“10 Commandments” to Create a Strong Culture for Your Business

I had weekly meetings with a very busy General Manager. People would see me stepping out of her office and ask how I was able to get one-on-one time every week with the GM. I said, “I asked.” They actually thought that was a great idea. No one had ever asked!

In preparation for these meetings, I would build an agenda all week long. I made a deal with her: instead of me coming down to her office a few times a day to ask for some information I needed, to get direction for one of my projects, or to share a marketing idea I had I would build a list of these things which would be our agenda for the meeting. In exchange for not interrupting her all week long, she would give me an uninterrupted block of time once a week. To be productive in that business environment I had to learn how to manage the GM to accomplish what I needed.

To be productive in that business environment I had to learn how to manage the GM to accomplish what I needed.

As we met and I shared ideas I had come up throughout the week and went over the list of questions I had compiled, I began to see patterns. She was sharing an issue that had come up on the sales floor and had to decide which employee was in the right. I simply looked at her and said: “Well, what does the Policies and Procedures manual say?” She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I said, “We do have a P&P, right?!” I quickly figured out that this business with 100 employees did not.

*Note: This post involves two lists: #1. P&P – a list of employee and business situations that arise, #2. Your 10 Commandments – a list of attitudes and actions expected of employees

There were issues like the one she was dealing with that came up regularly. I told her I could easily start a P&P for the business in a couple of days if she wanted. I told her “As situations like this come up, simply add them to the already compiled list of situations in this rule book that will be created.” I told her the best way to get this started is to think back on employee situations the company had to deal with like this:

  • An employee verbally asked a manager for the weekend off and was told it was okay, but no one except the employee remembers having this conversation. Now the business is short-staffed.
  • An employee was on a sales phone call and their coworkers in neighboring cubicles were playing around, yelling and laughing loudly, and the employee couldn’t hear the customer to complete the sale.
  • Two employees are claiming that a sale belongs to them. One says they started the order, so it’s theirs. The other says there was no information in the order and they did all the work and finished the sale so it belongs to them.

Create Your 10 Commandments List

After making this list of business issues set it aside for a moment to build a second list. This new list is your 10 Commandments list. This will help guide you through the process of building your P&P manual. It will communicate what attitudes and actions are important to you as a GM or owner.

For instance, if someone is looking to get married in the future, they might sit down and make a list of things they’re looking for in a lifetime partner: smart, funny, honest, loyal. You can do this same thing for your business by answering questions like “What characteristics should our business look for in a potential hire?” and “How do we expect our employees to treat customers and each other?”

You can use your 10 Commandments as a culture list to guide you as you respond to situations like those listed above. Here are three examples of things a business might include in their 10 Commandments:

  1. “We over-communicate” – When communication is important, we make sure there is a record of it, and that we clearly communicate what we want or need.
  2. “We respect each other” – We consider others’ needs over our own.
  3. “We work hard” – We seek to do as much as possible, not as little as possible. We always give our best work.

Add More Specific Scenarios

As you begin to build your list of “10 Commandments” (it doesn’t have to be exactly 10), go back through the list of issues that we first listed and begin to add these details and scenarios to your P&P. It might look like this:

  • Scenario #1 “We over-communicate” – When an employee wishes to request time off, they must verbally communicate with a manager. After that manager agrees, the employee must send that manager an email so that there’s an electronic record of the interaction. The manager must then reply to that email with official approval. The request is not approved until the manager replies to the email.
  • Scenario #2 “We work hard” – Any employee requesting time off must find their own replacement so that their shift is covered. Just like with our vacation policy the employee must have both verbal and email interaction with their co-worker who is covering their shift. This information must also be forwarded to the manager so that they know all shifts are covered.
  • Scenario #3 “We respect each other” – The sales floor is a professional environment and is expected to be treated that way. It’s important that we are aware of the needs of our customers and coworkers, and create an environment that makes it easy for everyone to succeed.
  • Scenario #4 “We work hard” – Although the first employee did begin the order so that they can claim ownership of it, they did no work to close the sale. There was not even a single item listed in the order. This order will be split, but in the future, there must be at least one item listed in an unfinished order for the original employee to claim it as their own.
  • Scenario #5 “We respect each other” – It is not respectful to your coworkers to do the minimal amount of work, so that you get credit for the sale, while they are having to complete the entire order on your day off when the customer calls back.

You are the leader, the Moses of your business, and as such you get to etch the 10 Commandments of your business. Building this list and sharing it with everyone will help to begin to set the culture of your business.

Building this list and sharing it with everyone will help to begin to set the culture of your business.

You can then use these broad principles to start your P&P manual. This manual is a rulebook or Bible that simply answers the questions: “How do we do business? What do we do in this situation?” As situations arise, consult your list of 10 Commandments. Display them prominently around the building for both your employees and customers to see. When a decision is made, simply add that to your P&P to communicate clearly to employees what is expected of them.

Doing this will help lessen frustration since employees won’t have to guess what’s expected of them. Also, this is respectful to employees because they can see that you were willing to take the extra time and effort to put this together when it would have been easier for you to just make rules up on the fly.

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.

Earn More 5-Star Reviews with These 8 Reputation Management Tips

There’s no doubt that managing your online reputation and reviews is important, but just how important is it?

Check out some of these statistics from a study conducted by BrightLocal:

  • 93% of people will look at your reviews to determine if you’re a good or bad place to visit.
  • 91% of people age 18-34 years old, trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from friends or family.
  • On average, people will read 10 reviews before feeling like they can trust your business.

Online reviews are super important! So, what can we do to make sure every customer walks away feeling like they had a five-star experience?

Below are some tips to help you earn more 5-star reviews, and be better equipped to manage your reputation.

1. Know When to Correctly Ask for A Review

Do not simply ask customers to leave you positive reviews. To do this would be too forward and demanding. Yet, you certainly do get more reviews when you politely ask for them.

So how can you ask for a review from customers in a way that will be encouraging, instead of desperate? The last thing you’d want is to appear too pushy. Not only that, but this type of behavior is frowned upon by sites such as Yelp.

So here’s an easy way to do it.

When you speak with customers after a stay, a meal or a purchase, consider politely asking for reviews from those of your patrons who had great experiences with your establishment. You can ask them for reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor – which are the top 4 review sites that every restaurant or hotel should monitor.

If you have their email address, you can also email them after their stay with a link directly to your company’s site, making it easier for them to leave a review. You can even use programs like Podium to automatically help customers post positive ratings on social media platforms.

2. Know How to Manage Your Online Listings

The best thing to do is to follow five easy rules to manage your online reviews. You will want to always make sure you are acting quickly and with a sense of compassion when it comes to managing these reviews.

Firstly, know how to answer back.

Use the proper tone and words for the situation at hand. Do not fight back with a customer over a bad review.

Rather, you can try to spin it in a positive way. Offer a solution.

Even simply acknowledging the situation can sometimes be enough.

Second, make sure you write back fast.

This is the age of now. Bad reviews can go around like the plague, so handle it quickly.

A fast response shows that you really care about the customer, too.

Third, make sure you know about social marketing.

These days, over 90% of buying decisions are influenced by social media.

You must know how to connect with your followers and your reviewers. Offer them something in return for leaving a review. This generates positive feedback for you and demonstrates loyalty to the followers.

Fourth, stay current.

Keep reviews fresh and up to date.

This lends credibility to your online presence and has an impact on your sales conversions, too.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Effective reputation management can sometimes be a lot of work and require a significant amount of time. But it’s important.

Many restaurants will hire an agency to help take some of that burden of their shoulds to manage their reputation, and that is often a good choice for them.

Also, there are plenty of reputation management tools and services can be very helpful. For instance, you can be notified when a negative review is posted thanks to various programs and applications, some of which are tailored to your business.

We’ve seen them utilized by all types of hospitality brands.

3. Make Sure Your Guest Experience is Worth 5 Stars

There are many things you can do to make sure your guests have a five-star experience. You may not be running the Ritz-Carlton, but you can absolutely treat your guests like they are the most valued clientele ever.

The best things you can do for your customers is to ensure they have a great experience by…

Being Attentive and Responsive to them.

Keep true to the norms of your platform. 24-hour response time is acceptable for email, but 24 hours on social media is a no-no. The ability to respond in minutes is ideal and demonstrates a great online presence, plus care about your clients’ needs.

Knowing Ahead of Time What Their Needs Are.

You are the expert in your field-flex that muscle and show them you know your stuff! You might even offer a deal on that particular part or service as a means to get them to come back to you when the time comes.

Being Honest and Transparent.

Honesty is the best policy, and it is true more than ever when it comes to your establishment.

This is the age of the internet where people of all walks of life share stories and experiences. Lying about something would only tarnish your reputation- so just be honest from the get-go.

Actively Being Involved in Solving the Conflict

Taking responsibility and solving the problem yourself is a huge win. Pawning it off onto someone else looks sloppy and delays conflict resolution. Once you have figured a solution, follow up with your client and verify that needs are met or better yet, exceeded!

Being Ready, and Happy, To Help Your Customers

A positive attitude works wonders for customers. Smile! Act like they are the only customers you have helped today.

4. Be Active Online

Make sure that you are active on all of your social media profiles.

In this manner, people are more likely to come to you if they have a problem instead of going directly to a review website.

Just an email is not enough. Even if it is plainly listed, many people think twice about contacting in this method. The way to work around this is relatively easy: have an online presence.

Make sure you put a face to the name and utilize social media. Write about your establishment in blog posts, post on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure you have an “About Us” page that is current.

Lastly, be sure all your contact information is clearly listed, and you include turnaround time for when you will contact your client back.

5. Make Sure You Apologize

Apologizing is the name of the game in some situations when it comes to having a small business, or a large one, for that matter.

But knowing when to do so is important, too. Be sure that you are keeping a close eye on what people are posting. No matter how great their stay was or how easy it is to reach your team, there are bound to be a few negative words posted.

Many customers who have had an experience that was less than savory really just want their situation to be acknowledged. They may want to speak with you directly, or they may have posted an online review.

In any case, you should always apologize whether the problem is real or perceived. You can say that you are sorry the experience was not up to par, and that you hope the next one is much better for them.

The best thing, of course, is to use the right words and tone, and always be sincere when you say your apology.

6. Amplify Your Positive Reviews on Social Media

Sometimes we become too “enamored” or wrapped up in responding to those who have left us negative reviews. This is certainly important as we want to make sure we can fix the problem and get them to come back for another chance.

However, you should take pride in your positive reviews just as much. You can and should absolutely share the positive feedback you get on your blog or social media profiles.

After all, we discussed earlier how much of a role social media plays in consumers’ buying decisions. Why not create a positive image for yourself using real reviews from happy clients?

7. Be Easy to Reach

I cannot stress enough how important it is that your contact information is up to date and gets customers to an employee that can help them solve any issues.

Having an email address with a turnaround time for responses listed, a phone number where a human being can be reached, as well as a social media account that is active and thriving are all ways consumers can easily reach you.

The important thing is to make sure your clientele know that they can easily and directly reach you in the event they encounter any problems with their purchase or service.

8. Change Things Based Upon Feedback

Customers always have ideas and suggestions about how things can be improved. Some are actually good ideas, others are not. It is still very important that you read through them, however.

You might see some common themes or trends emerge that could be worth acting upon.

For instance, if you note that several customers had issues with your payment vendor, it may be time to contract with a new one. If several clients noted that a particular server brought them the wrong order, consider coaching or retraining that server or finding them a better job fit.

When you make big or small changes based upon customer feedback, this shows you really care what they have to say and makes a big impact on the experience for customers in the present and future.

Conclusion

So, what are your ideas for creating a guest experience like no other? I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to send me an email at jeremy@longitudebranding.com

Also, if you found this article helpful, we’d appreciate if you could share this with your network. Thanks!

8 Most Common Reasons Restaurants Close Within the First Year.

Every now and then, the concept of owning a restaurant can make you start up a new company while overlooking the actual responsibilities and issues that restaurant ownership entails. All too often, this leads to novice restaurant owners closing their doors in the first year.

You shouldn’t be one of them.

According to some studies, 60 percent of restaurants close or change ownership within the first year of operation, and 80 percent close within the first five years.

Restaurants fail for many reasons, ranging from health-related closures to constantly poor reviews. However, if you understand the most common factors that cause restaurants to fail, then you can identify warnings signs early, make better decisions, and hopefully not face a disaster.

A Terrible Location

You’ve heard it said: Location, location, location.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, reasons a restaurant fails is a poor location. Low visibility, no easily accessible parking, and low foot traffic is a mix that makes turning a profit almost impossible.

Choosing the right spot can even compensate for many of the other shortcomings in this list, but a great location won’t ever compensate or excuse you from providing the basics of excellent service and great quality food.

A great location won’t ever compensate or excuse you from providing the basics of excellent service and great quality food.

If you are already operating in a bad location, there are strategies and things you can do to overcome that challenge. Here’s an article we’ve published that may give you some ideas: 7 Ways Your Restaurant Can Still Thrive Despite a Bad Location

Not Enough Capital to Operate

Based on the sort of restaurant you are planning to open, hundreds of thousands of dollars or more may be needed to cover payroll, suppliers, and other expenses until you turn a profit.

Keep in mind that your loan has to last through the grand opening day. Before you serve a single customer, don’t foolishly purchase brand new appliances and furniture for a restaurant. Buy only what you need and weigh the advantages of the equipment you are using. Do not put anyone on the payroll until as near as possible to the opening day.

Be very frugal with your starting loan; do not treat it as if you were just winning the lottery.

As your planning your restaurant, here is a free guide you can read to help you along the way. It covers everything from concept, to funding, legal setup, and grand opening. The Ultimate Guide: How to Start a Restaurant

Bad Customer Service

Poor customer service is a common reason for the closure of any restaurant. A reputation for poor service will spread like wildfire and sometimes it may seem irreparable. Even the finest three-starred restaurant would close down with poor service. Customer service is one of the essential pillars of operating a successful restaurant, and to remain open.

A reputation for poor service will spread like wildfire and sometimes it may seem irreparable.

In the early phases, asking for customer feedback ensures that you can work out the kinks before it’s too late.

Poorly Managed

When you’re searching for a general manager to help run your day-to-day operations, you’ll probably find someone with the most experience and excellent references –and an all around good vibe and cultural fit.

But even still, sometimes you may find a few months later that they’re not running the restaurant well. They may be alienating employees, taking long breaks, or even worse –stealing money or taking advantage of restaurant resources.

These day-to-day pressures of owning and operating a restaurant, combined with the difficulties in staffing restaurants and hospitality brands, can cause great harm to your staff and team culture if not addressed. You need to do regular check-ins with your management and team members to make sure they’re performing at their highest potential.

Poor Marketing & Advertising Efforts

Advertising and marketing are both essential to creating the reputation of a unique restaurant –especially as more and more chain restaurants open throughout the nation. Most people believe you need to pay exorbitant prices to attract customers, however, you can spread awareness at little to no expense to a targeted demographic with social media and word-of-mouth marketing.

Even more importantly, before you begin spending money on any marketing or advertising, you should make sure you have a clear game plan and strategy on what message you’ll be communicating with your customers.

Who are your customers? What do they care about? What makes your restaurant unique? Why should people care about your restaurant?

Do you have a purposeful and profitable brand strategy?

Answering all of these questions and more will help ensure you have a compelling brand story that attracts more customers. Do you have a purposeful and profitable brand strategy? Read more about our restaurant brand strategy process – BrandGPS™.

Ignoring or Evading Taxes

Federal and state taxes come with heavy penalties, charges, and other assorted fees when paid late, but when a restaurant faces tough times, on-time payments are often difficult. Many owners will completely avoid paying taxes and hope that they will get away scot-free.

It may happen once, but tax negligence ends almost always with heavy penalties, closures of businesses, or even jail time.

Being Too “Hands-Off”

To be a restaurant owner, this means that you need to work at your restaurant. Your job as an owner isn’t to just hang out, chat with customers, and become a famous restaurant owner in the process.

Great restaurant owners are often the first in the door and the last out at closing because the owner not only has the most to lose, but the most to gain. Unless the property is solely an investment or the proprietor lives outside the city, the person in charge should be there every day, discovering new solutions to increase profit margins, engage team members, and develop a profitable brand.

Not Properly Tracking Food Costs

The first step towards making a profit is to know how to correctly price your restaurant menu. Do you understand how to calculate your cost per-plate? The majority of owners don’t. For instance, you could try adding an expensive premium ingredient to a lower cost dish, to take full advantage of your per-plate cost and profit margin.

Several other modifications can help to bring the cost of food down without the same flavor. Sticking to the 30% food price golden rule will help you to maintain a healthy profit margin for all of your menu items.

Sticking to the 30% food price golden rule will help you to maintain a healthy profit margin for all of your menu items.

In Conclusion

Now you know the primary reasons why many restaurants fail. You have the chance to study your market and research new ideas – make sure that your concept really works.

Yet, if you never step out and try -you’ll never truly know what it means to be a restaurant owner.

Regardless of all of your planning, the restaurant may fail. But if you continually try to grow and learn while operating within the core functions of any successful restaurant (excellent food, service, and location) you will increase your chances of achievement.

On top of all this, developing a great concept, great name, and brand identity for your restaurant is the icing on the cake. These core foundational strategies will help you be more focused and intentional toward building a strong reputation for your restaurant – and a restaurant that’s set up to succeed.

Want to know more? Download our free E-Book: “7-Figure Restaurant

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

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