitchen, you’ll need to apply for your inspection with the health department. Many health departments will need to visit you in the commercial kitchen space before you start selling your food.

When the health inspector comes for the inspection, they will want to see your production methods, food storage areas, and general flows. You will also need to have these written out for your final inspection and to receive your license, so it is best if you can provide that to the health inspector when they visit as well.

The most important thing to communicate with your inspector during your inspection is that you are producing food safely and legally. Walk them through your menu, your production process, how you plan to hold time and temperature, and what third-party service providers you plan to use. This includes any national or local food distributors and suppliers, as well as your delivery service.

Select your third-party service provider

There are many third-party service providers to choose from. Tech-enabled ordering platforms will charge you a fee in exchange for providing one of the most critical aspects of your business – so you need to choose wisely.

When looking at providers, you should find out what your options are and evaluate them based on the average delivery times, reliability, and customer service. Look at their customer reviews and interview your top contenders. This should be a partnership, and it will be an incredibly painful process if you select the wrong vendor.

Sometimes these delivery services charge a painful commission fee – as much as 30% of the order. However, it is still going to be considerably less cost than trying to deliver yourself, and your customers will be able to find you through their platform, instead of you having to find all of your customers through your own marketing efforts.

Plan for delivery

One of the biggest cons for chain restaurants who are starting to offer delivery is that their food is not made for that type of distribution. It doesn’t hold up well to being transported.

As you plan out your menu, make sure your food is temperature-controlled and holds up well to travel. You don’t want your food to arrive cold, soggy, or overly messy. If it does, you’re almost guaranteed to lose customers quickly.

As you think about your menu, keep it simple – especially to start. Consider reusing the same ingredients in different ways to keep costs down.

You’ll also want to train your staff to make sure quality is consistent.

Have a loyalty plan in place

Loyalty is critical for the success of any local operation – especially food service. Check with your third-party delivery provider for the ability to add a loyalty program or coupon codes. Then you can distribute these codes to your customers when their orders are delivered.

Loyalty is critical for the success of any local operation – especially food service.

You can also build up loyalty on your social platforms. Perhaps run a contest for customers who post pictures of your food where they can earn a discount on their next order. Contest or not, be sure to reward customers for formally reviewing your business or even sharing it on social media. Word of mouth and referrals are just as critical to your ghost restaurant’s success as loyal customers are, if not more so.

Identify your niche

Again, this applies to nearly any type of restaurant, not just ghost kitchens. You need to have a niche – whether that means you are appealing to an underrepresented demographic in your area (like working parents or the elderly) or filling a void for a specific type of food (Thai in a city that does not have many Thai restaurants, for example.)

If you’re feeling stuck, have conversations. Chances are, your friends, neighbors, and relatives have ideas for what they “wish they could have” in your area. Once you come up with a concept, test it conversationally as well. One person’s opinion may not mesh with the overall landscape.

Digital branding is king

Since you don’t have a brick and mortar or a truck for customers to immediately identify with, you will need a strong online brand. You might even consider hiring a marketing consultant or firm to help you get started if this isn’t something you are already familiar with.

Since you don’t have a brick and mortar or a truck for customers to immediately identify with, you will need a strong online brand.

One of the most important brand components is a strong name. Make sure it isn’t too similar to another restaurant in your area, and it should also align with your menu and the type of cuisine you offer. If “Buckey’s Burger Palace” only sells tacos, that is probably not a model that will be set up for success.

You’ll also need a solid website. Make sure your site looks professional, and functions well. Include a lot of pictures of your food, and a unique logo that is clear to read.

A strong social media presence is also critical. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are the most common platforms for food companies and restaurants to connect directly with customers. Again, make sure your social media accounts have a lot of high-quality pictures of your food so that these channels showcase what you have to offer.

Make sure your website and your social media channels direct your potential customers to order from your chosen third-party vendor, so your potential customers can easily locate you. Because ghost kitchens are a relatively new concept, this may be a new process for your customers too, so walking them through it can set you up for success.

You should also include your menu on your website and your social media channels. This will entice customers to order from you, even if they are unfamiliar with ghost restaurants or your chosen third-party vendor.

In closing

Ghost restaurants are certainly worth considering if you’ve been interested in getting into the restaurant business but start-up costs and capital have been a barrier for you. However, you should know that as a new concept, these types of businesses are still risky and may not be immediately successful. It may also be too new in your area, and therefore you may not have access to a rentable kitchen space in your area at this time.

Be sure to choose a great name and focus a lot on your restaurant’s branding

However, if you do decide to give it a try, be sure to choose a great name and focus a lot on your restaurant’s branding. It is also critical to choose an excellent third-party ordering and delivery service.

By taking these steps, it is possible to see success through this new restaurant business model. To help ensure your new business venture is successful, it may be worth hiring a restaurant marketing agency. These types of professionals will have a much better idea for how to appeal to your target audience as well as what will be successful and what may not be.

5 SEO Improvements for Your Restaurant

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization is a key component to any restaurant marketing effort aimed at helping your restaurant improve, expand, and evolve in today’s technology-driven world. SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is the acronym for increasing the amount and quality of traffic to your business’ website through search engines like Google. SEO is a way for business owners to attract a specific demographic that is genuinely interested in your restaurant, instead of random internet users clicking your ad.

Why Is SEO Important for Your Restaurant?

SEO is a crucial part in growing your business because it is the key to getting a larger amount of traffic to your business site, in turn, bringing you more paying customers, and could mean never paying for regular advertisements again. Investing in search engine optimization will enable you to use locality, customer sentiment, as well as structured data to maximize your business growth. No matter how low your performance on search engines has been in the past, you have the opportunity to boost your popularity on search engines and other websites as much as you want through SEO.

In order to get the most benefits out of search engine optimization; one must understand how it works. Search engines like Google and Bing have something called a “crawler” that gathers information all around the internet about different content and brings that data back to the search engines. The engines then use this data through an algorithm to match up with certain searches, bringing more users to your website.

Search engine optimization may sound complicated, but it gets easier to understand over time. The results will speak for themselves. By following a few guidelines, you can help your business thrive through SEO.

Tip #1

Designing Your Website & Managing Content

One of the most important factors in today’s online world is a solid, well designed, maintained website that will catch eyes, and quality content and information to captivate and inform readers. First and foremost, if you have the budget, hire a reputable web design and development agency to get your website updated, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing to help your site give off a professional impression. If you don’t think you can afford to hire a professional, there are many online resources that you can use to help you create your own website design and outline from scratch for free or at a low cost, such as Squarespace.

Secondly, take the time to seek out a qualified individual to do content writing for your website, for things like FAQs, menus, a section about the restaurant and its story, and any other important information you want them to include that will captivate and inform customers visiting your site. After all, if you’re going to be investing in generating more traffic to your website, you should want the content to resonate with your visitors.

This will require a budget as well, since content creators’ time is very valuable. Be sure they are fluent in your language, have proficient writing and editing skills, and can come up with fresh, inviting writing to present on your website.

Tip #2

Sort Out Your Content Preferences & Strategize

In order to increase traffic to your restaurant’s website, you will have to pinpoint the location the majority of your customers will come from based on popular work locations or common tourist attractions. Doing this will enable you to narrow your audience and ensure the people visiting your site will actually have a genuine interest in it and won’t just click off immediately without giving it a read. You can use resources like Google Keyword Planner to plug in a specific geographic focus area.

After you’ve sorted out the ideal demographic based on your location, you will want to select which specific words or phrases are common among your target audience. You can pinpoint generic terms, such as “restaurant,” or pair them with a specific location, such as “New York City restaurants.” These would be considered “high-level restaurant terms,” simply meaning these are among the most common searches people may use on a search engine.

Aside from these high-level terms are “niche-specific terms,” which are more specific searches, but still broad in nature. These can include certain foods or atmospheres, such as “Chinese restaurants” or “family restaurants.” To get a good idea of examples you can use to get more clicks, you can use resources like Yelp and TripAdvisor and take a look at their search filters to get an idea of different categories people search for on those platforms.

Brand terms” are simply terms used for your specific brand, like your restaurant’s full name. These are terms you can begin to use once your business is well established and popular in the area. Be sure not to focus solely on these terms, and include more broad, general search terms to be sure your business gains traction and outranks other recommended restaurants on search engines.

Tip #3

Be Active and Present on Social Media

Social media is inarguably a massive part of business development and maintaining a customer base, Facebook is one of the most popular platforms for restaurants to interact with customers and keep them in the loop. One way to utilize social media for your business is to offer rewards or discounts for customers sharing posts from your restaurant’s page. This will help spread the word about your establishment while keeping customers engaged and excited about your business, especially if they get something out of it!

Regular posts and updates about your business will also keep customers in the loop while keeping your business relevant. The more they see from you, the more likely they are to pay your restaurant a visit. Be sure to announce any new menu items or merchandise, as well as any special events or discounts happening on your social platforms to inform your fans, and hopefully they will share and spread the word to others on the platform as well.

Tip #4

Encourage Feedback

The best way to keep your restaurant at the top of its game, as well as search results, is by having an extensive collection of positive reviews, ratings, and testimonials from customers. By having high-star reviews, users are more likely to click on your restaurant when looking at it against others. The more positive reviews you have, the better your customers will perceive your business, making them much more likely to spend money there.

Consider a rewards program or free coupon for customers leaving reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and more. This will be appealing to them as they will feel their opinion matters and will be heard. Not only this, but they will benefit from sharing their thoughts, and will be more likely to return to your establishment to do more business in the future.

Tip #5

Get Technological

Almost two-thirds of website traffic comes from mobile phones or tablets, according to Google Analytics. To use this to your business’ advantage, invest in making your website mobile device friendly, to ensure customers can access it from anywhere. This will eliminate frustrating buffering and wasted time, which could result in negative reviews from customers.

One step further would be investing in a mobile app for your business. This may be costly, but it gives customers an opportunity to browse menus, place online pickup orders, even be involved in a customer rewards program, should you choose to create one for your restaurant. This will help give customers a streamlined, positive experience with your business, just from using a convenient mobile app.

Tip #6

Whatever you do- Monitor What’s Going On

Any change you make can either harm or help your business, so you need to be aware of how the decisions you make are affecting your business. Begin by equipping your website with Google Analytics, which will help you keep track of your site traffic and give you an idea of how many people are being reached. You can also use tools like Unamo SEO, which will analyze your site, help you improve in certain areas, and will show you your site’s progress on a daily basis.

To go one step further, you can hire a content manager to analyze all this data. They can set up all these tools and platforms to keep track of your website’s progress and traffic and can make different adjustments as needed to make sure you’re getting the results you want. This will be another thing to factor into your budget, but if you aren’t a tech-savvy business owner, this may be a better option than trying to do it all yourself.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization may seem very complicated and hard to understand, but it is simpler than many may think. It is a key component to business expansion and can work wonders when it comes to getting your business the exposure it needs to reach its’ potential. By being active on social media, forming a good relationship with customers, and hiring help when you need it, you can easily take your business to the next level. Be sure to keep up with the times, keep your website up to date and mobile device friendly. Keep your business on the up and up by utilizing these SEO tips.

It’s the Small Things: Restaurant Micro-Experiences

The use of micro experiences is what makes a restaurant experience so unique, and it’s these experiences that create a more memorable dining experience for your guests, and fully activate your restaurant brand.

A guest will always keep in mind the quality of your customer service and the taste of your food, but it’s in the small and subtle details that the true essence and soul of your restaurant experience is put on display.

Imagine, for instance, walking into a new restaurant. You see and hear familiar sights and sounds; the melody of your songs and the aroma of your favorite food. You look up and are greeted with a warm smile by your server.

These moments are short and may not seem important, but these tiny moments will add up to create a lasting impression of the restaurant in your guest’s mind. The customer may not associate the positive thoughts about the restaurant back to that specific moment, yet still, it created a memorable restaurant experience.

Top 8 Ideas for In Restaurant Micro Experiences

There are a number of ways for a restaurant to use micro experiences to improve their guest’s experience. In fact, there are even marketing agencies who specialize in helping you create these “micro-experiences.” Here are my top eight suggestions for creating positive micro experiences for your restaurant’s guests. If you utilize these eight ideas, you are sure to obtain guest loyalty, helping you create a reliable source of business from repeat customers.

Not only that, but happy customers will share their experience with others, attracting even more new customers. Even if your business is already doing well, these eight tips can still help you create an even better experience for your customers.

1. Engaging Your Staff

Micro experiences can be implemented in almost every area of your restaurant, but one of the simplest ways to create a more memorable micro experience is by training your employees.

Now, I don’t mean that you simply teach them to do their job duties. You are likely already doing that. What I mean is that you should train your employees on how to create great impressions through micro experiences.

To do this you will need to explain the concept of micro experiences to them and provide them with real-life examples of how they can use the concept on the job. That way each of your staff members can create micro experiences that will induce guest loyalty.

You could put a reward system or program in place to encourage your staff to work on improving their communication with the guests. Or, reward employees for providing exceptional customer service and extending kindness towards customers.

Be sure that you help them see how a better guest experience can translate into their paycheck also. After all, happier and more loyal guests often will translate into higher check averages.

Another benefit of this would be keeping your employees happy and engaged. Employees who are engaged tend to care more about their job and work harder at it. After all, it’s really difficult to ask un-engaged and unhappy employees to create positive micro experiences.

2. Your Atmosphere & Service

Your restaurant should certainly have a good vibe and soul. A personal style goes a long way when it comes to creating a memorable dining experience for your guests. It’s just another subtle thing that will contribute to your guest’s overall impression.

Having a personalized style may seem like a minor detail, but it makes a huge impact. This alone could be the thing that sets your restaurant apart from the hundreds of others. A unique interior and aesthetic can make a customer excited to return. If you’re dining experience has evoked certain feelings that they don’t get anywhere else, then they’ll always return to you to feel that way again.

Maybe it’s the personalized style of decoration or a personal theme that provokes feelings of excitement, joy, and interest in your guests. Or it could be the way that your guests are greeted, and served that makes them feel at home. But remember, there’s a difference between providing great service and providing great hospitality. Hospitality is everything when it comes to building a memorable restaurant experience.

Danny Meyer put it well when he said,

“Service without soul, no matter how elegant, is quickly forgotten by the guest.”

Danny Meyer, Setting the Table

The guest’s surrounding and overall vibe of your restaurant can greatly impact the way the guest feels regarding your establishment. This can help your establishment to stand apart from the rest.

3. One-Of-A-Kind Menu Options

Of course, your food will leave an impression on your guests, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the restaurant’s ‘signatures.’

I’m sure you can think of a restaurant that features one item that you can’t find anywhere else. McDonald’s “Big Mac,” Burger King’s “Whopper,” Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, or Taco Bell’s “Dorito” tacos are just a few examples.

People tend to know what they want before selecting where they will eat dinner.

By offering one of a kind menu options along with guest favorites, you will encourage customers to select your restaurant.

Once you create that one delicious item that only your restaurant can provide to guests, you will inspire your guest’s loyalty. They will flock to your restaurant to get that one of a kind item. These signature items are what makes your restaurant your own.

Your guest trying that one of a kind menu option is a micro experience in its own way. They will remember that signature item, how it made them feel, and associate it with your restaurant. So, you better make sure it’s good!

4. Beverage Programs & House Speciality Drinks

If your restaurant serves alcohol this is the perfect way to create memorable micro experiences. Serve house drinks or feature specialty drinks. Provide affordable alcoholic beverages. You could even host a happy hour.

People love to drink and have a good time. If you can do two things for them, those guests will be loyal to your restaurant for life. First, create a fun, laid back environment. Second, serve premium, great-tasting, and affordable alcohol.

It’s easier to create positive micro experiences when the guest has had a drink. They can be more relaxed, open, and open to dialogue. It will create a lasting impression of your restaurant.

People generally love alcohol, so if you can serve the guest’s favorite alcohol at an affordable price, you will attract a ton of business. If you can create a positive dining experience through the use of micro experiences, you will keep those guests coming back for more fun.

5. Unique & Comfortable Furniture

The furniture should fit your restaurant’s style but should also stand out and make a statement. It needs to to be comfortable, visually appealing, and different. Furnish your establishment with pieces the guest will remember fondly.

Your guest probably won’t dwell on the appearance of the furniture; they will just briefly consider it. However, in most instances, micro experiences can occur in just a short amount of time. On the same token, if your furniture is uncomfortable, odd-looking, or predictable and mediocre, the micro experience your guest will have will be a negative one.

In the brief moments that your furniture grasps the customer’s attention, the guest should feel positive about the appearance and comfort of the piece of furniture.

That positive thought will work alongside the alcohol, food, and atmosphere to create the guest’s overall full impression of your restaurant. Remember, the overall guest experience is just a collection of micro experiences that lead the guest to feel a certain type of way.

6. Quirky Fixtures & Decor

You’re probably wondering what I mean by quirky accessories. I’m referring to every non-furniture item in your restaurant. Decorations, wall decor, table pieces, etc. All of these FF&E elements throughout your restaurant will make an impact.

These small pieces can invoke certain feelings or be conversation starters. The restaurant fixtures and decor will contribute to the unique furniture and atmosphere. They should seamlessly blend in but stand out, or feel out of place.

To create a great micro experience with these quirky fixtures and decor you need the guest to first notice the piece. Then note that it is intriguing, cute, or different. The piece should ideally make the guest laugh, smile, ponder, or point it out to their dining companion.

These quirky accessories should be unique to your establishment. This is another micro experience idea that can set your establishment apart from the rest. The most successful restaurants utilize this idea; sometimes it comes naturally, but other times it takes some thinking to get it right.

7. Utilize Atmosphere & Ambiance

Before you can use an atmosphere to maintain positive micro experiences, you must create the atmosphere. You can customize your restaurant’s atmosphere with ambiance, sounds, scents, and textures. The atmosphere has to be felt by the guest.

You can do this by selecting a certain type of music that works with the restaurant theme. The ambiance, or lighting, plays a key role in creating an atmosphere.

Even the scent of your restaurant is important. In fact, there are companies that solely focus on “scent-marketing” such as Scent Air. This is a very interesting way to create an experience because studies have shown that 80%+ of customers are willing to spend more time in a place with a pleasant scent. Also, emotions are generated, in large part (75%), by specific scents we recall.

An enjoyable atmosphere will create an initial impression, but it will also contribute to the effect of each one of the guest’s micro experiences throughout their stay.

The atmosphere will affect everything, including your guest’s impressions of other people. Your atmosphere plays a big part in showing off the heart and soul of your establishment.

Ultimately the atmosphere of your restaurant will color the restaurant experience in a certain shade.

8. Keep it Clean!

Your goal is to create a positive dining experience, which involves a guest enjoying food. Because of this, your restaurant has to be clean.

Most people don’t really notice when a space is clean, however, they always notice when it is dirty.

That said, this idea is more about preventing negative micro experiences than creating a positive one. When serving food, cleanliness is the gold standard.

Think of this scenario, your guest has just received their food and they complement the server on its speedy delivery. Their mouth is watering as they inhale the delicious aromas. The guest and server exchange a smile.

So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, not, because the guest just picked up their fork and there was a hair sticking to it. The guest will now have to wait for a new fork and eat their meal with the memory of the dirty fork lingering on their mind.

That dirty fork just ruined an otherwise ideal micro experience. Had that fork been clean this guest would have had perfect restaurant experience.

3 Restaurants That Utilize Micro Experiences Well

The most successful restaurants utilize micro experiences in creating positive guest experiences. Theses restaurants who do this are able to stay relevant, popular, profitable and most importantly, in business.

Below are a few restaurants that utilize micro experiences well. Let me walk you through a guest’s experience at each establishment. Then you should review how they create great dining experiences through micro experiences.

Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

The restaurant pleases people by focusing on micro experiences. A guest walks in the front doors, entering the restaurant’s country store. The store features countless unique items, most of which are created solely for the restaurant.

An employee greets you at the door with a huge smile and inquires how you’re doing. You follow the sign pointing to the hostess station. At which point the host reviews the daily special and featured items.

As you are led to your seat, you notice the old fashion signs decorating the walls and lit lanterns at every table. You sit down on a wooden table, which features a homemade peg game.

The menu consists of country style favorites that are meant to remind you of sit-down meals, enjoyed with family. There are a few select meals like Grampa’s Breakfast and Uncle Herschel’s Favorite.

The restaurant has a personalized style that follows a central theme, and they extend their style into their decor and accessories. Cracker Barrel offers one of a kind menu option. They create an atmosphere with their friendly customer service and cozy table-top lanterns.

Roosters

Rooster’s claims to be, ‘A fun, causal joint.’ The restaurant features chicken wings but offers a variety of other American Foods. This restaurant is what it claims, pretty casual.

Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a cashier, who will lead you to your seats. You’ll likely notice the high ceilings and light wooden furniture. The huge party table will stand out and the televisions will roar with the latest in sports.

You will definitely admire the sports memorabilia that covers the walls, but it will be the hilarious sayings displayed in black print on the square, white signs that capture your attention.

As you survey the menu, you’ll love the large selection of wing sauces, and intriguing list of appetizers. There is also a robust alcohol menu, that always includes bargain-priced featured drinks.

When you order, you’ll have to order the dumpster fries, or tots, as an appetizer. They are truly mouthwatering and come with a signature sauce.

Even the servers are casual in jeans, or jean shorts, and a blacktop. The bench tables are long enough to accompany a family or group of friends.

The restaurant uses micro experiences perfectly. They have a personalized style that contributes to the atmosphere of the restaurant. The funny signs are a great example of quirky fixtures and decor. The dumpster fries are one-of-a-kind menu option that you’ll have to try. Plus, bargain drinks are a great way to inspire guest loyalty.

The Cheesecake Factory

The finest of all the dining establishments on the list is The Cheesecake Factory. From the moment you approach the building, you will notice the attention to detail. The building itself has the shape of a factory.

In the winter this restaurant features fire heaters on the patio for waiting guests. When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by a romantic style ambiance. There is both a bar and bakery located near the hostess station.

The host takes your name and seats you at the first available table. As you walk to your table you are navigated through an array of fancy tables with coat racks. When you take a seat, you can’t help but notice how comfortable and intimate your table is.

You can order a drink from an extensive beverage menu, which includes alcohol. Then you have a huge variety of meals to choose from. You can’t beat their signature chicken marsala.

The meal will be incredible and the service delightful, but the most impressive part of the evening will be the dessert. They don’t call it “The Cheesecake Factory” for nothing! You can select a huge slice of cheesecake from almost fifty options!

The server will box up any remaining food for you to take home with you. These restaurants are almost always located near shopping centers.

The Cheesecake Factory creates a memorable dining experience by creating micro experiences. They include the personal touch of the warmer, which extends caring thoughts towards their guests. The restaurant features exquisite furniture, one of a kind menu option. Come on, fifty types of cheesecake? Plus, the restaurant features a personalized style and atmosphere.

Conclusion

As you read through the list of ideas and restaurants that utilize the ideas perfectly to created incredible micro experiences that lead the guest to have a memorable dining experience, do you notice anything?

Each of these items has to do with the way the guest feels. That is the key to creating great micro experiences.

You have to make the guest feel something positive and the stronger that positive feeling is the better.

When a guest associates positive feelings with your restaurant, you are successfully creating memorable micro experiences. This is how you obtain guest loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Do you notice how these three restaurants create micro experiences? Every aspect of their establishment is geared towards their potential guests. These establishments have put a large amount of thought into what will grab their customer’s attention and invoke certain feelings.

If you want to improve your guest’s dining experiences, you will need to create great micro experiences too. The guests will create them with or without your help. You will need to gear their attention towards things that will reflect your establishment in a positive light.

Restaurant micro experiences create a memorable dining experience for your guests. You need to make sure their micro experiences are positive and fulfill the guest’s expectations for your establishment.

10 Brand Activation Ideas for Your Restaurant

As a restaurant owner, you are likely always looking for new ways to draw more people to your restaurant’s food and services. However, restaurant branding, and marketing can be more difficult than you think. Not only do you need to draw them, you also need to keep them coming back for more.

This is where brand activation comes in. Brand activation is key to getting consumers from simply browsing your menu to actually visiting your restaurant and eating your food.

In this article, we will discuss ten brand activation ideas to help drive more consumer action to your restaurant. If you want to find out how to elevate your restaurant’s marketing impact, keep on reading.

What Is Brand Activation?

Brand activation is a relatively new marketing idea. Essentially, it is the idea of motivating consumer action through a variety of experiences. In other words, it is about drawing attention to brands by creating unique interactions that result in long-term connections with consumers.

Brand activation typically occurs in the form of activation events.

Activation events are one-time, exclusive events that encourage consumers to interact with a brand, see a brand in a new way, and draw more in-store or in-restaurant activity. The key is that brand activation events have to be unique, memorable, and shareable.

It should be said that brand activation events or campaigns can utilize a variety of methods, such as:

  • Consumer promotions
  • Sampling campaigns
  • Shopper marketing
  • Digital campaigns
  • Experiential marketing

Whatever method you use is up to you and your circumstances. Just remember that the goal is to create a distinct experience that ups the notoriety of your company or restaurant.

1. Utilize Social Media

Social media is easily one of the most definitive aspects of our daily culture. As a matter of fact, 54% of social media users use social media to research products and interact with a brand. So, if your consumers are not talking about your restaurant or brand on social media, you are definitely not connecting with them well enough.

An easy way to generate some attention on social media is to get consumers to post about your brand. This could be anything from simply sharing a photo post about your food and reviews to sharing promotional content.

For example, Sonic did an experiential campaign at Coachella. They sold square-shaped milkshakes during the music festival that could only be purchased through Instagram.

Another great idea is to use social media to hold contests or giveaways.

Domino’s held a fun giveaway on Instagram called the Piece of the Pie Contest. Essentially, Domino’s fans or consumers had to take a photo that showed they are a super fan. The most elaborate photo won a grand prize of $10,000, but Domino’s gained more fan interaction than ever before.

Social media is a great avenue for boosting your brand’s followers and visibility. Fun, interactive social media campaigns are an exciting way to get more consumers to try your food.

2. Leverage Common Problems

The basis of selling any type of product, including food, is that you are solving some common problem or need. The same idea can apply to brand activation events for your restaurant.

For example, when summer festival season hits, the heat can be a major downer on any person’s day. However, bring awareness to your own brand by supplying guests with refreshing drinks or a fun way to cool down.

Vitamin water put a clever spin on this idea by providing music festival guests with a fun misting station. With this quirky, interactive idea, consumers got to cool down and Vitaminwater was able to gain more exposure for their brand.

You should also consider getting a stand at your local farmer’s market. If your restaurant is offering new menu items, this is a great opportunity to offer samples and build up interest in your restaurant.

3. Create Fun & Unique Consumer Experiences

Like we mentioned above, the key to a successful brand activation campaign is that it is unique and cannot be easily replicated.

The events you create surrounding your restaurant have to be unexpected and something your customers have not experienced before.

One great way to create a unique restaurant branding experience is to make use of pop-up shops or cafes. Pop-ups are essentially temporary retail spaces that give companies an opportunity to sell their product in a completely personalized space. For restaurants, it is a great opportunity to present their food or service in a fun new way.

For example, Subway set up a pop-up outdoor salad bar. Subway’s goal was two-fold: encourage healthy eating and to promote their new Salad of the Day menu option. It was a smart way to promote their new menu while also playing on consumer’s desire for healthier and more readily available produce.

Another fun twist was Quaker’s pop-up breakfast vending machines. This unique play on the traditional pop-up shop featured a large vending machine with two workers dressed as robots doling out free breakfast. To make the experience even better, each oatmeal dish was specially prepared according to each consumer’s taste.

Remember, the key here is that you want consumers to activate or act on your brand. You want to create activities that will put the product in your consumers’ hands so they can get a well-rounded experience.

That also means ensuring that your event does not stagnate. For example, if you have a large event, try to intersperse smaller activities or experiences while people are waiting around. Try to aim for collaborative activities as it will encourage a more light-hearted, open environment at your event.

4. Make Learning About Your Company Fun

If you want more people to care about your brand, it is important that you share its roots. Sharing the who, what, why and how of your brand is important to help consumers connect with your brand’s values. However, instead of just trying to tell people about your brand, one of the best restaurant marketing ideas is to teach them more about your restaurant methods, such as cooking classes or recipe development.

A cool example is Haagen-Daz’s sensory dessert schools. Haagen-Daz set up their two-day dessert school to teach how sight, sound, and scent contributed to tasting ice cream. However, Haagen-Daz elevated the pop-up event with talks by major social media influencers and Haagen-Daz ice cream tester, Alison Gray.

Nespresso did the same with a sensorial coffee club pop-up. The Nespresso Connoisseur Club is a traveling culinary adventure, featuring taste tests and classes by Michelin starred chefs. It is an opportunity for Nespresso to share their brand in a new upscale light that is deeply immersive and informative.

Bringing consumers into the fold of what your brand does behind the scenes is a great way to establish a trusting relationship with them.

Not only do they get to learn about your specific restaurant and your products, but they also have a growing appreciation for your work.

5. Make Your Events VIP

A simple way to develop stronger relationships with consumers is to make your brand activation events exclusive. Now, it seems counterintuitive at first. By making an event exclusive to a specific group of consumers, you are obviously excluding other consumers.

However, making events VIP will help you develop stronger emotional connections with consumers. Those consumers who are a part of the exclusive group will feel more valued and will develop a stronger bond with your brand. This way they are more motivated to share your brand with other people.

Moreover, on a logistical note, making events exclusive is also a smart, budget-friendly idea. If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, all you can afford is a short-term branding event.

However, influencers and local media are more drawn to short-term events, especially if they are fresh and creative. This way the more tight-knit an event feels the more people want to be involved or in the know. And, as we said, the more exclusive an event is the more likely people feel the need to share it online.

6. Be Spontaneous

If you truly want to be remembered by consumers, do something memorable and completely unexpected. For example, Lipton Iced Tea completely took London by surprise when they stuck a 100-meter, bright yellow water slide in the middle of the morning commute.

The day-long event encouraged people to come out and bring their swimsuits and pool inflatables with them. And all throughout the even, Lipton employees handed out samples of a variety of Lipton products while also promoting the Daybreaker event series.

This is the time to think out of the box. The more creative you are the better because it will help you stand out from your competition.

From using slip and slides to using flashmobs, you don’t have to stick with a basic food service setting to promote your brand.

7. Utilize Technology

The heart of brand activation events is their face-to-face interaction that digital marketing can overlook. However, this does not mean you should completely discount technology. As a matter of fact, your restaurant branding events should be so memorable that your consumers can’t help but whip out their phones to share it.

If you are holding a pop-up shop, encourage attendees to share pictures, videos and to even make a hashtag. However, you can take your branding game to a whole new level by making social media an active part of the event. Take, for example, Marmite’s positivity recording pop-up cafes.

Marmite opened up a Twitter pop-up shop that used social media as a means of payment. When patrons would enter the shop, they would give their social media handle. The pop-up cafe then uses a “Love-O-Meter” to analyze tweets to see if they are sharing positive or negative messages online.

If you are identified as a positive, loving spirit, you are given a sample of a Marmite summer snack. This is a great twist on using the power of technology and social media. Here, technology and social media actively play a part in the success of the branding event.

You can even go simpler than that. If you are holding a cocktail party, provide a variety of photobooths and award the most creative photo at the end of the event.

You can host a food scavenger hunt and have participants hunt down food-related clues. When they find the answer, they can just snap a picture and send it via text.

Whatever method you choose, you can be sure that technology will help your brand interact with consumers in a fun, immersive way.

8. Get Your Team & Staff Involved

If you really want your brand to stick out, it is important to get your team on board with branding events. Due to their close relationship with your company and brand, they are easily one of your best promotional resources.

Try to get your team involved from the very beginning. Inform them of your idea and get their feedback. They might have some cool ideas that could improve your idea.

Bringing your team in on brand activation ideas is integral to having a successful and memorable event. First, well-informed staff will ensure that the whole event is flowing like a well-oiled machine. In turn, you can ensure all guests or consumers are getting the best experience.

Secondly, getting your team involved is a great way to have them brush up on their knowledge of the brand. Their ability to share the history and roots of the brand and cool, hidden details can help build brand loyalty with consumers. Moreover, it can build brand loyalty within the team itself.

9. Communicate Your Brand’s Values

A successful branding event gets consumers to understand and align with a brand’s values.

Shared values are the basis of establishing a strong bond with your consumers.

That being said, if you are struggling to think of brand event ideas, go back to your roots and build off of your values.

As one of the most value-driven brands, Ben & Jerry’s does this particularly well. During the Big Ice Screening Film Festival, Ben & Jerry’s established a bike-powered pop-up outdoor theatre.

For three days, consumers could engage in a multitude of childhood games and get food and drinks from a variety of stalls. However, the highlight of the event was Ben & Jerry’s effort to use renewable energy for the entire event.

The event had stationary bikes that were used to power the movie screen. In addition, they also employed green energy, hybrid power source provided by Firefly.

The entire event was really to promote Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor. However, it was further bolstered by the brand’s commitment to environmental causes.

Although elaborate, outlandish ideas are sure to draw attention to you, working off of your values is sure to keep people around. And committing to those values consistently only shows consumers that you are a reliable and dedicated company. In turn, people will only want to support and interact with your brand more.

10. Help Your Consumers Help Others

An excellent way to get your consumers to interact with your brand and to further promote your values is to help your consumers help others. More often than not, people see issues that they want to help with or change but do not know where to start.

This is a great opportunity for your company to step up to the plate and bridge the gap between important issues and potential solutions.

One great example of this is Skittles’ Holiday Candy Pawnshop Pop-up. The four-day branding event allowed consumers to bring in their unwanted items and trade them for candy. All of the collected items were then donated to a Goodwill ReUse center.

This could easily be replicated for your restaurant branding. Maybe during the holidays take canned food donations in exchange for a meal at your restaurant. Another great idea is to get the community involved in a huge potluck for the local homeless shelter.

Not only does your brand gain more visibility, but it also gains visibility for positive reasons. Moreover, this will make people more attracted to your brand because they know if they are supporting your brand, they are also supporting a good cause.

Conclusion

As technology and digital media continue to evolve, learning to market for your brand continues to grow more complicated. Fortunately, brand activation events give you an opportunity to get your brand on the front-lines without the risk of blending in with the competition.

Activation events allow you to repackage your products and share them in a whole new way. Moreover, activation events bring your in-store or in-restaurant traffic to new heights and allow you to build more meaningful relationships with your consumers.

So long as you focus on your audience and focus on making your experiences unique and shareable, brand activation events can help you ride the tide of changing trends.

6 Popular Brand Naming Methods

Anyone who’s had to come up with a new name for their business understands how draining the journey can be, and how quickly that early excitement is surpassed by a feeling of hopelessness triggered by the realization that all the nice names are already taken.

The subject of naming strategies is covered by plenty of articles. Most of them concentrate on the list of conditions a new name should follow–it should be original and easy to remember, and in line with the brand vision. All of this is relevant–after all, the name is the most important and vital medium, and there are many brands that have shown that a good new name can make all the difference.

Not many articles, however, discuss what certain naming choices may mean for the future for the company and what can actually create the most problems in the future.

This article talks about the important elements of the naming process and decisions that should be analyzed and decided upon before moving forward with any fresh name. Considering these factors at an earlier stage can save businesses time and resources in the years ahead.

Brand Architecture

The first question you should ask is if you really need a new name. If you’d like to set up a new business, it needs a name, of course, but if you’re creating a new product, for instance, check first whether you can use any current names that the organization already owns, especially if it’s already acquired some brand recognition.

Developing a new brand from the ground up is a preferred option for many people because it gives them a sense of creativity, but this decision shouldn’t be made lightly. In most cases, it can take years and be very expensive to build brand recognition. You can try one of the following alternatives instead.

  1. Endorsed brand (e.g. Avid Hotels by IHG )
  2. A Subsidiary brand (e.g. Hyatt Regency)
  3. A Product Variant, with a branded house framework (IHG® Rewards Club)

You’ll notice that all of these examples stem from a reputable and recognizable parent brand.

Finally, look five to 10 years ahead when regarding the new name and how it fits into the landscape of your current portfolio. Think about what the potential future products will be, where structurally they will fit, and how they will live in harmony with the product you are launching now.

The Right Naming Process

Once you’ve decided on how to approach the brand architecture, it’s time to start deciding what types of names would best serve your brand’s future. At Longitude, we have a full name development process that we guide our clients through – from concept to trademarking.

However, naming your business is something that can be done on your own as well. Just make sure you take a strategic approach and think through all of the potential meanings, benefits, and challenges within the name you pick. Naming your business shouldn’t be a clumsy or casual process. It is truly a rigorous, holistic and dynamic process guided by very specific branding and business goals.

The first task of developing a successful brand name is to educate yourself with some of the brand naming techniques and identify which model is suitable for your business, your product or service, and your intended audience.

1. Founder’s Name

This may be one of the most simple naming methods, but it can also be the most difficult to use properly. This method uses the name of the individual(s) who established the business as the brand and describes the products with or without additional descriptors. One of the most popular examples of this is Disney, named after founder Walt Disney.

2. Descriptive Names

Another relatively simple standard on brand naming, this approach creates brand names that reflect the offered products or services. One valuable thing to consider with this category is that brand names that seem to depict a product are truly strong brands that have become associated with the goods they supply – such as Xerox for photocopiers, Band-Aid for small bandages, and Scotch tape for… well, tape.

3. Geographical Names

Again, this straightforward naming system is just what it sounds like— using a landmark or geographical reference in a brand name linked with a product or service, for example. Amazon, Patagonia, Boston Market, and New York Life.

Geographical names associate a brand with all of the characteristics of history and culture for which its name is known— whether that be good or bad. These names are often used by companies that once marketed to a geographically restricted crowd but have since expanded. Obviously there are natural constraints to naming or renaming your brand after its home region. Plus, it’s almost impossible to find a name that hasn’t been already used.

4. Evocative Names

Evocative brand names reside just on the other end of the creative spectrum. Evocative names use suggestion and symbolism to recall the brand’s positioning or experience. They are unique and versatile, and create a strong differentiator. Because evocative names often tend to be complex and multifaceted, they are a chance to forge a deeply significant brand that is greater than solely the products or services you provide. They can become the backbone of your brand’s position.

Evocative names are much easier to trademark than descriptive ones because of their originality. Though, getting executive buy-in on an ambiguous name which requires some unpacking can be difficult.

5. Neologisms (Invented Names)

One fun part about creating a name for a brand is that if you can’t figure out the best word(s) to describe it, you can always just invent a word yourself. Invented names are fanciful, if not distinctive, fabrications. These kinds of names provide a brand with the most creative latitude, but that doesn’t make them simple to dream up. Often, they are constructed out of Latin, Greek, or other foreign root phrases and altered to best represent the character of the brand.

6. Acronyms

As a general rule, acronyms are often difficult for people to remember, and can be one of the most challenging names to trademark. Yet, using an acronym for a name has been a default staple for many businesses since the concept of branding became a thing. Despite the challenges with this naming strategy, brands like UPS, KFC, and IBM don’t seem to be phased despite their name being a series of uppercase letters.

Conclusion

The name you choose is one of the most important keys to your brand’s success. Taking the time to develop a memorable, evocative and truly distinctive brand name will provide you with a strong foundation for a successfully positioned brand in the market. Eventually contributing to increased profitability for your business.

Although the naming methods are finite, there is an infinite list of possible brand names. The journey of naming your business is exciting and frightening at the same time. But remember this, a perfect name won’t make a bad product awesome, but a great product can make even the most odd name memorable.

Location Isn’t Everything – 7 Ways Your Restaurant Can Still Thrive Despite a Bad Location

If you are planning to run a food-related business, you will almost always hear about how crucial location is. Many restaurateurs say that if you cannot open at the right location, you might as well not open at all.

Unfortunately, the perfect location may not be attainable for you. Space might already be occupied. The rent might be too steep. The neighborhood may already be too saturated by competitors. Or worse yet, you may find yourself in a bad location as you read this.

So, what are you going to do? Are you going to let this stop you? Should you go for it? Or just give up and blame it on your location?

Yes, there are times that a bad location can kill your restaurant. However, there are times when you can overcome this shortcoming. In fact, given the right strategy, you can use a bad location to your advantage.

What Is Considered as A Bad Location for A Restaurant?

Any location can be a good location for a food business. Why? Because people need to eat. And, there are people everywhere. However, to make a restaurant work, you need enough people to eat at your restaurant so that you can cover your expenses and hopefully make a profit.

Here are some reasons that a location could be considered “bad.”

Population & Neighborhood Type

When there are simply not enough people in the neighborhood, that may not be a good location for you to open a restaurant. For example, if the available space is in a residential area, that could potentially be a bad place for a restaurant.

Your lunch service is probably going to be non-existent because people are either in school or at work. You may still generate some profit if people choose your place at dinnertime, but you have to attract a lot of these people in order for your restaurant to survive.

Accessibility & Parking

Poor accessibility is another setback for a restaurant location. If the building where you plan to open does not offer any parking space, you will definitely turn off a lot of potential customers. For rooftop restaurants, a building with no elevator is not something you’d want to consider.

Market Profile & Demographic

Even if the area where you plan to open sees a lot of foot traffic, if your theme doesn’t suit the market’s needs, that is still a bad location. For example, if you are planning on opening a fine-dining restaurant and are offered a space near a university, you will probably not be seeing a lot of patrons.

Dispelling the Myth About Location Being Everything

One thing that you have to remember though is that location is just one of three major things to consider when opening a restaurant. Some great establishment has been known to thrive despite being situated in some hidden nook.

How did they become successful? They focused on the other two factors: food and service. If you have no other choice but to get a space that is not the most ideal for your type of food establishment, you need to make sure that your food is excellent and the service that you offer is impeccable.

A good example of a restaurateur who has succeeded despite location challenges is Joseph Gidman, owner of Cafe Cusco and Van Gogh’s Eeterie.

Both of his restaurants are located in a part of town that has battled perceptions of being dangerous, run down, and depressed. Yet, his two restaurants have been experiencing overwhelming success because he decided to not use his “bad location” as an excuse.

I sat down with Joseph to ask him a few questions about what he attributes his success to, and here is an excerpt from that interview:

“When it opened it was a terrible location because the area felt dangerous and run-down. There was a perceived danger because it was a low-income area.” But he didn’t let the negative stigma bother him, and decided to take a different approach.

“We basically made a point to always, always, always, accentuate the positives. We knew there were negative thoughts and views, but we ignored the negative and only focused on the positive aspects of the location.”

Another aspect that he attributed his success to is the fact that his restaurants were “so unique and different. There wasn’t another place or option to get that style of food.”

He acknowledged, “sometimes the location is the factor, but,” he says, “sometimes you need to look around you. Sometimes people stay in their doors and think it’s the area and not them.”

Joseph also suggested that if other restaurants in the area are succeeding, then it may not be a location, it may be you. “People have to be open to acknowledging what they are doing is failing and change their mode of operation.” Yet, the bottom line, Joseph says, is that “a bad business is going to fail no matter where it is – no matter if it’s a good location or bad location.”

This is just one example of a restaurant who didn’t let a “bad location” stop them from experiencing success, and I’m sure there are many, many more. But if your restaurant is struggling and you think your location is the big reason, here are some ideas that could help.

1. Fine-Tune Your Restaurant’s Unique Selling Point (USP)

What makes your restaurant concept unique?

What sets you apart from the other establishments that are already in the neighborhood? You need to focus on this instead of dwelling about the site where your restaurant will be situated.

Take time to sit down and pretend that you are a customer. Think of all the reasons why that customer will choose your establishment over another. One of the first things that you need to consider is a special service that you can offer your clientele.

Can you offer valet parking if the location has issues with parking space? Do you want to have a “money back” offer should the customer not be fully satisfied with the quality of your food?

How about your food? What makes it special? Will your restaurant offer the best wine selection in the area? Will you be using special ingredients? Some restaurants stand out because they use ingredients that have been specially imported from certain locations.

For example, some restaurants import real Kobe beef from Japan. This is a huge pull for patrons who are interested in trying this type of meat.

Don’t forget about the ambiance. Some patrons come to a food place simply so they could take pictures of the interesting interior.

Is it great for an intimate dining experience or will you be catering to large groups? Will there be unique items on display? Is there a theme? Consider these for your USP and lean into it.

Once you have your USP in place, you can use it to craft your marketing plan. Remember, your unique selling point needs to be “unique”. Additionally, you need to be able to back this up.

If you promise to use the freshest, imported ingredients, you need to really use the freshest imported ingredients in your dishes. Otherwise, your patrons will not make the effort of visiting you in your not-so-ideal location.

2. Serve Great Food and Provide Amazing Service

Since your business is about food, your success will actually hinge on your food. You can be situated in the middle of a high foot traffic location with great visibility but if your food is not good, you will still fail.

Know that if people discover how amazing your food is, they will make the time and effort to visit your restaurant no matter where you are.

Additionally, being unique can only take you so far. Serving something that patrons haven’t tried before will be enough to attract first-time customers. However, it is the quality of your food that will make them come back.

Instead of putting all your money in rent, why not invest in hiring great cooks?

Invest in better ingredients. Hire knowledgeable servers.

By providing your customers with the best dining experience, they will no longer remember the inconvenience of getting to your establishment. You can be situated at the top of a building with no elevator and you will still have patrons lining up to get in.

Work on creating a signature dish that is not offered by any other restaurants nearby. Have your servers learn the names of your patrons.
Tell them to go the extra mile in giving the customers what they need. These are the thing that will have customers coming back no matter how bad your restaurant’s location is.

3. Invest in Effective Marketing

Even restaurants that are situated in great locations still need to employ great restaurant marketing strategies because there are so many other food establishments around. If you have a bad location, you need to work harder to get the word out about your food establishment.

Again, instead of forcing yourself to pay exorbitant rent, use the rent money you’d save to aggressively “sell” your restaurant.

Luckily, you don’t have to work too hard or spend too much on marketing forever. You can ease up on marketing once the customers discover your establishment.

Start with marketing on a grass-roots level. Target the people who are already in the vicinity of your restaurant. Distribute fliers and put up posters within a few miles of your area.

You can even take help from a restaurant marketing agency. Will cost you some money but it works. They will be able to give some good restaurant tips, that will help you in the long run. Also, you will get to know about restaurant technology and different restaurant trends.

If your restaurant will be situated in a hidden location, you need to make your signage really very visible. Creative signages that attract attention will serve you well.

Work on incorporating your specials, promos, and discounts to convince anybody who would see it give your joint a try. You don’t have to limit yourself to static signages.

Invest in eye-catching paper bags and, if you are going to offer food delivery, invest in signages for your delivery vehicles.

Don’t forget to invest in online marketing. In fact, this could be the most important aspect of your marketing campaign. Establish a good social media presence. Post pictures of your dishes, your restaurant’s interiors, and your customers on Facebook and Instagram.

Encourage your customers to post reviews about your establishment. List your joint on Yelp and Zomato. Pay for a good website. You can post promo coupons and tie this site with your loyalty programs.

4. Consider Offering Delivery Options

If you are going to be situated at an out-of-the-way location, it is a must to give your patrons another way for them to get to your food. If they cannot come to you, bring the food to them.

This is why it is important for your restaurant to have a website. This way, your customers can opt to get their food delivered by ordering online. You can also have a phone line installed so that customers can phone in their orders.

There are now so many delivery services offered that you don’t even have to buy your own delivery vehicles. But if you do decide to invest in that, make it work doubly hard for you by equipping it with good signage.

Consider also offering delivery guarantees and other promos that will encourage more customers to keep on buying food from your establishment.

You can offer free side-dishes if they reach a certain amount per order. Or you can give them discounts if the food doesn’t reach them in a timely manner.

5. Establish A Loyalty Program That Is Worth the Customer’s While

Having a loyalty program will give your patrons extra reasons to keep coming back to your establishment. Of course, you have to first give the customers a reason to come back besides the chance to get free meals.

Once people know that you provide great food and good service, you will be able to entice them to join your loyalty program.

Make the offers worth the customer’s time and effort. You can offer free meals for a certain number of visits. You can also offer special dishes only to the people who are members of the program.

This also cultivates a sense of exclusivity. When people see other patron’s getting served special dishes, they’d be compelled to join your program.

How do you do it? You can have an application made where your patrons can create an account and sign up for your loyalty program. This is probably the most effective way to enforce a loyalty program as it eliminates the need for a customer to bring physical cards.

Additionally, since people are always on their phones, you can easily remind them about your promos. You can also go the traditional punch card route and give your customers a physical card which they have to show every time they dine at your establishment.

You can offer free meals or desserts for a certain number of ‘punches”. There are also automatic reward systems that you can explore. Although this may have an additional cost.

6. Collaborate with Other Businesses in Your Area

Developing ties with other businesses in your area is a good idea if you want to beat the competition and overcome the barriers posed by your bad location.

For example, you can provide food for a late screening at a nearby cinema. You can also cater to special events at nearby schools or libraries.

This is a good way for people to discover your restaurant. While there, you can distribute flyers and promo pamphlets that can encourage your potential customers to give your joint a try.

7. Know Your Market by Doing Extensive Research

Before committing to a location, find out why the space is available. Inquire about what happened to the other business that closed up. Learning from the failures of others can help you avoid doing the same thing.

Find out what cuisine people enjoy in that area. Make sure that your menu corresponds to that. For example, if you plan on opening near a school, make sure that your food and price point suit the taste and budget of your possible patrons.

If you find out that the lunch crowd is going to be your meal ticket, adjust your food lineup and bolster the number of your servers during that time.

Determine what type of food is already being served in your area. This will help you identify what will make your establishment stand out. If there are already two or three vegan restaurants in your neighborhood, what can you do to make your food stand out?

Conclusion

While having a good location is ideal, it is not very easy to come by. This does not mean that it is the end of the line for your restaurant dream.

There are so many things that you can do in order to overcome this shortcoming.

Remember to focus on your food and service. Give your customers enough reasons to seek you out no matter where you are.

8 Tips to Help You Build a Team Culture and Increase Employee Engagement

If you are running a business, no matter what field you are, it is crucial for you to understand that your team is your company’s biggest asset. It is not your product, your address, or your name that would bring your company success.

It is the people who are working for you that can do that. They can also be the reason why your business could fail.

That is why one of the essential things that you do for your company is to build the right work culture.

This will ensure that your team stays happy, inspired, and engaged. But first, you need to establish what kind of culture you want to build.

What Does Team Culture Mean?

“I hated the culture there that’s why I left,” is one reason often mentioned by employees who resign despite having a huge salary or amazing benefits. There are also several issues where companies have such high turnover rates because of their “toxic culture”.

What is this culture that keeps getting mentioned and why does it have such a huge impact on the desire of an employee to leave or stay with a company?

Culture is the attitudes, values, behaviors, and beliefs that are shared by the people in a company, a department, or a team.

It is essentially how the people there work together in order to reach their shared goal, usually, this is to finish a project, win campaigns, or hit sales quotas. It also has to do with how the people in the company treat each other.

Culture is not something that you normally see in a company manual. It is unwritten and unspoken.

Sometimes a team can show their unique culture, something that is a little different from that of the company’s. However, in most cases, the team culture is influenced by the entire company’s culture.

Is Fostering A Good Team or Company Culture Necessary?

Good company culture is seen when everyone collaborates, shares their knowledge, effectively communicates, and supports each other. When people feel that they have a place in the team, they normally perform better.

When they feel that there is somebody that supports them, they tend to take greater risks and show growth. This is not only good for each employee but ultimately good for the company.

In an organization where the culture is strong, people take initiatives and they trust each other to do the right thing. If the culture is weak, most of the time, the employee would wait to ask each other if they can do something.

It is what is called a “permission seeking” environment. Projects get delayed because of this type of culture. That is why it is important to cultivate this “team culture”. It leads to autonomy. People who do not need to be managed to work faster and more confidently than those who require directions.

Here are 8 things that are practiced by workforces that have been able to build a strong team culture. You can try to apply these in your own situation and see how effective they are in inspiring and engaging your employees.

Set Your Visions and Assign Clear Goals

It would be hard to motivate a team to do something if they have no clear idea of what exactly they are working towards. You cannot just tell them to “do their best” when they do not know how you qualify “best”.

That is why you need to be clear about the team’s direction, vision, and goals. Establish what your “ultimate goal” is for the company. Lay down the values that you want everybody to have in order to achieve that goal.
When orienting a new hire, have your HR personnel highlight what his or her work is going to bring the company. Let the employee know where their contributions lead.

By focusing on the importance of one’s role in achieving the company’s ultimate goal, an employee is made aware of his or her importance. The employee is also made aware that his or her failures and short-comings will affect others. This fosters a culture of accountability.

Start the Change with The Leaders

The kind of culture that your company develops is the kind of culture that your leadership exhibits. If the leaders follow the company rules consistently, the team will do so as well.

The kind of culture that your company develops is the kind of culture that your leadership exhibits.

If they consistently act inappropriately, you can expect your team to start acting inappropriately as well. If leaders and managers let blunders slide without discipline, that will become the norm in the company.

Your company’s leaders should have a clear view of what your culture should be. This way, they can be the models that everybody else will follow. If you have your vision and goals in place, you will have a better idea of what type of culture to cultivate.

For example, if your business has to deal with strict deadlines, your leaders should know that tardiness is not something that should be taken lightly. They, in turn, cannot be allowed to come in late without sanctions because the employees will see this and start ignoring the rules as well.

Hire People That Have the Same Values as Your Company

Even at the very beginning, you want to make sure that you get people that fit right in. This is one reason why you interview an applicant, right? Besides discerning whether that person can do the job, you also want to see if that applicant is a great fit culture-wise.

Job skills are things that you can teach. Attitude, on the other hand, can be pretty difficult to change.

Additionally, when an applicant shows that his or her culture aligns with your company’s, you can be assured that that person will bring that attitude anywhere, even outside the office.

You have heard of employees who act one way at the office and then change completely when outside. Is this somebody that you want to represent your company?

Build Effective and Positive Communication Channels Between Managers and Staff

Effective communication is very important in any relationship. It is known that part of good goal-setting is being able to communicate those goals effectively to your team. Managers should be able to keep their teams updated with what needs to be done.

However, communication must be two-way. The team should also be able to tell the managers what they think about the work. Allowing the employees to be able to express their suggestions and feedback will help the leaders adjust their strategy in order to do the job better.

It is important for the leaders of the company to make themselves available to their employees as often as possible. Additionally, they need to show their staff that they can come in and not be punished for making suggestions and providing criticism for existing policies.

Being able to communicate in a positive manner will validate the importance of each and every employee’s opinion. They will feel that their input is not just necessary but is valued and taken into consideration.

Put in Place A Good System for Recognizing Accomplishments

Engagement is often achieved when your employees feel that what they do is being valued. When a company provides recognition for the hard work that employees put it, then it is making a statement that the contributions of the people working there are appreciated.

This has been proven many times. Employees value recognition rather than getting a higher salary. And the recognition doesn’t have to be grand.

Employees value recognition rather than getting a higher salary.

A small note from a supervisor or a 10-minute program to acknowledge a contribution by the people in a department can go a long way in fostering team culture and employee engagement.

Experts claim that focusing on recognizing milestones rather than profit foster a more positive culture in organizations.

Rather than look at how much your team brought in, managers are encouraged to acknowledge the small contributions that each employee made and highlight how this solved a problem for the team.

Regularly Hold Activities That Allow the Employees to Build Positive Relationships

Most workforces that are highly engaged allow their employees to connect with their coworkers and build positive professional relationships. Successful companies know the value of hosting regular events and gatherings that foster camaraderie and team building.

When coworkers are able to build relationships, they view each other as friends, people to help and ask support from. This creates an atmosphere of cooperation. It also makes coming to work more exciting for employees.

It has been proven that people who are able to make strong friendly ties with their coworkers report sick less often and are more engaged.

Allow Your Employees to Take Part in Activities That Foster Personal Development

Letting your employees know that the company cares for them, their wellbeing, and their future is a vital part of building a team that is highly engaged. How do you do this? Invest in your employees’ future by providing them opportunities for training.

When the employees see that you want them to improve, they will be motivated to engage more. Additionally, any skill that they acquire will bring improvement to the team in some form.

Have the managers take part in mentoring programs that would teach employees transferable skills. This way, they can bring these new learnings wherever they go.

Allow the employees to be part in decision-making activities, especially if the decision will have a direct impact on them. This way, they will feel more in control of what is happening to them in the company. By giving them this responsibility, they see their value and become more engaged.

Show Your Employees That You Trust Them

Micromanaging each and every task assigned to your employees will show them that you do not trust them or their capabilities to do their job.

Again, this leads to having your employees ask for permission every time they need to do something.

Once you have communicated the goal to your team, step back and allow them to do it. People who see that their superiors trust them to do the right thing feels more inspired to do a good job.

They become motivated to prove to their leaders that they can do what has been assigned to them.

Conclusion

Remember that highly-motivated and engaged employees care about the company and want the team to achieve its ultimate goal. They are inspired to do their best because they know that their actions solve problems for everybody.

They take responsibility for their actions and take initiatives. These are the type of people that you want in your company. In order to attract and keep these people, you need to build the right culture.

Follow the steps above and see how it will affect your team’s culture. Do you have other ideas on how to build a better team culture, shoot me an email at jeremy@longitudebranding.com

8 Ways That Brand Positioning Will Help You Grow Your Business

With the correct brand position, it’s your business driver, helping you to inform your messages about marketing, how your services are shaped and even how you structure your prices.

The success of your business is influenced by strong brand positioning. But many highly competitive companies have difficulty in positioning themselves and explaining why their business matters. It is difficult, but critical, to do this right. Your customers will not know whether to purchase from you or from your competitors if you fail in this.

In short, positioning is the means by which your brand is markedly distinguished from its competitors. It’s all about what you offer, the value and the position you hold in your intended audience’s mind. Defining a clear position allows you to check your perceptions of the market and to improve the position of your product and/or service upon that market.

How can your company benefit from brand positioning? Here are several different ways here:

1. Brand Positioning Differentiates You in the Market

The world doesn’t need more widgets. However, when your company or your products or services provide an unprecedented proposition, solve an unsatisfied need or deliver the desired experience, Brand Positioning will help you differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Brand positioning allows you to stake out a unique territory (e.g., an industry specialty or a highly specialized service offering) for your business where no competitor will dare to venture because they will be labeled as a “me – too” company, just following in your footsteps.

2. Brand Positioning Cuts Through the Noise

A clear brand position allows you to communicate and reach your target audience efficiently and effectively. We are bombarded every day at every corner with marketing and sales messages. Everyone is fighting for your attention. By speaking directly to the people you intend to attract, your Brand Positioning breaks through the clutter in the midst of all this noise. Your brand is seen and heard clearly instead of shouting to an empty room or to a crowd that doesn’t care about you.

Your Brand Positioning breaks through the clutter in the midst of all this noise.

3. Brand Positioning Helps You Become a Specialist

You will be forced to focus your services accordingly by laying claim to a particular feature or benefit through positioning. This, in turn, will make you perceive yourself as an expert in these services, which will increase your value to your prospects. This is especially important because “specialists” are growing twice as fast as companies that describe themselves as “generalists.”

Positioning helps to provide your business development team’s persuasive sales tools to nurture and close more sales. Unique brand positioning enhances the visibility of business and top – of – mind recall for prospects to help drown out the competition.

4. Brand Positioning Makes Choosing Your Business Easier

Consumers want decisions that are easy. To find the right one for them, they don’t want to screen 30 alternatives. They want to know who to trust and what to buy quickly and easily. Brand Positioning deliberately and subconsciously triggers an emotional response from your target audience. If in the shortest amount of time the right levers are pulled, you increase the likelihood that people will decide “yes.”

5. Brand Positioning Allows You to Compete on More Than Just Price Alone

Whether the mass market uses your brand or you offer a high-end luxury item, Brand Positioning will provide you clarity on your specific value. Your value is what you offer to customers, how it best meets their needs, and how insufficient the alternatives that competitors offer are. You have nothing to offer but ambiguity without Brand Positioning. No one values ambiguity (or buys it).

No one values ambiguity (or buys it).

6. Brand Positioning Justifies Your Pricing

Sometimes your brand still needs price justification even when your value is known. Brand Positioning is where you identify your brand and compare it to the competition and its specific offering, informing you that your price point is strategic and justified. Are you more expensive? Less expensive? Is it obvious why? Are consumers going to respond favorably?

Positioning your business against the competition will assist you in deciding what new services to offer and how to price them. Are you a boutique company at a higher price? Or a low-cost, no-frills business? Which new services support this positioning and pricing?

7. Brand Positioning Informs and Improves Your Design

You will have the insight to make more effective decisions throughout the creative process once you have developed the core message needed to promote your brand positioning. Clear positioning drives communication that is clear.

Visual design needs to build a compelling story that involves strong positioning. If you don’t know what your competition uses, how would you know which colors, fonts, or symbols to use? What if, for example, you didn’t know that color influences the taste of consumers for particular foods? It’s not much different than writing good copy, the difference being that you’re communicating and creating perceptions through images.

8. Brand Positioning Empowers Your Brand’s Story and Messaging

How will you be able to write quality copy without knowing your brand positioning? If you don’t understand how your brand is positioned in the marketplace and your customer’s mind, it will be very difficult to write anything meaningful about yourself. Communicating to an audience is almost impossible if you do not accurately understand the uniqueness of your brand or competition you face.

So asses your brand and ask yourself these questions: is your brand positioned to…

Compete with Confidence? A strong starting point helps you understand, recognize and embrace your meaningful difference to the people that matter to your growth. Look at your competitors to see if you need to change your positioning. How will you compete with the other brands that your audience is comparing you to? How can you best position your brand against any new competitors that may sprout up in the market?

Show people the value of your brand? Your positioning should make your brand more meaningful to those who already understand your brand. You need a deep understanding of your target markets in order to create meaning. Did their behaviors, ways of thinking, principles, needs, ambitions, fears, frustrations, joys, and fantasies change? Work to create simple and meaningful positioning that you can tailor to the target markets of your brand. Work to create simple and meaningful positioning that you can tailor to the target markets of your brand. Positioning that doesn’t fit your customer’s needs, and even foresees them, will struggle to remain relevant today.

Standout in the sea of competition? Your brand positioning should give your brand a coherent, recognizable and impactful picture. This picture distinguishes you from your rivals. What are your differences? Have they been changing with the market? What are your key differences as understood by your target audiences and internal teams? Is the differentiation steady and sustainable? Make sure you’re working to own the space that should separate you.

Make smarter and more informed decisions? The positioning of your brand should be a tactical and strategic compass. Consider whether your staff and leaders use your positioning to guide their strategic decisions to make sure of this. If your leaders do not make important decisions that match your positioning, it’s time to reset and align. Your brand will be more competitive and adaptable when you use positioning to make long and short-term decisions. So bear in mind that long-term successful positioning always leaves room for growth.

Brand positioning, done correctly, can make a marketing powerhouse for your business. It can help focus your services, marketing message, and prospects appeal to your business.

Brand positioning, done correctly, can make a marketing powerhouse for your business.

Highly focused positioning allows you to build a powerful and compelling message around specific areas of expertise that will appeal greatly to a targeted audience in need of your premium services. That’s why it’s so important to have a brand positioning strategy. It gives your prospects value, gives them something to be interested in, and ultimately will persuade them to purchase from you.

When it’s all said and done, Brand Positioning is the most crucial singular part of developing a brand by allowing you to define where you fit into the vast sea of your competition.

How Your Restaurant Can Attract and Retain Good Employees

Restaurants in America are struggling to find and retain good help. While the quality of hire is important, time to hire is also a factor for the fast-paced restaurant industry so fast casual, table service, and quick service restaurants can effectively serve their customers. There are several factors that restaurant owners must consider to attract and retain good employees, but the last one just might surprise you the most.

Finding good employees isn’t as hard as you might think. With today’s tight job market you must look at the obvious items such as pay, benefits, flexible work schedule, company culture, etc. However, the best employees you will find in the market are those who already work for your restaurant brand. Depending on your type of restaurant, there are some unique considerations to explore in retaining the talent you already have and then empowering them to help you fill additional staffing needs you may have to keep up with your brand’s growth.

The best employees you will find in the market are those who already work for your restaurant brand.

Fast-Casual Restaurants

Fast-casual restaurants are known for good quality fresh food, served fast. However, their environment still allows their customers to calmly sit down to enjoy their meals. Retaining employees means you must create a brand culture where employees want to stay. A brand that they can get behind and become a part of something great. When it comes to hiring and retaining the right kind of employees as a Fast Casual restaurant there are five top priorities for employers:

1. Pay – A fair wage is critical in this space. Most employees are younger and starting their own families. Pay needs to be enough to help them live. The earning potential with tips is somewhat limited in this restaurant environment. Pay your staff well.

2. Schedule – With starting a new family and many staff members breaking out on their own, flexible work schedules that work well with school and family is important.

3. Growth Opportunities – Grow your people. Fast-casual is a unique space within the restaurant industry. Invest in your people and treat them well so they don’t want or need to leave to find other growth opportunities. If they leave, be sure they leave well equipped to represent your training commitment and your investment in their professional development.

4. Career Path – This is one of the harder requirements needed to attract and retain great employees. Building a management mentor program or manager in training program along with several different levels of management could be a way to create a career path for your team. This allows staff to see what their options are within your company before the exit strategy ever comes to mind.

5. Cultural Alignment – This is all about brand. Be the kind of company that employees want to be part of.

Flexibility and culture are very important factors needed to attract and retain employees

It seems that in the fast-casual restaurant setting pay can affect your employee’s performance the most. However, flexibility and culture are very important factors needed to attract and retain employees. In fact, when it specifically comes to hiring quality staff employees who feel aligned with your brand’s culture are those who get excited about work every day. They are those employees who are most engaged. Never forget to keep an eye on your current staff and their career aspirations. Be keen on helping them get to where they want to go in their career and you will retain and attract better employees over time.

Table Service Restaurants

Table service restaurants offer more of a formal setting where patrons can pre-plan reservations for sit down meals. Most customers are higher end and statistically more educated. Attracting and retaining employees to this type of restaurant brand requires a bit more planning and employees often want these three things:

1. Earning potential – Most restaurant workers that come to a table service setting are in it for earning potential. They are after the more service-oriented setting that enables them to work hard for better tips from patrons.

2.Brand culture – Create a brand that delivers a clear message of quality. Brand culture is what drives spending for these higher-end establishments. Spending drives the opportunity for your employees.

3.Benefits (health, dental, vision, 401K, etc.) – These are more senior workers, usually, and they are aware of what the job market can offer them. Standing out with a great benefit or compensation package is a great way to attract and retain employees.

Quick Service Restaurants (QSR)

As the last type of restaurant employer, we come to quick service restaurants or QSRs. More often than not this is an area where the conflict between the generations can be found. More often than not these type of employers attract the younger employees. Millennials can often be found in these types of establishments as young managers. Attracting and retaining employees in this space seems to be done easier with strong multinational brands that present these top three values to their employees:

1. Growth Potential – QSR is a fast-paced beast all on its own. McDonald’s has been one of the most successful examples of innovating growth potential for its staff. Their mentoring programs and management training are some of the best in the world. McDonald’s managers are also paid well and recognized for going above and beyond in their individual stores.

2. Employee Recognition – You see it on every employee badge as you walk into most QSR spaces. If someone is new the employer calls it out. If someone is a trainer, they are considered the experts even though they might be young and obviously inexperienced.

3. Brand Culture – QSRs are nearly always large, global brands. They have a clear brand message and brand culture that people want to engage with. Those who seek out opportunities with these brands are doing it to be part of a big industry brand.

There are many things that drive higher employee retention as well as others that make it easier for your restaurant to hire. However, the one consistent tactic across the entire industry is connected to your brand. Brand culture, being something that others can’t live without helps you attract, hire, and retain the best employees in the space. This goes back to the idea that people don’t really care until they know you care.

Being something that others can’t live without helps you attract, hire, and retain the best employees in the space.

Team culture, benefits, pay etc can affect employee performance. Employees who perform at peak performance exhibit more self-confidence and they attract others like them. If your employees are weak, then what you will attract is more weakness. Drive and expect optimal performance from all employees at all times and always offer fair earnings for those who deserve it. The end result will be a restaurant brand that has good employees, increased quality of hire, and lower employee turnover.

Eating Out of Your Hand: 3 Tips for Building Restaurant Brand Loyalty

How to Build Brand Loyalty for Your Restaurant

When considering what to eat, your customers have a variety of options – other restaurants, delivery services, fast food and eating at home. In such a competitive industry, it is essential for your business success to keep your customers regularly coming back for more. The Gartner Group reports that 20 percent of a business’ existing customers can generate as much as 80 percent of its profits. There are 3 keys to fostering those customers so that the 20 percent grows quickly and is a significant group that will provide a profit.

Build a Memorable Brand

Gone are the days when it was enough to simply exist. People used to eat at a restaurant because it was close by. Location was one of the most important factors. Now with so many options – especially delivery – a restaurant needs much more than a well-placed building. Every successful business must have a brand behind it. If you are not sure where to start, keep in mind that the most successful brands start with a story. Perhaps the owner has a compelling background, or maybe the restaurant is founded on strong principles such as only using local ingredients. If you’re unfamiliar with restaurant branding, you may want to consider hiring help from a restaurant marketing agency, who can help you craft a strong identity.

Gone are the days when it was enough to simply exist.

Once you’ve decided on your brand’s story, advertise aggressively. It isn’t enough to have a brand – it must be communicated well. Your potential customers need to understand your brand and have the opportunity to engage with it before they even step foot inside your restaurant. Advertising options are abundant and it depends on the type of restaurant, target customers, and competitive landscape as to what an appropriate marketing mix will consist of. A restaurant marketing agency can help you with advertising placement and other specifics if you want to ensure success.

In addition to having a story, another way to build up your restaurant’s brand is to support the local community. There are a lot of ways you can do this. Dine and Donates, events where a restaurant partners with a local organization and donates a percentage of profits from the event, are incredibly popular. Churches, government groups, school clubs, and other organizations are all likely participants in Dine and Donate programs. Once you begin advertising these types of events, it is likely that other groups will reach out to you as well.

Restaurants can also consider donating gift cards or certificates to local fundraising raffles. Not only does this show support for the fundraiser, but it is also an opportunity for added exposure. If you are concerned about giving away cash as you launch your business, there are other ways to support the community as well. Some restaurants have success featuring local artists or musicians. Other restaurants give leftovers to local homeless organizations. Supporting the community is a great way to not only establish your restaurant’s brand, but it can also help you differentiate your restaurant from the competition.

Employees are another facet of restaurant branding that is sometimes overlooked. It is important to treat your employees well. Each employee has friends and family that they will (or will not) choose to refer to your restaurant. Besides the people your employees know, your employees are your brand representatives. If they are treated fairly, they will be happier and have more respect for the restaurant’s brand. In addition, customers may feel that if a restaurant that does not seem to care about its employees then it does not care about its customers either. Make sure your employees look clean and professional. Providing perks, such as meal incentives while working or even during off-hours, can be a way to provide a positive experience for your brand ambassadors.

Once you’ve established your restaurant’s brand, began advertising it, and made sure that the brand is obvious in every part of your restaurant, you will have already started to turn on the most powerful marketing machine that exists – word of mouth.

Foster Positive Word of Mouth

Many restaurant owners look at word-of-mouth as something that happens to their business and are outside of their control. However, that is not entirely true. Your customers will talk about their experiences. According to Hubspot, consumers casually discuss brands more than 90 times per week. If you focus on giving your customers a positive experience, chances are they will soon be referring friends and becoming increasingly loyal to your brand.

One of the most important aspects of a restaurant to focus on is the quality of the food. Make sure you, and your team, are all dedicated to the same standards. If it is feasible, buy what you can locally, as it will be the best quality. Also, be sure that you and your team have a good understanding of the food. It is critical to cater to a variety of allergies and specific diets like gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, and a big part of being able to meet those unique needs is to know exactly what is in every dish.

Providing quality food is only part of the battle. Your team must also provide outstanding customer service. Some restaurant owners are so invested in their product that they may take a customer’s criticism personally and respond negatively. For a business to be successful, you must instead fix mistakes quickly and build a team that is dedicated to customer satisfaction.

This goes for social media as well. Social media can help you keep your brand top-of-mind; which is an excellent way to foster word-of-mouth referrals and also build more brand awareness. But with social media, there is always a certain amount of feedback. You should strive to respond to every customer comment – positive and negative. And again, with any problems that arise, do your best to make it right. Even if a customer happens to have a negative experience, they will be much more likely to forgive and try again if the brand is sympathetic and proactively addressing concerns than if the brand is dismissive.

Lastly, you can also consider a referral program, especially as your restaurant is first launching. One successful restaurant simply gave a gift card to their initial customer if they found out that that customer had referred a new customer. The program wasn’t advertised or guaranteed, but it was a nice gesture and facilitated more referrals early on. Other restaurants have done more formal programs with specific rule and rewards. A referral program is certainly something to consider as you think about building customer loyalty.

Remarketing is King

The best way to keep your customers returning is to continue to remind them of your business. Organic social media is one avenue for doing this. However, it is not always the most effective channel of communication for brands.

Email and text message marketing tend to be the channels that provide the highest returns. Collect customer information via business card collection, sign-up sheet, or see if your point-of-sale system will store it for you. You may want to offer an incentive for a customer signing up. Once you have obtained their information, then you can stay at the forefront by sending out notifications about new menu items, specials, promotions or other announcements. You can also consider sending out a monthly newsletter, which is a great place to advertise your restaurant’s community engagement and continue establishing your brand.

Another option is paid digital advertising. The two most common types are paid social advertising and search engine marketing. There are a lot of factors when determining which restaurant advertising strategy will be most appropriate for your business, so it may be wise to consult with a restaurant advertising agency if you want to take advantage of these types of advertising strategies.

One common way restaurants build brand loyalty is by launching a loyalty program. A loyalty program is a signal to your customers that you are appreciative of their business. According to upserve.com, 57 percent of adult consumers say they are more likely to dine somewhere when they receive perks for their loyalty. Common restaurant loyalty programs utilize paper punch cards or plastic rewards cards. However, the most utilized loyalty programs are digital – either apps or simply store the information for the customer and retrieve it each time the return.

If you are interested in implementing a rewards program, invest the time to find a reward tracking system. Many of these systems will work with the others that you already have in place, like your point-of-sale system. Digital loyalty programs often provide much higher returns than old school paper punch cards.

Building customer loyalty in the competitive food industry is not easy, but it is vital to success. Remember that it all starts with a strong brand. Your well-established brand will be a facilitator for positive word-of-mouth marketing as well as increase customer loyalty. A restaurant marketing agency can help you if you are having trouble envisioning or communicating your brand.

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