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.

The Greatest Restaurant Grand Opening Ever

If you are getting ready to open up your new restaurant, you might think the hard part is over. You’ve considered the location. You have nailed down your concept. You have financed it, after weeks and weeks of applications, letters, meetings, and presentation of your ideas.

You have sent the menu to the graphic designers and they have sent back a menu that would make Gordon Ramsay hungry. The staff has been hired, from the host all the way to the chef.

You are ready, right? Not so.

This is not meant to discourage you or prevent you from feeling the well-deserved joy that you will experience as the doors open and customers with empty stomachs come by.

This is meant to make sure that you cross that finish line like a true champion-that is, by hosting a grand opening that will leave a positive impression on the minds of your customers and keep them coming back week after week.

Stay with us as we discuss various ways to start your business with a bang and keep it booming.

The Basic Steps

At long last, it is time to throw a fun party because it’s true: The really tough stuff is done. So, what are the basics of throwing a memorable grand opening? Let’s take a look.

1. Figure Out the Sort of Event You Want, And A Budget for It

When you think about all that has gone into starting this business up to this point, it can be extremely tempting to handle the opening of your establishment as just another day; a relatively minor thing.

However, having a well-mapped out restaurant grand opening is a huge part of your overall restaurant marketing strategy. The key to opening a restaurant with a bang is relatively easy; you are going to need to know how to get people in the door, and throwing a great party is a way to make it all happen.

However, this does not mean you have to go crazy and spend heaps of money as a way of holding a super grand opening. It is better overall that you do not do this, as there are going to be lots of other expenses that come your way once the business gets up and running.

There are lots of ways to get a restaurant grand opening going. You can actually roll out a “red carpet” to make guests feel like VIPs. You can set up a buffet of samples and then tempt customers with a special offer, like buying an entree and receiving a percentage off the second one.

You can also offer some refreshments or feature live music. You might also print up some coupons in the form of fliers that guests can use on a future visit.

Make yourself a comprehensive list of all the expenses needed for your opening and be sure the total cost is budget-friendly. Once you have thought about and priced fliers, music, decor, food and any giveaways or promo products, you can see if you need to modify your budget or celebration in any way, whether you are under budget or need to take it down a notch.

having a well-mapped out restaurant grand opening is a huge part of your overall restaurant marketing strategy.

2. Allow Ample Time for Yourself

Give yourself plenty of time to plan. A month to three months will be sufficient. You may wish to print up fliers, or invitations, depending on the type of establishment you are opening. You will need time to mail the invites/fliers to the local area, or at least time to hang them in public areas where everyone can see them.

Delegate tasks to your staff members, or the restaurant PR firm so that duties and deadlines are met and filled. Be sure that you keep track of everything you do, and how much money you spend. Use Excel spreadsheets or checklists so that nothing is overlooked. And be sure that you check in with all of your help so that everybody’s on the same page.

You may even consider doing a dry run. You might start doing business before the grand opening takes place so your employees know what to do, are well trained, and any little bugaboos or issues can be worked out ahead of time.

3. Know Your Target Audience

The art of launching a restaurant has many facets, and one of them is knowing the demographics of people you would most like to reach. Your restaurant’s grand opening needs to draw in your customer base, but also the restaurant supply companies you are working with as well as the local media. It is a chance for you to show off your new restaurant and enter your community with a bang.

Let the local media know that you are new in town. This is a great way to get some publicity, before and after the grand opening takes place. About three weeks before your grand opening is scheduled, contact your local media by phone. You can also mail out a press release if you like. (We will discuss shortly how to do well when using a press release).

If you can, ask a local celebrity like a popular radio host or the mayor to come in for a meal and drink, and also give him or her the honor of cutting the ribbon if you plan to do such a ceremony. Be sure that you also inform the media as well. This can result in photos being sent to the local newspaper or a social media site, along with a column about your new eatery.

Preparing for the media is just as important as planning your grand opening. Be sure that you have that press kit available-and this is not nearly as complicated as it sounds. You can simply pick up some pocket folders and include your business card, a copy of the menu and some questions and answers about your restaurant, and some other helpful facts about your business.

The art of launching a restaurant has many facets

4. Be Sure the Event Is Restaurant-Friendly

For a restaurant, you will want to do things like give away free samples of the food you are offering, as well as have menu copies available so customers always know what great meals you offer.

You might have a staff member offer to show guests around if you have varying areas of the restaurants. For instance, if you cater to families, show off the banquet rooms or areas designed for groups with little kids or babies.

If you are running an upscale establishment, show off your intimate table settings and bar areas. Your goal is to sell your establishment as the place your target demographic would like to be when it’s time to go out to eat.

5. Make Sure Your Expectations are Realistic

Remember, things don’t happen overnight. Your grand opening will be a great way to get your restaurant off on the right foot. But restaurant marketing must be a top priority as your business grows and expands.

Some great ways to keep the word going about your great eatery include:

  • Fun giveaways, like magnets with your phone number and a photo of your signature dish
  • Keychains (perhaps shaped like a food item you offer) or can koozies customers can use to advertise for you
  • Email newsletters or loyalty programs that keep customers coming back for good deals and specials
  • Praising and showing off your hardworking staff on social media
  • Asking grand opening attendees to tell a friend or family member about your place

Restaurant marketing must be a top priority as your business grows and expands.

Regarding Press Releases

Okay, so you have sent out some press releases to your local papers, magazines, Pennysaver, and other media outlets, like radio or television. But there have been no callbacks! What is going wrong? What can somebody do to increase their chances of being published?

First, do not assume that you have completely missed the boat on this one if you haven’t heard back from the people and outlets you have contacted. There have been stories published in some major newspapers and magazines long after the press releases have been sent in. However, we sometimes don’t have that much time to wait. Try again, revising your submission in such a way that appeals to the readers of the publication you seek to advertise in.

When you send out a press release, consider who you are sending it to, and how newsworthy it is. The editors of your local paper have to publish things that appeal to their readers. Therefore, you want to make sure your press release appeals to the people in your local area. Be sure you read and revise your press release over before sending it so that it conveys interest to the editors of your local publications.

Do your best, and perhaps have your PR specialist go over it. They can help you be unique and appealing with the way your release is presented. Don’t use buzz words or try to sound like something you’re not; most editors usually edit the release so that it fits the target audience. Make your headline attention-grabbing so that the editor stays hooked and doesn’t simply put your release at the bottom of the pile.

Make your release sound more like news than anything. Promotion is what editors find most annoying; your goal is to make your release sound like useful info, entertainment, or relevant news.

Remember, keep on keeping on. One publication may want nothing to do with your establishment, but another one will take joy in publishing your story. Editors are always seeking some news. Just keep it short, sweet and to the point while still telling why your restaurant is important and valuable to the community.

Make your release sound more like news than anything. Promotion is what editors find most annoying.

Generate Some Hype

One important aspect of any restaurant start-up event is getting people ready for your establishment. Get them amped and excited to come down and give it a try!

In this portion, we are going to talk about how you can use some marketing strategies to get the word out and get people excited about your restaurant.

  • Keep an eye on your presence when it comes to social media. Social media is a huge deal in today’s world. Sure, you can slip some menus under the door and mail out some coupons, but that’s not enough. Restaurants that have a strong social media presence tend to do well. Start up a Facebook page before you open that shows off your planned Grand Opening festivities, menu, and photos of meals you plan on serving. You can even use your Facebook page as a place to share savings opportunities, promote news and let people know your hours. You can also use this as a place to promote the positive press your company gets!
  • Promote visual content with Instagram. Show off the front of your establishment so people will know what to look for when they come looking for it. If you are a steakhouse, upload photos of the meat cooking on the grill or the fields from which your beef grazes. If you specialize in family dining, upload photos of families who happily celebrated birthdays or special events at your establishments, thanking them for their business. Make hashtags fun again-you can use old favorites like #TBT or create some of your own. Photos of food, employees working hard and more will appeal to customers.
  • Keep Your Menu Easy to Navigate & Functional. Do not make it hard for users to locate your menu. Publish one that is easy to read, accurate, and current. Be sure you include what dishes are good for those with dietary restrictions: gluten free, vegan/vegetarian, diabetics. Customers today NEED to access menus online, or they will take their business elsewhere.

Get People Inside

The whole town will not be able to make it to your grand opening, unfortunately. So, what can you do to get people in the door once they have time to come down?

This section ties in with our previous discussion of generating some hype. This portion is all about enticing the customers into your establishment.

  • Invest in Photography. Photos are what your clientele sees before they even set foot in your restaurant. Your website should feature top-notch photos of your food, settings, and bar area. Try to hire a food photographer if you can, and, combined with your fun Instagram photos, put them all over social media and in your fliers/commercials to get people excited about what you sell.
  • Have Regular Events. This is dependent upon your restaurant. You might bring in live music, have a wine tasting event where you collaborate with a local winery, or bring in a face painter or balloon artist for families with kids. You can even host events that correlate with big movie releases or concerts and invite people to dress up as their favorite character or wear a band t-shirt to get a percentage off their bill.
  • Be the Hangout Spot. Is there a major sports event coming up? Be sure you can broadcast it and offer drink and appetizer specials in honor of the occasion. A lot of people like to go out and share the joy of sports with friends and they don’t have to be in charge of cleanup. Large groups of people will eat, drink and linger while they watch the event for a few hours.

Encourage Repeat Business

Great food and amazing service from your staff are the key drivers in making sure your customers keep coming back. But what are some other methods you can use once your grand opening is over?

  • Keep the Menu Fresh. Fresh foods are loved by diners everywhere, but for this scenario, we mean keeping it changing. Restaurants always offer daily specials, and this makes the experience exciting for customers. You might even have the chef make up some samples and distribute them to diners, imploring them to try. You can then let them know it will be served next week, so be sure to stop by again. Ask your chefs what their specialty is. If your chef perfectly replicates his Italian grandmother’s lasagna, for instance, make sure it appears as a special one of the nights and you advertise on social media.
  • Have a reward system in place. Everyone and we mean everyone, loves a good deal. Giving away a free item once in a while is a good way to bring diners back. Families and couples alike always look for ways to save money. Cards that can be stamped toward a free meal or appetizer are surefire winners. Email lists are a great and unobtrusive way to offer customers deals and get them coming back for more. Send these out before special days like Super Bowl Sunday or Mother’s Day so that they can plan to come to your restaurant and celebrate. You might offer a free dessert or 50% off the purchase of a second meal on these special occasions.

Summing It Up

Keeping your restaurant at the forefront of everybody’s mind is going to be tough, but you can absolutely do it. Plan ahead, budget accordingly, and of course, have confidence in your staff, food, and ability to provide excellent service. Your community will be enjoying your eatery for decades!

Longitude is a hospitality branding and concept development agency. For questions, please reach out to Jeremy Wells at jeremy@longitudebranding.com.

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.

Top 8 Restaurant Marketing Trends in 2019

Restaurant marketing trends are rapidly changing as tech, consumer desires, and food choices change. Thankfully, it will only take a little information and social media know how to stay on top of the greatest restaurant trends in 2019.

Read on to find out our top 8 methods for you and your team to stay on top and increase your establishment’s traffic.

Chatbots

For lead generation, the future lies in chatbots. This tech tool is on the rise and is taking over customer service for many brands you already know and love. One firm, Gartner, predicts that by 2020 85% of customer interaction will be handled by chatbots.

Give a try to this feature using SMS and Facebook Messenger. You can set up this option for your restaurant on Facebook and setting up an autoresponse message.

Are you getting lots of inquiries about operating hours for holidays or about reservations during the busy season? Include a response that has this information contained, plus any other of your restaurant’s frequently asked questions.

If you do not have an answer to your question, set up an auto-message with an instruction to call the restaurant directly or include wait time for response.

Bots are not only a great way to scale communication, but they are also around the clock solution for your customers and audience.

In addition to increasing customer satisfaction, they will bolster your response rate on Facebook, which in turn improves SEO and the chance that your restaurant is recommended by other patrons.

Transparency in What’s Offered

Another critical component of restaurant branding this year is ensuring that your consumer base is clued into what is offered at your restaurant.

With the amount of information available online from reviews to images of food, diners are more aware than ever of shortcomings regarding meals sold at restaurants and brand experiences.

It is critical to your restaurant’s good health that all photos of your meals are updated and accurate on your website as well as other social media channels.

Furthermore, ensuring accuracy and understanding the way you describe the “vibe” or ambiance of your place in the “about” and “history” areas of Facebook and other review sites like Yelp and its competitors can help you see if you have really captured the attention of your patrons.

Mobile is King

If you want your restaurant to soar, and be as popular as possible, optimize your site for mobile. Lots of consumers are checking out their eating choices on the go, not having the time to sit at a desktop or crack open a laptop.

The search engine algorithms of Google value mobile performance for your website. In this manner, you should devote the bulk of your restaurant marketing efforts to keeping your site and app running in top form.

You can also broaden your options for digital restaurant marketing too. For instance, you can set up in-app contests for free food, promos and other special discounts inside your restaurant.

Your best bet is to adopt the following strategies:

  • Take a minimalist approach. Even though tech in advance and phone screens are huge, you should avoid clutter and unnecessary menus. Avoid drop downs because other content gets blocked.
  • Make your design focus on the image. Avoid bright colors and lots of text and details. Put an emphasis on the food itself, and make use of simple, contrasting hues.
  • Go the extra mile for a great hosting service. Do not allow your site to crash or load slowly. A low response rate coupled with lots of content leads to a negative impact on SEO.

Let Me Upgrade You…On Social Media

Every piece of content that is on your website should also be present on your social media pages. Some might argue that social media advertising is on the decline, but more than half of restaurants use social media platforms as a means of advertising.

It is still the most popular solution for advertising against any other form of outbound marketing. One great way to increase your influence on social media is to complete different tasks onto different platforms.

Many marketers in the restaurant and hotel branding industry advertise their businesses in the same way on every social media platform. However, you should separate different varieties of content to make them work with one another, instead of against one another.

Some strategies include:

  • Use Facebook for posts and text. This is the one that is least focused on brevity and visuals in terms of content. Use this platform for your more informative content.
  • Instagram, on the other hand, is visual in nature. 2019 will be huge in terms of visual representations of food. Upload short videos and show the “vibe” of your place through video.
  • Twitter can be used to pose questions and conduct polls to your target audience.
  • LinkedIn can be used for written content. Recruit new team members and bring in other industry professionals using this platform.

Visuals of Food

It’s okay to outsource some tasks. In marketing, we sometimes think it is better to save money by not spending it when it’s not really necessary.

But given what we know about 2019 being a huge year for visual food representation, a photographer will be a worthy investment. Do not save a few dollars now and miss out on spending from customers of the future.

Take all the chances you get to make your restaurant more enticing to consumers. On your ads and social media be sure you include photographs that are high-quality and professional. After all, food cannot be experienced from afar.

Photographers know what makes something visually memorable. Work with them to make your food look as appealing as possible. This will also give your restaurant something of a luxury vibe-so don’t be afraid to display them proudly on social media platforms.

Furthermore, do not be afraid to recycle old content and re-use photos. People will take note of your brand and your attention to great detail in doing so.

Dive into Content Marketing

Hotel marketing and restaurant marketing need content marketing sectors. You simply cannot avoid them. Offering top quality food is meaningless if you cannot direct your audience to it.

As a means of increasing brand awareness, place your brand so that people will always be directed to it.

You can do this in many different ways.

  • Put written content that correlates to the food you are selling. Connect the act of eating with culture and create a feeling for your consumer.
  • Provide top-notch descriptions and high-res pictures for each dish on your restaurant’s website.
  • Provide other creative content. Do video tours of your banquet rooms, show your method of making a signature dish, interview your staff and have them give recommendations.

Nutrition for the Masses

One thing consumers care about now more than ever is their health and well-being. If you want to improve repeat business, show them that you care, and you are in the loop too. People now really care what their food is made of as well as how it tastes.

Customers want dishes that are nutritious and taste great at the same time. This change in what matters to consumers means you must adjust your marketing to fit the needs of your audience. Many famous restaurants have incorporated messages about health and nutrition into their advertising campaigns.

To aid in your quest of attracting more customers that value nutrition, have a look at these ideas:

  • It is important to include calories, fats, and other nutritional guidelines. However, people do not respond to this information as much as they used to anymore. Make your ads something that connects your food to good health, positive feelings and wholesomeness of ingredients.
  • Put the human element into your advertising. People who are in good shape and smiling about your food will make consumers feel good about coming to your dining establishment.
  • Nature is one way to show off the natural good taste and ethical sourcing of your food. You can photograph your food in a natural setting, or even place it on a stump or chunk of wood as it adds an organic and natural feel to the entire ad.
  • Be sure to do your photos in such a way that is minimal – meaning light and colors are focused solely on your food’s natural colors and textures.

Plant-Based Marketing

In the same vein as natural and organic food, many consumers are seeking a plant-based option for dining. This has been on the rise globally, moving from being a niche market to a mainstream fixture in recent years.

Different regions handle this in different ways, and in 2019 it is predicted that the normalization of plant-based diets will be prevalent. This means less talk of health and more focus on eating foods like burgers, nuggets and other comfort foods like pizza that are plant-based.

There will also be a large influence from vegan culture and greater interest and desire for dairy-free products like almond milk and coconut ice cream.

Conclusion

Tell us what you think what will be the biggest restaurant marketing trend in 2019? We would love to hear from you and get more ideas. Join us on our private Facebook Community: Restaurant Owners Startup & Growth!

7 Ways to Study Your Restaurant’s Competition for Your Benefit

When considering competition, most business owners have a negative reaction. Your competitors are the bad guys who are intentionally trying to keep members of your target audience – your customers – from choosing you. When looking at the competition through that lens, it can be difficult to see how any positives could come from a competitor’s existence.

However, competition can be a positive for your business, from the right perspective. It is through competition that you can thrive, innovate and grow. Knowing who the competition is, what makes them stand out, and what people dislike about them is one of the best ways you can achieve a competitive advantage and begin to dominate the market.

Many restauranteurs believe their establishment already stands out from the competition. However, few do enough research to validate those feelings of superiority. By blindly assuming that there is nothing to improve, or that the only things to improve are those that are in response to customer complaints, they can lose out on the opportunity to take their place as one of the best restaurants in their city.

Trying to do what your competitors are doing but basically a little bit better is probably not going to be the winning strategy. The problem is finding what your competitors wouldn’t even consider doing. – Jamais Cascio

When researching your competition, you want to learn as much as you can. You need to know what they offer, how much they charge, what are a customer’s options for obtaining their food (i.e. delivery, take out, eat in), their marketing and branding strategies and tactics, any loyalty or perks they offer to customers, what their customers say they do well, and what kind of promotions they offer. Throughout the research process, you’ll want to keep track of any ideas you have, what your competitor’s strengths are, as well as what their weaknesses are.

Make a List of Your Competitors

The first step in studying your business’s competition is to figure out who they are. Start by making a list of restaurants near your location. You can also check online for restaurants that compete in the same areas as you. For example, if you are a diner serving American cuisine, you’ll want to look at any other restaurants that serve American cuisine, as well as any that provide a quick sit-down option.

You may not want to limit yourself to only your city. Many customers will travel nearby to high-quality restaurants.

Lastly, you can check the Better Business Bureau. Look for the top performing restaurants in your area, as well as new competitors who you may not even be aware of yet. By looking at the top performers and the latest restaurants, you can get a sense of what the newest trends are as well as what makes a restaurant thrive in your market.

Check out Social Media

Once you have your list, you can use the Internet to start your research and scope out the competition. Social media can be full of information. Look at each of their social media accounts and see how they promote themselves. You can also look at how many likes, followers, and how much interaction they have on their accounts.

This can be another way to rank your competition and see which the best are to emulate, especially if the Better Business Bureau does not provide much information. This step in the process may provide a lot of ideas for you to use to promote your own business. Be sure to keep track of those ideas so that you can implement them later.

Read the Reviews

In addition to social media, you can look for other online reviews. See what your local newspapers and magazines have written about your competitors. View review sites online such as Yelp. Make notes of both the positives and the negatives – each will be able to help you develop a competitive advantage.

Also, pay attention to how the competing restaurant reacts to reviews – especially from customers. Are they responsive to everyone? Do they come across as argumentative when receiving complaints? How can you use their examples to improve your own review responses?

Compare Marketing Materials

Online is not the only space where your competition advertises, though you should do a short audit of any digital properties like social media and websites that your competition has. Pick up local marketing materials such as newspapers, magazines and restaurant guides. See if you can find local flyers, coupon handouts, mailers, and other types of advertising. Looking at what your competition is doing well in restaurant advertising, as well as what could be improved, can help you shape a more effective campaign in your market.

Ask Your Customers

Talk to your loyal customers. Do not give them a long paper survey, but casually ask them where they go when they aren’t at your restaurant and what they like about other places. While this information is hard to quantify, it can be helpful.

Use this information to understand your own customers better. What attracts your customers to other restaurants? What do they like at other places that you could potentially utilize in your own business?

You can also uncover ways that your customers find out about other restaurants that you may not be aware of. Besides word-of-mouth, do they use apps or other forms of media? You can use that information to discover other places where you may want to advertise your restaurant in order to reach other customers who are similar to your most loyal ones.

Attend Local Food-Themed Events

Many cities offer food programs such as Taste of the City, or events focused on one particular type of cuisine. Attending these types of events can help you see, in real-time, what your competition is doing and what makes them stand out.

Again, you can ask your own customers for suggestions during the event. What do they enjoy the competition? What do they think you could do better? It can be hard to ask for this type of honest feedback, but if you can listen without taking the critique too personally, it can help your business grow exponentially.

Hire a Restaurant Consultant

Competitor analysis is time-consuming, and it can be difficult to be unbiased. Sometimes it can also be overwhelming to figure out what you should do, and how to prioritize those suggestions. Sometimes when comparing yourself to the competition, it can be too tempting to only focus on the places where your restaurant already excels.

In these types of situations, hiring a restaurant consultant may be helpful. A restaurant consultant will be able to perform a competitive analysis for you. They will help you understand the key differentiating factors that make your competitors stand out, and what you can emulate or even improve on. Restaurant consultants are also already familiar with the competition in your area. This means they will likely already have insight into where restaurants advertise and how they obtain customers. This insight may not be as easy for you to obtain, especially when you are already focused on running your own business.

Restaurant consultants can take their research and other insights to help make a plan. They will help you prioritize, and possibly even implement, the recommended changes. By developing a plan for you, you can more easily use the competition analysis to become one of the best restaurants in your area, without having to do as much of the research yourself.

Once you’ve studied your competition through different channels, or received insights from a restaurant consultant, you can use the different types of information to make improvements to your own restaurant.

Exceed the Positives

Take the things your competitors are doing well, and do not simply emulate them – excel (where possible). Do your competition’s customers appreciate that they can place a very custom order on a competitor’s website? You can build an ordering system on your website, and an app as well. Do customers love the fact that they get a free meal on their 10th visit through a punch card loyalty program? Maybe you can offer a free meal for every nine visits through a digital rewards program.

While it is not possible to exceed every positive you discovered for your competition, even choosing one or two can make a substantial difference.

Exploit the Negatives

Every business has areas where it can make improvements. Outperform your competition in the areas where they are weak. For example, if a competing restaurant has a lot of negative reviews about their employee’s attitudes and behavior, make sure you train your employees to be polite and positive. Offer training materials that teach your employees how to respond to negative feedback. Create policies for refunding money to customers and making mistakes right.

If customers complain about the wait times at your competition’s restaurants during the lunch rush, maybe you can simplify or streamline your own lunch menu so that you can become known as a quick (and delicious) option.

While there are downsides to customers having the option to choose restaurants that aren’t yours, you can utilize this competition to your advantage. If you pay close attention to what others are doing, you can use it to make your own restaurant the best it can be.

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.

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

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by Rico John Jambaro

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by Arpit Dawar

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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

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fast casual restaurant branding by Longitude

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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

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casual dining restaurant branding

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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.

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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

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9 Restaurant Trends to Be Ready for in 2019

Restaurateurs are looking forward to the upcoming release of “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast 2019” from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The research is a detailed report from the annual survey of the American Culinary Federation membership. The survey is intended as an attempt to guide top menu trends each year. However, when it comes to the holistic restaurant strategy, there are many other things restauranteurs should also be watching for in 2019. This article will briefly explore 9 restaurant trends expected to be in play for the upcoming year.

The trends highlighted in this article are developments which were started this year. They provide a general direction which consumers are headed with their purchasing decisions. While there are many important trends that are top of mind for the industry year after year, such as food safety and waste reduction, the trends in this article are related to what consumers expect in their restaurant experience.

1. Fast Casual

Fast-casual dining is most commonly found in the United States. Such services do not offer table service and are found to be moderately priced right between fine dining and fast food. Fast-casual is on the rise because the food at these types of establishments is typically a higher quality than fast food with less frozen or processed ingredients. Consumers perceive such restaurants as a healthier option for their families when they are choosing to eat out.

2. Order Ahead – Quick Service Restaurant

According to the NRA’s research (2018), a quarter of consumers say that technology plays a role in selecting a restaurant. In addition, technology is a core factor in the order ahead or Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) setting. Consumers are continuing with the trend of turning to their mobile devices on the go. The order ahead technology has been well adopted by companies like Starbucks, Dominos, Dunkin Brands, and many others. While the adoption of ordering ahead is popular to consumers, it comes with challenges for the restaurant. Considerations for restaurants according to the QSR magazine (2018) are issues with the payment experience and vulnerability to fraud. Quick service restaurants who are turning to e-commerce must consider their payment strategies and fraud protection to avoid losses.

3. Kiosk Ordering & Restaurant Tech

Kiosk ordering is another play from the advancing technology in the restaurant space. While the idea of kiosk ordering is similar to order ahead apps mentioned above, actual physical kiosks are proving to be a value-add to restaurants into 2019. McDonald’s has been one of the early adopters of this kiosk strategy. According to their CEO in an interview on CNBC earlier this year, Steve Easterbrook told CNBC that “if people want to dwell, have a little bit more time, they can go to a self-order kiosk, they can browse through the menu…and perhaps customize the food to their liking.” Kiosk ordering has become a natural way for consumers to get what they want through a computer interface they use every day.

Even limited and full-service restaurants are integrating the kiosk experience into their operations with handheld tablet menus. These tablets tap into another key 2019 restaurant technology trend: self-payment.

In fact, a recent survey by TSYS found that 79% of today’s customers want restaurants to offer tableside payment because of the convenience factor and extra layer of financial data security (the customer’s credit card never leaves the table).

(For more ideas regarding upcoming restaurant tech trends for 2019 check out this webinar with Buzztime and Seven Rooms)

4. Alternative Foods

Food swapping or alternative food ingredient options will be an ongoing trend into 2019. Consumers are interested more than ever in their health and weight. As a result of weight loss marketing of programs like that of Paleo, Keto diets and others, consumers are switching foods on the menu. For example, they might ask for a lettuce wrapped sandwich rather than the bun or fresh zucchini noodles rather than pasta. Adopting the alternative food mindset allows restaurant brands to attract consumers who want the food the way they want to eat it.

5. Vegan Movement

It is not surprising that the vegetarian and vegan movement continues as a 2019 trend. The movement is growing and not going away anytime soon. With the continued focus on health, climate, and animal welfare this movement has traction. As the result of how these consumers work, restaurants should have a couple of options on their menu for vegans; however, truly passionate vegans and vegetarians tend to flock to restaurants that cater to their choices in food as a lifestyle commitment. If you try to offer vegan options as well as mainstream menu items, you’ll probably find little success in attracting the vegan audience.

6. Simple Foods

Restaurants should have menu options that clearly offer simple ingredients. Simple menus that are easy to understand and ingredients that are not too complex can attract consumers. While the meal might not really be a healthier option than your current menu description, it is perceived better if the ingredients are common names and easy to obtain outside of your restaurant. This trend is more of a marketing and positioning trend than one of the actual changes in the food you offer.

7. On-site Farming

On-site farming is becoming more and more common. As such, it made it to this 2019 restaurant trends list. However, most on-site farming restaurants are only offering garden produce in their restaurants. On-site farming can be an effective strategy for vegan and vegetarian establishments who offer fine dining. Where all of the ingredients are readily available, and consumers can see how they are treated, a premium price can be achieved to match the added expense. Again, a strategy for emphasis on quality selection.

8. Farm to Table

Farm to table is somewhat similar to the trend of on-site farming above; however, it includes dairy and proteins such as red meats, fish, and poultry as farms are off-site. Farm to table is a trend common in urban environments where the farms are not too far away from town. This strategy is an effective marketing strategy to attract consumers who care about quality and fresh ingredients. The reality is that all consumers really want the freshest and best food available at a fair price. Making sure your products are never frozen gives the consumer a peace of mind that their meal will be of the highest quality.

9. Wood Heat

Wood heat isn’t really much more than an alternative heat source. However, this trend is one that we are seeing more and more of. It started out in the United States with brick ovens being used by many pizza parlors. Wood heat is a heat source that takes time and work to create. As the result, consumers perceive this effort and translate it into quality. Wood heat can often also enhance the taste of the food being cooked from the smoke generated during the cooking process. While wood heat is a likely trend in 2019, it isn’t one that every restaurant in the country can adopt.

Trends are a challenge to predict as they can change rapidly due to the influence of new technology or techniques. However, these trends are the general direction consumers are guiding restaurants today and into 2019. It is clear that consumers are seeking restaurants that offer options that are generally easy to order, healthy, and fresh. Be sure your restaurant’s core message and branding are aligned to deliver on any of these three categories. The most important strategy; however, is to deliver the restaurant experience that your specific consumers want.

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