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.

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.

The Ultimate Guide: How to Start a Restaurant

How to Start a Restaurant

If you’ve looked around online about how to start a restaurant, it’s likely that you’ve seen an article or two talking about all the reasons you should not even try.

But don’t listen to these naysayers — it’s your dream, so go for it. Even after hearing all of these arguments of these pessimists, if you’re still excited about pursuing your dreams of being a restaurant owner, then we’ve got the perfect step-by-step guide that you’ll need for starting a successful restaurant.

Three Foundations of Opening a Restaurant

Before you get hung up on too many ideas, focus on these three foundations of starting a restaurant:

  1. Pick a Relevant Concept.
  2. Hire the Right Chef.
  3. Location, Location, Location.

There’s nothing that can ever really prepare you for starting a restaurant, no matter what type of background or level experience you came from. No matter how much you read, how many videos you watch, how many seminars you go to, there are some things that can only come from the experience of being a restauranteur. However, with this guide, we will do our best to make sure that you are set up for success, and are fully prepared to make the plunge.

Finding your perfect Niche

In our experience as both restaurant branding experts and passionate foodies, we know that there are many options out there as far as concepts that you could consider. Each one requiring a certain set of skills in order to keep them running effectively.

As you consider starting your restaurant, try to find opportunities that you can take advantage of. What food, service, or convenience have you found missing? Is there a need in your market that is still unfulfilled?

As you consider these questions, if you find that it’s not meeting your options enough, maybe consider looking at the latest restaurant trends for inspiration.
There are plenty of unique, and fun concepts out there – so there’s no need for you to create something from thin air.

Should You Choose a Franchise?

As you are dreaming about one day opening a restaurant, you might be thinking, “I don’t really want to reinvent the wheel, but there is a big need for a fast and casual Indian joint in my city!”

If that sounds like you, then it might be good to start looking for a franchise opportunity.

The great thing about a franchise is that most of the work has already been done for you. Organizing a menu, conceptualizing interior design, and making a marketing plan from scratch, are all things you don’t have to worry about. Plus, the allure of an already recognizable brand will help draw in customers for you.

The brand recognition that comes with franchise restaurants, as well as a lower failure rate than independently owned restaurants, are all part of the reason franchises are so appealing.

However, just like anything, owning a restaurant franchise has both pros and cons. Despite all the benefits that come with launching a recognizable brand with a proven plan for success already in place, there are a few downsides.

First and foremost, franchises aren’t cheap. Often times you’ll need a large sum of personal assets instead of a loan, and buying the rights the franchise are typically non-refundable.

In addition to this, you don’t have flexibility with the business model, so when it comes to getting creative with running your restaurant, your options are pretty limited. For instance, if your franchise headquarters opts to do a complete overhaul of its decor, then you’ll have to put out the money for it, even if you don’t want to. If you’ve chosen the franchise route, then make sure you consider these things and do some more research into your specific franchise before you dive in.

A Better Business Plan: Crafting a Brand Strategy

In all honesty, when all you want to do is get cooking in the kitchen, crafting unique and delicious recipes, and making your customers happy, the last thing you want to do is slow down and begin writing a business plan.

Nothing sounds less fun than researching, creating spreadsheets, graphing charts and analyzing statistics.

But, before your eyes glaze over and you move on to the “fun” steps of opening a restaurant, you should ask yourself the following:

Would you try and create a dish you’ve never made before without ever even looking at a recipe? No.

Just as a recipe gives you the guidelines, roadmap, and action plan to create a stellar dish, a brand strategy will give you the recipe to make sure your restaurant is set up to win, not fail.

This step is often the difference between a restaurant that will fail or one that will succeed. Or a restaurant that is doomed to make just enough to pay bills or one that is very profitable and successful.

A brand strategy gets you thinking deeper

A brand strategy gets you thinking deeper about the future of your restaurant, the market you’re serving, the risks and challenges you’ll face, and the viability of seeing your ultimate dreams become reality.

When your brand strategy is well thought out and refined, you’ll have a better idea of which steps should come next for you as you are opening your restaurant and pursuing your dream.

Here are the 12 biggest questions you should answer as you are planning for the future of your restaurant:

Decide What kind of restaurant do you want?

There are so many types of restaurants in all shapes, and all sizes. From fast-and-casual concepts to food trucks, to cafes, bars, or major franchises. Step number one is narrowing down your ideas to a specific concept.

Write out a long and short answer to this question, and then get familiar with explaining it to family, friends, investors, lenders, and future customers. This will be like your “elevator pitch” in a way. It’s something you’ll need to practice repeating over and over.

Who is your restaurant for?

Before you can begin getting customers into your doors, you need to know who they are. This is also known as your target market. It’s a group of people who your restaurant is meant to serve.

The more specific you can get, the better. When you know your customer deeply, and intimately, you’ll be able to craft a better menu, design, environment and better overall experience for them.

When you understand your customers’ decision making, their fears, their desires, their motivations – your marketing campaigns will be much more effective and you’ll reach your ideal demographic more easily.

When you make these customer profiles, it’s good to be aware of how many households in the area you plan to serve are in your price point. You’ll need to find a location that is close to customers who can support your prices, and that isn’t already flooded with similar restaurant concepts. This decision is hugely important in the long-term success and growth of your restaurant.

Who are your restaurant’s main competitors?

Many business owners might tell you to never worry about your competition and just run your business with your nose to the ground. Only worry about yourself.

This could be good advice in the sense that you don’t want to mindlessly copy your competition, always worrying about what they’re doing, and trying to mimic them, or “one-up” them. However, when you’re first starting a restaurant it’s vital to know who your primary competitors are in the market.

You’ll want to know how they are similar, and how they are different from your restaurant. Do plenty of research to identify your competitors, as this will save you from the frustrations and failure that can come from creating a restaurant concept that is already too saturated or is positioned poorly against the other options.

Where’s the best location?

You’ve heard it before, “location, location, location.” It’s been said millions of times, yet it still rings true to this day. This step is one of the most important steps in the success of your restaurant.

By now you should have already narrowed down potential locations based on defining your target market and looking at your competition. You should be able to make some smart conclusions from these things.

For instance, it would be silly to put a high-end steakhouse in the middle of a low-income neighborhood.

With the same token, a trendy taco truck probably wouldn’t do well near a gated community of retired elderly people. Although, who knows… everyone loves tacos!

What’s your unique value proposition?

Don’t let this word scare you, it’s not complex, and really all that it means is that you should find what makes you different from your competition.

What is it about your food, your storefront, your atmosphere, your location, your pricing, that makes you unique and stand out among your competitors?

Maybe there’s something special about your specific location, or maybe you offer a very unique customer experience, or maybe the ingredients of your food are locally sourced and organic. There are many ways that your restaurant can stand out amongst the competition, so it’s important to discover this for your own restaurant.

One important factor of discovering and defining a unique value proposition is the menu that you offer. It’s important to test it, even on a small scale. Host tasting parties, or pop up events, leading up to the grand opening of a restaurant. This will allow you to gain important feedback, so you can know how to serve your customers best.

Your menu may change over time, but with a well-defined brand strategy, unique value proposition, and understanding your customers, the menu that you launch with should serve your restaurant well.

How will your customers find your restaurant?

How are you answer this question will be the beginning foundation of your restaurant marketing strategy.

Unfortunately for businesses, especially restaurants, the idea of “if you build it, they will come “doesn’t apply. Simply existing, is usually not enough for a restaurant to survive let alone thrive.

Since you now understand your customer, be thinking of ways that you can connect with him. Will you connect through paid advertising, social media campaigns, rely on word-of-mouth? Word-of-mouth referrals are great but aren’t always enough. You need to have a plan of action of what, and who, you’ll need in order to help get your message out.

Some other ideas for spreading the word could be inviting food bloggers to visit your restaurant, hosting a large grand opening event and inviting the community, and of course ensuring your restaurant is listed on Yelp, OpenTable, and has updated listings on Google and other social platforms.

Also, before you open you want to make sure you have a press kit, Nice photography, a video, and an “about” section of your website ready for any local or national news organizations that show interest.

What resources will your restaurant need?

You’ve heard it said before, it takes money to make money. And the same rings true for restaurants.

You’ll need to know what it will take to open and operate your restaurant. What types of resources will you need? Will you be the head chef, or will you hire a head chef? What type of technology will your restaurant use to process payments, or book reservations online? How many employees will you need? Will you hire an agency specializing in restaurant branding to design your logo, or have your nephew design it?

Take time now to list out all of the expenses your business will incur; both one time and recurring expenses. Be diligent, and as precise as possible.

Don’t forget to search for costs related to other mundane and operational things. Utilities, pest control, cleaning services, laundry services, etc.

If there are other needs that are not related to money, list those out as well.

How will your restaurant make money?

You can have the best idea in the world about what food or service you offer that customers will love, but that doesn’t always mean that your restaurant concepts will succeed and be profitable.

The effort that you put into your business model through developing a brand strategy is often what will determine how successful your restaurant will be. Will you generate just enough revenue to get by? Will you be able to make enough to cover all of your expenses? Will you eventually be able to make more money, and be profitable?

This is often where many restaurants fail because they don’t take the time thinking this through. The average restaurant thinks that simply opening their doors, will mean that the restaurant will make money.

That simply is not the case.

You’ll want to think through things related to the pricing structure of your menu, how you will choose your staff, what sort of insurance and licenses you will have and how much they will cost, and many other tax obligations, and red tape you’ll have to jump through.

How long will it take for your restaurant to make a profit?

It’s typical for a new restaurant to start out with a loss when they first open up, the first year is especially difficult. As you continue to invest in the necessary resources and work towards understanding and acquiring new customers, and work out all the kinks that come with operating a restaurant, there is a learning curve.

However, after some time, if you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll be making a good profit on top of your expenses.

Consider using a revenue forecast model to figure out how long it will take your restaurant to recoup your initial investments, to simply breakeven, and eventually run a profitable business.

What values will you never compromise in running a restaurant?

When you are in the thick of operating a restaurant, it important to be making good decisions at every turn and knowing what you stand for is critical to that.

You should define what values are most important to you, in business and personally. What values do you hold closest to you? What’s something that’s non-negotiable?

Write these values down, and limit them to two or three. This doesn’t mean you can’t have more than two or three values, but as the saying goes, “ if everything is important, then nothing is important.”

Creating and documenting these core values at the start will help you in your decision making, your operations, and every decision you make for your restaurant. From choosing the right vendor to how your menu should evolve over time, or critical decisions during pivotal times.

What’s your staffing plan?

Great service makes food taste even better.

It’s important to have skilled, hard-working, and qualified staff. And this begins with finding great candidates.

You can certainly find candidates through the usual means of job boards and website listings, and there’s always the classic sign in the window approach. However, finding the best quality team members is often achieved through personal connections.

Whether it is your head chef, a friend, or family member, reach out and start looking for the most reliable candidates possible. It’s very likely that your chef will want to bring people they have a past working relationship with, so be sure that these people fit into your company‘s culture.

Finding them is just one challenge, next you’ll have to train them.

Solid foundational training related to rules of food service and best practices in customer service will set your company apart, and a lay out a precedent early on with your restaurant.

When your team members are engaged, and you have a staff that supports you and your vision, and delivers exceptional customer service – that is a recipe for success. Your customers will notice, and their loyalty to your brand will strengthen.

What’s the endgame?

Have you considered what your endgame is? Is your plan to build a restaurant that one day you hope to sell, or are you hoping for a long-term sustainable business for you and your family? Do you simply want to start a small restaurant that you can pass down to your children and your grandchildren? Or are you wanting to start a franchise that will revolutionize the industry?

Understanding where you want to end up and how you want to get there, and when you want to get there, will help you make informed and smart decisions along the way.
Before going any further you should take time and outline what that looks like to you and create steps along the way.

If you want to reach your goal in 10 years, what should you be doing on an annual basis? What action should you be taking on a monthly basis to reach your annual target? What thing should you be focusing on a weekly basis to reach your monthly goal? And what should you be doing on a daily basis, to reach your weekly goal?

Make Your Restaurant Official

Now that we have the big picture game plan out of the way, it’s time to get down to business, making it official.

The early stages of starting a restaurant are filled with more paperwork and legal red tape to jump through than at any other point in your business.

This is definitely not the most exciting part of opening a restaurant, but be diligent. Taking time now to ensure that you properly establish your restaurant from the beginning will save you many potential headache and hazards down the road.

Below are some of the primary steps you’ll need to take in order to get your restaurant legally established with all of the proper paperwork for federal, state and local authorities.

Register Your Restaurants Official Business Name

If you’ve chosen a unique name for your business, then you should go and file your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name with your state’s agency.

Even if you have different future plans for the legal structure of your restaurant, filing a DBA at this early stage will protect you from getting your name stolen from you by a fellow restaurateur. It’s really simple and usually only costs a small amount to register it, so don’t wait.

Pick a Legal Structure for Your Restaurant

The next big step for getting your restaurant legally sound is to decide what sort of business entity is right for your restaurant.

Whatever structure you decide now will affect how you file for your state and federal business taxes, will influence how you split duties and roles of your team members, and determine how you will be held liable in the event that legal action is taken against your restaurant.

At this stage, it can be a good idea to consult with a business attorney to help you make the right choice because there are a lot of long-term issues that can arise from choosing the wrong option at this stage.

As you are considering all options, here is a basic overview of the various business structures you can choose from.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the most basic business structure, and a simple one, but there are upsides and downsides to this structure.

In this structure, you alone own the company and are personally responsible for any liabilities or legal claims associated with it.

The best part of this structure is that you don’t need to take any formal action to start.

If your business is operating under your own name, you can start right away. Or, if you have a clever idea for your business’ name, then filing a DBA will be all you need.

This could be a perfect structure for you if you won’t be taking on any fixed assets or hiring employees: examples would be a food truck, pop-up restaurant, or a very small operation.

Partnership

This structure is meant for a single business that is owned by two or more individuals.

There are a number of partnership structures you can select from, including a general partnership, joint venture, or a limited partnership.

The downside, and why most experienced entrepreneurs don’t recommend the partnership structure, is because there isn’t much protection from liability offered.

As you are considering this, also remember that business partnerships are very much like a marriage. It should be a long-term commitment, and you are legally and financially tied to them.

Because of this, you should do your due diligence in choosing a business partner who is in it for the long haul and shares your same goals and values. Be sure that you are both very clear on the terms and expectations, and put it into detailed writing. Define the roles and responsibilities of each partner.

Be very clear and communicate well upfront with your partner, before anyone “signs the dotted line.” This could save you from potentially catastrophic issues that may arise in the future.

Corporation

The corporation is a very complex business structure typically reserved for larger organizations, or for those that have a particularly high liability — needing some extra reassurance.

Many attorneys will recommend this is the legal structure for your restaurant. And it scales well as you hire more employees.

However, keep in mind that filing as a corporation requires you to have Board of Directors, and has more stringent tax filing requirements.

So be sure to consult an attorney and be prepared from a more complex process.

S-Corporation

These are very similar in structure to a C-Corporation, yet it’s different in that it’s taxed on an individual business owner level, instead of as a corporation.

If you think that the structure of the corporation would be a good fit, but don’t want to have to deal with complicated dividend tax filings, an S-Corp might be a good route for you.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC offers a liability structure similar to a corporation, yet flexibility and simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership. The Limited Liability Company (LLC) structure has grown in popularity over the years because you are able to get the “best of both worlds.”

Restaurateurs who select an LLC for the business structure can choose between a single officer, a partnership, or a limited liability corporation.

When selecting between various options, always it’s important to consult with an attorney.

This is an important decision that will have a potential long-term impact on your business, so be sure to do your due diligence, research, and consider all the options.

Get a Tax Identification Number

Your tax ID number, also known as your employee identification number (EIN) helps the IRS keep track of your restaurant for tax purposes.

It’s almost like a Social Security number for your business.

If you plan to hire any employees, such as waitstaff, hosts, hostesses, chefs, cooking staff, or even dishwashers, you’re going to need this number to ensure that your restaurant is on the up and up. This is especially important if your restaurant is established as a corporation or partnership.

You can easily obtain an employer identification number by applying online at the Internal Revenue Service website.

Register Your Restaurant for State and Local Taxes

In addition to federal business taxes, almost all US states and territories require you to pay income and employment taxes for your business.

Some states even have additional requirements, such as state-mandated Worker’s Compensation or unemployment insurance.

Be sure to check out your requirements, since filing procedures vary widely from state to state.

Get Secure Permits, Insurance, and Licenses for your Restaurant

Every four years the FDA will update the food code, but the specific details of what is required, strongly encouraged, or just optional can vary depending on which state you live and sometimes even between specific counties.

We recommend starting by finding your states food service code regulation department. Be sure to check your local health department to ensure that all of your bases are covered.

It’s also a very good idea to keep a calendar to remind yourself of renewal, and payment due dates. You don’t want to experience the frustration of walking into your restaurant one day and find that one of your permits or licenses has expired!

Get Food and Health Code Licenses

No matter the size of your operation, it will require some sort of official approval showing that you are safely handling the food and drinks that you serve.

The specific names of these can vary depending on your establishment, but they all certify that you’re safely handling, storing, and serving the food in your restaurant. And if you thought that having a food cart or a simple booth at a festival will get you out of this, think again. They have licenses for those too.

Alcohol has its own special sets of permits and rules. These will not only cover the protocols around safely serving alcohol, but also deal with training on how to handle customers that have had a little too much to drink.

Health Department Permits

Isn’t this the same thing that we just talked about? No, not exactly.

The health department has its own specific standards and guidelines around how you store, prepare, and serve your food. Your restaurant will need to be inspected to comply with operational standards as well as consumption safety.

Things like maximum occupancy, ventilation, fire hazards, sink placement, restroom regulations, or food preparation surface types, and so on.

Make Your Restaurant Compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act

In 1992 the Department of Justice passed the Americans With Disabilities Act to protect consumers and employees with disabilities from being discriminated against, and allowing places in public to provide proper accommodation.

The complete details of the ADA are available, but the Small Business Administration has also created a short guide for small businesses to understand what is expected of them.

Besides all of the specifics of various angles, measurements, and legal jargon, it really just boils down to having proper accommodations in place for people with disabilities. So they can safely park, enter your restaurant, order food and eat at a table.

Find Insurance for Your Restaurant

Despite jumping through all the red tape and every legal hoop with the health department, you still need some added safety nets in place.

There are many, many small business insurance options. There’s one for everything, and some are way more beneficial than others.

Specific requirements vary depending on where you live, and how you were funded, but at a base level you want to consider these:

  • Property Insurance
  • General Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Auto Liability
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Liquor Liability
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance
  • Fire Insurance
  • Food Contamination
  • Loss of Business

Funding Your Newly Opened Restaurant

To be quite honest, funding a restaurant isn’t easy.

Even if you only hope to open a small café, all of the costs associated with construction, staffing, permits, equipment, marketing, and of course the food, can add up very quickly and can easily be more than what you have in your bank account.

You’ll likely need some funding from somewhere to start your restaurant unless you happen to be independently wealthy.

Restaurateurs choose to finance their restaurants in many different ways. Some reach out to friends and family, others will get a loan, and some work with investors.

Below we are going to review some financing options that can be considered.

Small Business Loans for Starting a Restaurant

The most common way that many small businesses get financing is through borrowing funds through a bank or lender.

The lending industry has grown tremendously over the years, and now has a wide variety of loan products that can meet the needs of any entrepreneur.

If you think this could be a good route for you and help you fund your restaurant, then it would be worth taking a moment to review the most common loan types used.

Term Loans

This is probably the most well-known type of loan. A term loan provides a set timeline and repayment structure, with fixed or variable interest rates.

The terms of this loan will vary depending on your business needs, and your credit rating. Terms can range from one year with daily payments up to a five-year with monthly payments and everything in between.

SBA Loans

Because small business lending is so risky for many commercial lenders, they’ve been slightly hesitant to let the small business owners borrow money, and this is especially true with new restaurant ventures.

Due to this, the Small Business Administration began to guarantee up to 80% of the loan principal for term loans with participating lending institutions. This might be a viable option if you are already experienced in the restaurant and food industry. If you are not, you likely won’t be considered.

The SBA offers many different loan programs, including some for aspiring restaurant owners.

If you plan to go this route, you will certainly need to have all of your ducks in a row. Write a great business plan that highlights the need for your restaurant and the uniqueness of your concept. Also, be prepared to have anywhere from 20% to 30% of the total loan amount in cash — or take out a mortgage on your home.

Keep in mind that while an SBA loan may make lenders more willing to consider your application, the SBA loan process is very lengthy and can take several months.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing might be a good choice if you are needing cash to make a large purchase such as point of sale technology, furniture, or commercial kitchen appliances.

This type of financing is very similar to the structure of a car loan, with the amount that you can borrow depends on the price and type of equipment that you’re buying.

You likely won’t be asked to put up collateral either, because the equipment itself will serve as the collateral.

The terms of this type of financing typically are a fixed interest rate — often between 8% and 30% — along with a fixed term length which makes your payments the same each month.

Short-Term Loans

For a restaurant with smaller and immediate needs for finances, a short term loan can be a lifesaver. These loans are typically between three and 18 months and are similar to traditional term loans. They are usually in the range of $2500-$250,000.

Short term loans can get you to cash in hand in as little as two days, helping you make rent payments, pay food vendors, cover your payroll, or meet other immediate overhead expenses when cash is tight. Interest rates can be as low as 14% on these types of loans.

Line of Credit

The most flexible form of financing for a business is a business line of credit, which gives you capital to draw upon to meet your business needs.

After being established, you can draw from your line of credit just as you would a personal credit card. Use your line of credit for more working capital, buying inventory, paying off other debts, or getting you through seasonal cash flow issues.

If you are planning to apply for any type of small business loan at any point in the future, be sure that you regularly audit your personal and business credit reports, and do everything you can to improve your score.

Aside from your annual revenue, length of time you’ve been in business and your average bank balance, your personal and business credit scores are often the most important factors that determine if you’re eligible for a small business loan.

Business Funding Alternatives

There are also other ways to finance a restaurant. Here are a few alternatives you may consider to help cover the costs of your new restaurant venture.

Angel Investors

Every single day there are thousands of people who are investing both finances and their expertise into what they believe is the next big thing.

Angel investors have the means and experience — and have often been very successful entrepreneurs themselves — to personally invest in a variety of restaurant ventures, lending their resources and expertise, and furthering their own income as well.

When an angel investor provides funds and expertise, you will also be giving them a certain amount of equity in your business, and often times they will have a certain amount of decision making power.

Just as you think through a partnership, be sure that you think through working with an angel investor. You want to make sure that you both are wanting the same thing for the restaurant.

Venture Capital Firms

Venture-capital firms are similar to Angel investors, but they are more organized and can fund projects on a much larger scale through purchasing percentages of a business in a startup’s “round” of funding.

Most venture-capital firms require a minimum investment to be in the $1 million range, so you should only consider this if your goal is to build a very large scale chain of restaurants, as opposed to only a handful of locations.

Funding a restaurant through a venture capital firm can also be highly competitive most restaurant owners won’t meet the criteria a venture capital firm would seek.

Friends and Family

You’re likely to have the support of your family and friends as you start your restaurant, and some may even be interested and willing to invest funds to help it succeed.

Accepting money from friends and family may often have strings attached, despite everyone’s best intentions. Loss of income and a failing restaurant can ruin relationships.

If you go this route, strive to keep all interactions as professional as possible.

Negotiate as much up front as you can, and communicate expectations as clearly as possible. Be sure to offer a well-thought-out proposal just as you would any other investor, and put the exact terms of the investment in writing.

Restaurants will often offer “dining perks” for these investors. Think of it as a permanent reservation or discount to sweeten the deal.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has grown significantly in popularity over the years. Websites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo are perfect for small ventures that are simply looking to offer products or goods in exchange for a contribution.

Larger scale startups may consider equity crowdfunding platforms like EquityNet. This type of crowdfunding will sell company equity to capital investors.

You should not underestimate the value of a few hundred pledges, each around $10, $20 or even, $50. And if your campaign goes viral, your possibilities grow even more. It can all add up fast!

A Final Note

At the end of the day, starting a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. There are many challenges ahead, and many questions must be answered.

The restaurant industry is one of the most ruthless, cutthroat, notorious industries. The failure rate of restaurant startup is significantly higher than any other industry.

Although we covered a lot of details surrounding what it takes to start a restaurant, the bottom line is that you won’t fully understand these challenges, until you’ve experienced them.

Before starting your restaurant, take time to make sure you’re ready to jump in – mentally, financially, physically, and relationally.

Make sure you seek out help from mentors and experts in the industry.

Any additional amount of work you can do, before getting too far into the process, can save you a lot of wasted time, energy and frustration down the road.

When the time comes for you to develop a brand and marketing strategy for your restaurant — please reach out to the restaurant branding experts at Longitude. We’d love to chat.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing A Great Tagline for Your Restaurant

The restaurant landscape is rapidly changing with the pace of innovative technology. Five years ago, the concept of quick-service restaurants (QSR) was shifting away from just service at the counter. Today consumers can order online and pick up at the window. As a restaurant owner, this means that you have even less time than before to connect your brand and the consumer.

Tag lines can be effective to grab attention and resonate with the buyer. However, building an effective tag line that represents your brand is important and there are some clear do’s and don’ts to consider. This article will explore a few of these considerations.

What is a Tagline?

First, let’s define what a tag line is. A tag line or “tagline” is a short text which clarifies a thought, usually through a dramatic effect. A few examples might help.

  • Subway – “Eat Fresh”
  • Nike – “Just Do It”
  • Bounty – “The Quicker Picker Upper”
  • Apple – “Think Different”
  • KFC – “Finger-Lickin’ Good”
  • Dunkin’ Donuts – “America Runs on Dunkin”

Nike’s tag line is one example of a tag line that suggests dramatization. Just Do What? It? Anything you want. But you can’t do it unless you’ve got Nikes on. While this is interesting, the best tag lines in the QSR and restaurant space are those that are well crafted to help buyers instantly understand your offering.

Eat Fresh is a pretty clear tag line of how Subway and consumers might perceive Subway in the market place.

Restaurant Tagline “Don’ts”

First, according to Building a Story Brand (2019), talking about yourself shouldn’t be part of your tag line. Buyers don’t care about your restaurant the same way you might. What your customers really want to know is what your restaurant provides and why your brand is the better choice for a meal.

Second, Don’t make your tag line boring. This is where a creative brainstorming session with a small diverse group of people can make magic happen. The worst thing you can ever do to a restaurant tag line is to make it boring. You must capture the energy of your menu, your brand positioning, and your culture. Take a look at this mock example:

“The Tri-State Region’s Highest Rated Beef Sandwich for a Quick Lunch”
or
“Prime rib sandwiches made at your speed. Built to fill you up.”

In the first example, it’s all about business. You’ve seen this kind of tag line before probably. It’s just a statement of fact. Boring. Right? The second example has an emotional connection. You need speed and a good meal. By keeping the tag line message relevant to customer needs, they know how to get what they need.

The final “don’t” for this article is don’t use jargon and inside language. Consumer’s don’t know what QSRs are and they don’t care that you might be a QSR over a table service establishment. People can’t figure out tag lines that are complex and full of jargon.

People can’t figure out tag lines that are complex and full of jargon.

One last don’t in the world of tag lines. Don’t be offensive. AT&T used “Reach out and touch someone” just creepy if you think about it. How about the example from Dr. Pepper Ten? “It’s not for women” or the Old Spice example of “Smell Better Than Yourself”. Offensive tag lines just don’t work well. They can push consumers away. Just don’t do it.

Restaurant Tagline “Dos”

First, keep it simple.

Make sure a 5th grader can read and understand it. Don’t just think they will. Ask them. If people have to work hard to figure out what you want to say, they will ditch your brand altogether. Eat Fresh comes to mind again with short, clear words. You would expect and Subway you will eat and that the food will be fresh. Any 5th grader can read and understand this.

Second, short and simple is always best.

Keep your tag line short. Less than 5 words is ideal. According to Dr. A. L. Pradeep in the Buying Brain the subconscious mind is making the buying decision most of the time when it comes to food. You tag line must say a lot with almost no words. None of the tag lines in the examples above have more than 5 words. Third, try to capture your unique value point in your tag line. What is it the customer will gain? How will your restaurant make customers’ lives better? Why is your restaurant better than the ones across the street or next door?

Finally, building a tag line should never trump building a brand to support it.

Your brand is your culture. It is the experience employees, patrons, and the community will experience. The most important aspect of building your tag line should be your ability to connect it to your culture.

Concluding Remarks

Great tag lines serve as brand triggers. When you see, hear a tag line you should be able to associate the tag line with the brand. Can you label 5 or these brands just by the tag line alone? If so, they work.

  • The breakfast of champions
  • The happiest place on earth
  • Can you hear me now? Good
  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands
  • I’m loving It
  • Imagination at work
  • What’s in your wallet?

You probably got at least 5 of these tag lines right. Each of these tag lines serves a single purpose. They trigger your subconscious mind to connect the words to a brand. Tag lines are important in every industry but really important for restaurants to better define your brand and at most times the menu.

To summarize consider writing out everything you’ve heard about your restaurant from others along with what you think about it. By now you should have three or four good paragraphs. Spend the time here to lay a foundation to help you design your restaurant’s tag line. If you don’t have much keep going. Dig deep.

Now for the fun part. Make ten copies and distribute them to 10 people. Have them read what you wrote and circle only five words that jumped out at them. Then ask them to make a quick note as to what that specific word meant to them. After this approach, you will end up with a clear message that resonates with people you want to serve. If you serve prime rib sandwiches at lunch, you might get something creative like Prime Sandwiches, Prime Time.

25+ Restaurant Branding and Logo Design Inspirations

Fast Food Restaurant Branding

Fast food restaurants are primarily focused on the speed of the service. These operations can range anywhere from small scale street food carts to massive multi-billion-dollar corporations such as McDonald’s or Taco Bell. Food isn’t ordered from the table, but rather a front counter. After ordering, diners will typically carry their own food to their table, and dispose of their own waste after eating. Drive through and take-out options may also be available. Fast food restaurants are also known as Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs).

fast food restaurant branding by Amr Ashraf

by Amr Ashraf

 

fast food restaurant branding

by Longitude°

by Rico John Jambaro

fast food restaurant branding

by Insigniada

by Arpit Dawar

by Melissa Cong-Huyen

by Ben Harman

Fast-Casual Restaurant Branding

Fast-casual restaurants are usually chain restaurants, like Qdoba or Panera Bread. In contrast to fast food restaurants, food is often prepared at the restaurant instead of offsite. Fast-casual restaurants don’t typically offer full table service, however many do provide non-disposable cutlery and plates. The prices of food tend to be higher, and also the quality of the food is better than conventional fast food restaurants, but sometimes is lower than a casual dining experience.

by Roden Dushi

fast casual restaurant branding by Longitude

by Longitude

fast casual restaurant branding by Longitude

by Longitude°

by Honedon

by Lucas Jubb

Casual Dining Restaurant Branding

A restaurant that serves moderately-priced food with a casual atmosphere is often referred to as a “casual dining restaurant.” Aside from buffet restaurants, these restaurants will typically provide table service as well. Examples of chain restaurants that would fall into this category would be TGI Fridays or Applebee’s. Casual dining restaurants will usually have a full bar and a separate bar staff as well as a full beer menu and limited selection of wines.

by Martin David

casual dining restaurant branding

by Longitude°

casual dining restaurant branding

by Longitude°

by Brad Lockhart

by Ron Gibbons

Premium Casual Restaurant Branding

Originating from Western Canada, premium casual restaurants include chains like Earl’s, JOEY, or Cactus Club Cafe. These types of restaurants are often considered as an upscale fast-casual restaurant. LIke casual dining, they will often have a dining room and lounge area with multiple screens. These types of restaurants are typically found in shopping districts or downtown areas and will attract young professionals to their urban atmosphere. Premium casual restaurants have a wide variety of menu options including pasta, pizza, seafood, burgers, steaks, and Asian foods.

by Tad Carpenter

by Nathan Riley

by SIMMER

by peter molnaar

by Steve Wolf

by Josh Warren

by Longitude°

Fine Dining Restaurant Branding

Fine dining restaurants have specific, dedicated meal courses, and provide full-service to guests. The design of these restaurants will feature high-quality materials, and will often have particular rules for dining that visitors are expected to follow – sometimes this includes a dress code.

by 𝚃𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚘𝚛𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚖

by Aaron Bloom

by Mike Ryan

by Ian Ruisard

by Aaron Johnson

6 Fatal Mistakes That Restaurants Commonly Make – and How to Avoid Them

As restaurant brand experts, it is safe to assume that we genuinely love everything about restaurants and the strong-willed, creative people who run them. If you’re ready to unveil your own brand, then we really want you to prosper.

It’s commonly said that 90% of restaurants will fail within their first year, and although that isn’t entirely true, it is true that new restaurants are much more likely to fall than established restaurants. In fact, 60% will fail within the first 3 years of opening their doors.

60% of restaurants will fail within the first 3 years of opening their doors.

With an ever-increasing world of consumers who are brand-conscious, we see first hand that whether a restaurant sinks or swims is largely dependent on the quality of their brand strategy and identity. However, we also realize that most restauranteurs are very busy, wearing multiple hats, working long hours – and most aren’t branding experts. This means errors are often made, or things overlooked regarding their brand strategy.

Because of this, I have pulled from our team’s experience in helping hundreds of brands over the last decade, and I’ve put together a list of the 6 most common ways restaurants fail at branding – and how to avoid them. I hope you find it insightful, and that this article will help you identify and steer clear of these potentially harmful missteps.

1. Forcing Your Story

At the root of any great brand is your story. This isn’t just a cliché word either; our story gets us through ups and downs. It gets us up every morning and gets us excited about what we do. It makes our brand authentic. However, a problem occurs when a leader tries to push their passions onto their team members, or other partners. People have their own passions, their own pursuits, their own desires – their own story. If you aren’t able to clearly tell your story and relay your vision, then challenges will inevitably come. This is one of the most common ways that restaurants fail – building a culture centered around a single vision.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Having open and honest talks with everyone on your team
  • Discovering how to encourage and excite your team members
  • Identifying areas where your team’s vision isn’t aligned with yours, and also finding commonality
  • Leveraging the things you learn about your team to shape your brand and your vision so there’s a better chance at energizing and motivating your team

2. Following Restaurant Trends

Trends will come and go – this always been, and always will be, the case. Inevitably, there’s always one shiny new concept that attracts the most attention and stands out among the rest. Restauranteurs will flock to this concept, and before you know it there’s a vegan burger restaurant on every corner.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a bad thing to launch a concept based on a trend. You’ll even find restauranteurs attempt to take a new spin on a trend – “vegan burgers with a new twist!” As irresistible as it may be, following trends isn’t always the best decision.

You don’t want to appear second-best.

The real problem lies in the fact that a trend is set by the leaders, and it’s hard for consumers to see any new attempt as anything other than an “imitator.” You don’t want to appear second-best. This is a very difficult position for a restaurant to dwell in because you’re forced to compete on price or availability alone. If you’re not careful you’ll be lucky to survive, let alone thrive.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Do your research on the market before launching
  • Find a concept that will be unique and viable in your market
  • If you’re trying to start in an existing category pin-point the category leader
  • Figure out what you can offer to your customers that can special and differentiate you from the leader
  • When you discover your unique position, follow through and be consistent. Pretty soon you’ll be the leader in your own industry.

3. A Confusing Restaurant Concept

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes restaurants try something so unique and out-of-the-box that it causes more confusion and harm than anything. Usually, this approach is thought to differentiate them against the competitors and establish their own completely unique category. The problem is that when your primary goal is simply “be different,” you risk alienating your customers.

People usually pick where they eat based on their own understanding of existing restaurant categories. When your concept doesn’t fit the mold of any common restaurant category, it’s easy to be overlooked by customers. Being unique can be beneficial, but if you can’t communicate it clearly to your audience, your “uniqueness” will fall on deaf ears.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • After you find a good opportunity in your market, think about how you’d want a new customer to explain the experience and the food to their friend.
  • Is it hard to understand? Could people easily explain it?
  • If your unique concept is too confusing for you to explain, it’ll be much more difficult for your customers to explain
  • Spend time to clarify your concept until it’s so simple a child could explain it

4. Naming Your Restaurant

Picking a name for your restaurant is often a huge creative endeavor of its own. Restauranteurs love to see their dream becoming real, but too often that can lead to making rushed decisions. This happens a lot in naming a restaurant.

There are two ways that this problem commonly occurs: first, the name is decided well before any sort of brand story or strategy is in place, which can cause great confusion if there is anything misaligned once the brand strategy is in place. Second, the name isn’t available which leads to picking a name that isn’t future-proof or will cause huge headaches with trademarking down the road.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Develop your name with the help of a naming or branding agency which has this as a part of their brand development process
  • If you can’t do that, simply use a temporary “working name” until your strategy is defined and ready to go
  • In order to avoid any trademark issues, be sure to have an attorney review your name, and give it the “okay.”

5. Too Focused on a Logo Alone

Your brand isn’t your logo, it is your reputation. It’s how the public perceives you. It’s created by what you say, how you look, and what you do. Simply put, your words, look, and actions need to align, or you’ll be causing harm to your brand.

This is where many restauranteurs fail. Creating a brand for your restaurant is much, much more than creating a pretty logo. In order to create a wonderful experience that will turn your customers into raving fans, you need a brand strategy and identity that will make an impact. A comprehensive and cohesive brand identity system for your restaurant can tell the story much more effectively than if you only had a logo and a handful of colors.

A first impression is everything, and you won’t get a second chance.

A first impression is everything, and you won’t get a second chance. Putting a logo on your doors and saying your restaurant is “branded” won’t draw in more customers – especially those who have a keen sense for good design and aesthetic.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Hire an experienced brand strategist or agency to design and develop a comprehensive visual identity for your brand
  • Be sure that you have a guideline book created to ensure visual consistency with all future touchpoints
  • Use this new system as a filter to ensure that you’re creating a memorable and consistent experience for your customers

6. Ignoring Your Target Audience

This is one of the most common mistakes that we see restaurants make. Restauranteurs will often spend so much time thinking about their restaurant as they are creating it, that they completely forget to be mindful of who their customer will be and how to attract them.

We’ve posted about this in another article (related to hotel branding), but it goes back to the mentality from the popular movie, “Field of Dreams.” In that movie, a baseball field is built on the simple idea that, “if you build it, they [ghosts of famous baseball players] will come.” It makes for a great movie, but a terrible business strategy.

Your customers aren’t ghosts. If you don’t know your customer, you’re not going to have a clear plan of how to get them excited about your restaurant. This makes it very difficult to create a brand experience that will resonate with anyone, let alone the target audience that exists only in your mind.

You may be building an entire restaurant concept based on a customer that doesn’t exist

Another problem that could arise is that without thinking about a target customer, you may be building an entire restaurant concept based on a customer that doesn’t exist. This will result in the swift death of a restaurant and is a common culprit in many restaurant failures we’ve seen. Your customers will only come if you are providing something they’ll care about, and your brand strategy is focused on them.

Avoid this Mistake:

  • Take time to sit down and understand your customer
  • Create customer personas that are a mixture of demographic information and experienced-based information
  • What do your customers care about? What negative things are they trying to avoid?
  • Ensure that as you are defining your restaurant concept, that these customer personas are at the front of your mind

7. Going it Alone (Bonus!)

The benefit of working with a brand agency, like Longitude, who specializes in restaurants, food, beverage, and hospitality will help you develop a restaurant concept like no other. We help guide you through the difficult journey and tumultuous terrain of building a powerful, influential, and profitable brand for your restaurant. Let the restaurant branding experts at Longitude help you avoid these fatal mistakes and turn the vision for your restaurant a reality.

Don’t attempt to go it alone. We’d love to help.

Avoid this Mistake:

7 Ways to (Almost) Guarantee That Your Restaurant Will Have the Best Chance at Success

In today’s competitive market businesses fail at alarming rates. This is especially apparent in the restaurant space. According to Forbes (2017), the failure rate of restaurants (which was once reported as being 80% higher than other types of businesses), is simply lower than reported. In fact, restaurants were found to fail at about the same rate of insurance agencies. While restaurant failure is higher than what most might expect, the chances of success are much greater than you might think. This article will provide 7 ways that you can guarantee restaurant success.

1. Create and Tell a Compelling Story

The most effective way to guarantee success in the restaurant industry is to create and tell a compelling story. There are five core elements of a compelling story.

  1. Connect with your intended audience. The best stories connect at an emotional level telling your audience why your restaurant exists. What is the story behind the restaurant and its leadership team? You can’t be afraid to really get into the why more specifically you’re why.
  2. Explain the challenge your customers face. Maybe it’s the need for healthier meal options for dual working parent family. Uncover the challenge and how your restaurant solves it.
  3. Every great story has some kind of conflict. What are the conflicts your buyers face? Is it time, money, or fear of not getting a great meal for their kids from a fast food place? Whatever the challenge and conflict make sure your compelling story is relatable.
  4. Communicate clearly how your restaurant can conquer the customer’s fear. For example, if the fear is money, a “kids eat free” message could resonate. However, you must clearly understand the fear before you can conquer it. Some of the suggestions below can help with that.
  5. Conclude with a clear call to action. For example, “Join us on Monday’s for family night from 6pm to 8pm where kids eat free and drinks are half off.

2. Understand Your Restaurant’s Unique Position

Another sure way to guarantee the success of your restaurant is through understanding how it is unique in the eyes of the market and most importantly in the eyes of your ideal customer. Is part of your story unique (i.e. founded to train individuals who struggled with the law in the past or designed to employ individuals with disabilities)? What other restaurant choices are in your market? How are you different? Being different is just as important and many times more important than being better. An example of a unique position of a restaurant that might come to mind could be the blackout dining experience. Yes, everything is pitch dark. What this experience does according to food experts is heighten the other senses to deliver a unique food experience. What is your unique position and how does it resonate with your customer profiles?

Being different is just as important and many times more important than being better.

3. Develop Customer Profiles

Knowing your customer (KYC) is a process that is not new to marketing nor the restaurant space. Clearly understanding who your customers are, what they need, want, and like is critical to set your restaurant up for success. Take the time to develop customer profiles but go way beyond demographic information. Try to talk to them. Listen and document how they talk about your restaurant in their words. Repeat what you heard back to the customer and validate the message resonates. Try to get into the details of what they do professionally, what their hobbies and interests are, etc. The more you know the stronger your customer profiles will be. This information results in a better alignment of your restaurant and what the customers are seeking when it comes to their buying decision for a meal.

4. Craft a Clear Message

After you have found out what makes your restaurant’s brand unique and developed strong customer profiles the logical next step is to tell your brand story with a clear message. The most effective way to craft a clear message is to use the language your customers use. Brands that do this have a much better chance of success. Some examples might come to mind:

  • “Eating fresh in the neighborhood”
  • “There is no place like the neighborhood”
  • “License to grill”
  • “Eat fresh”
  • “I’m lovin’ it”

It’s important that your message is clear and concise and that it goes much further than just a slogan. The message becomes central to your customer and their experience with your brand.

5. Deliver Quality Food and Service

Great food and a remarkable experience are where great and growing restaurants stand out. Some of the slogan messages above are strong messages but the experience with both the food and service is less than desired. You must deliver a food and guest experience that is memorable. For example, imagine a hostess that greats the guest by the last name as the result of the reservation and who knows they just came from downtown after rush traffic. A hostess who can have a real conversation with the guest can go a long way to setting the stage. Then continue to deliver that experience with every staff interaction. Deliver food that is prepared right and with the highest possible quality ingredients. Make sure the guest knows the effort that goes into getting it right. It’s a strong message delivering a wedge salad to the table while letting the guest know that the iceberg lettuce was grown on an organic farm 3 miles away. When it comes to delivery, it is all about the genuine wow factor you can provide.

Make sure the guest knows the effort that goes into getting it right.

6. Reward Loyalty

Guests who dine with you often should be rewarded. Get to know them and welcome them as friends to your establishment. Rewards do not always need to be monetary. Rewarding a guest with a personalized welcome card at the table could be enough. Change rewards up and keep them fresh. Discounts and spur of the moment giveaways can be unique. Everyone else gives points, while not a bad idea, it’s also not a unique idea. Get outside of the norm and be unique yet again with rewarding loyalty. Partner with the neighborhood movie theater and give away tickets to guests who just showed up at your restaurant for the 5th time.

7. Invest in the Brand Experience

By now you’ve probably got the understanding that investing in your restaurants brand experience is the cornerstone of guaranteed success. If you are not able or willing to invest in the guest experience with your restaurant brand, you probably should take a step back and re-evaluate your strategy. Make sure your brand experience is connected with your digital and physical brand identity. The look, feel smell, taste, and smell all come together in a unique way when it comes to branding a restaurant. Invest in all senses for the best impact.

In summary, these 7 ways can help your restaurant succeed at a much higher rate than the industry average. Pulling in outside resources to help profile your customers, craft your brand message, and develop the customer experience is an effective method to get it right. You can focus expertise on delivering the food and guest experience, while an expert third party helps communicate your unique position.

3 Keys For Effective Restaurant Branding

 

Whether an established restaurant or a brand new opening, here are 3 keys that are essential for effective branding.

While these keys apply to any industry, Longitude works frequently in the restaurant industry and we will look at these keys from that angle.

 

1. Accuracy

When deciding the look and feel for your restaurant, the first thing to do is establish what type you are and what makes you unique. What is the personality of the restaurant? Is your restaurant appealing to the 20-year-old hipster, the family with young kids, or the senior citizen looking for a good deal? Identifying your target audience is important to determine how to position your branding accurately.

I have seen very high-end restaurants with branding that implies fast and cheap. There are many factors –price, menu, target audience, speed of service – that make up who you are.

A quick glance at your signage, website, social media, etc., should accurately represent the experience the customer can expect.

 

2. Creativity

Your branding may be accurate, but just as important is creativity. Design influences buying decisions. When people are deciding on trying a new restaurant they need to be compelled through a creative logo and brand.

Good food or great service isn’t enough — those are a given. Every place needs something unique that only they can do and this must be communicated creatively through the branding.

First impressions are a huge part of gaining new customers. They will encounter your brand before ever tasting your food or giving you a shot at earning their business.

Is your brand identity interesting and inviting, or is it cliche, boring and forgettable?

 

3. Consistency

Once you’ve worked to create an accurate and unique brand, it has to be executed consistently. Most larger chains understand the importance of this, but many independent restaurants struggle.

A brand style guide or brand guideline document is something that should be developed. This will establish a foundation in order for everything to be executed consistently.

Any campaign or touch point with your audience should point back to the brand visually.

Starbucks can introduce new campaigns and products in creative and new ways but still looking unmistakably like Starbucks. The Starbucks visual identity has been executed consistently for so long that it is burned into our subconscious. In order to be remembered, you have to be consistent.

 

Is your brand identity lacking in one of these areas?

Longitude works with restaurants to create accurate, creative and consistent brand identities that bring long-term value to the business.

Ready to Talk? Send a Message

Or just email us at info@longitudebranding.com