Restaurant Round-Up: Eat Local in 417-Land

There are hundreds of restaurants in the Springfield-area, and competition is fierce. Our team at Longitude° knows all-too-well the struggles that restaurant owners face to stay in business and thrive – especially locally-owned restaurants.

As a restaurant branding and marketing agency, we do our best to maintain a pulse of the restaurant industry. This means that we make any and all excuses to try great food at great restaurants any chance we get. Plus, we love supporting local eateries as often as we can.

Sadly a large majority of people still opt to support large chain restaurants instead of local businesses. So, in an effort to help promote these incredible local eateries, we’ve put together a list of better local alternatives to the national chains.

Tater Tots

Next time you’re tempted to stop in and grab some tots from Sonic, think twice. Did you know that the recently opened Lucky Tiger not only has delicious sandwiches, but they’re always serving up the most mouth-watering tater tots this side of the Mississippi? Give this quirky and fun sandwich shop a try, and be sure to ask for the Kimchi Tots!

Lucky Tiger Sandwich Co. | Best Tots (and sandwiches)

Tacos

Why eat a bland, soggy taco from Taco Bell when you can stop into Team Taco just off of Cherry and Pickwick Street in the historic Rountree neighborhood. The taste of these tacos is second to none, and their ingredients are high-quality, unique, and the atmosphere is so fun and light. Definitely check them out. We recommend ordering the “B.A. Baracus” or the “Globetrotter.” Yo quiero Team Taco?

Team Taco | Best Tacos

Chicken Wings

Who doesn’t like some good wings every now and then? Buffalo Wild Wings may be a good place to watch a game and get cheap wings, but if you’re really looking for delicious and quality wings, look no further than Grad School. This small local restaurant serves up some of the best wings in the area. Try out the “House Hot Toddies”… your taste buds will thank you later.

Grad School | Best Chicken Wings

Gyros

We were shocked to find out that Arby’s served a “gyro,” but equally shocked to learn that people actually ate this when Greek Belly exists! This little restaurant located on Walnut St. in downtown Springfield has the perfect atmosphere to make you feel like you walked right into an authentic Greek restaurant in the heart of Greece. Try the Gyro Pita Wrap with Tzatziki – it’s our favorite!

Greek Belly | Best Gyros

Pancakes

Is IHOP still a thing? We get it, their pancakes are good at 1:00 AM in the morning when nothing else is open, but are they really that good? Next time you’re hungry for pancakes stop into Van Gogh’s Eeterie on Historic Commercial Street. They serve up the most perfect Dutch pancakes; making IHOP’s pancakes pale in comparison. Also, they serve breakfast all day, so if you’re craving breakfast for dinner they’ve got you covered.

Van Gogh’s Eeterie | Best Pancakes

Chicken Sandwich

Popeye’s and Chick-fi-la recently made headlines with their chicken sandwich feud. But to be quite honest, neither compares to a Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Hot Clucker’s. This “Nashville Style” hot chicken joint will leave you wanting more. They have four spiciness levels: The Nancy, 1 Cluck, 2 Clucks, and “Hot Mother Clucker.” Beware of “Hot Mother Clucker” unless you enjoy pain.

Hot Clucker’s | Best Chicken Sandwich

Cheeseburger

Don’t get us wrong, we like a Wendy’s burger every now and then, but it’s nowhere near the same level as a Black Sheep burger. These mouth-watering, flavorful, and juicy burgers will go down well with a boozy-shake and some salt-and-vinegar fries – our favorite. Not to mention, now with 3 locations in Springfield, it’s super convenient.

Black Sheep Burgers + Shakes | Best Burgers

  • Location: Three Locations: Chesterfield Village, East Sunshine, and Downtown off of Walnut Street.
  • Phone: (417) 319-5905
  • Website: https://www.blaaacksheep.com/

Breakfast Burrito

Thinking of stopping at McDonald’s for a breakfast burrito and coffee? Think again! Instead, you should make a quick detour to Kingdom Coffee for their breakfast burrito. You can get a bacon or potato burrito, and it comes with a side of salsa. This thing will seriously fill you up. And you might as well get one of the best cups of coffee in town while you’re there.

Kingdom Coffee | Best Breakfast Burritos (and coffee)

Support Local

Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a bad thing to visit a chain restaurant, but we hope that you consider supporting local businesses on a more regular basis. Not only are you supporting your neighbors, but you’re also likely to enjoy higher quality ingredients and better taste.

We hope this list was fun and informative. If you enjoyed this, drop us a line at info@longitudebranding.com. Thanks!

Travel Guide: Autumn in the Ozarks

A friend of mine moved to California last year, and on a recent visit back to Springfield she told me that describing the town to California locals was difficult. “No one really knows what I’m talking about when I tell them how green it is here,” she said, “Or how different and down to earth the culture is.” While visiting, she wanted to do all of her favorite Springfield things, “We have to go to Millsap! Harvest is a must! Winery on Sunday?” But she hated that she was going to miss fall–the changing leaves, the activities, and gatherings, the chill that begins to bite the air–“there’s really nothing like it here,” she said, sighing and setting down the sweater that she’d brought “just in case.”

And it’s true–no matter how much I travel, or how many diverse towns I visit, there’s truly nothing like Springfield. We have the perfect mix of big-city offerings and Midwest charm. Our restaurant scene is competitive and the quality is astonishing for the size of the city. Over the last few years, the farms in and surrounding Springfield have begun offering unique dining opportunities that my friends in larger cities like Tulsa admit sadly that they don’t have access to. “Oklahoma just isn’t doing that yet,” they say, “regardless of the number of farms or diversity in dining options and chefs we have.”

To experience all of Springfield’s best would take months with the changing seasons coming into play. But fall might be the city at her best. We are graced with so many festivals both in the city and within arms reach in neighboring towns, making this season especially festive. Starting early is the key. My suggestion is to choose a weekend in mid to late September or anytime in October and discover autumn in the Ozarks with this 48-hour weekend guide.

Friday:

Arrive around 5 pm and check into Hotel Vandivort in downtown Springfield. Bask in the modern luxury for as long as you’d like, then take a walk (if you’re ready for a longer jaunt) or drive to Mother’s Brewing Company. The brewery has a myriad of different beers on tap that is only available in the tasting room. It’s their brown and imperial ales that really shine once the weather turns to cool instead of hot. Think of flavors of whiskey, raisin, rye, coconut, chocolate, and coffee; all the warm goodness you need to fight that chill in the air. If it’s the fourth Friday of the month, stick around for the once-a-month “Friday Flix” in Mother’s backyard. In that case, there will be food trucks, outside beer stations and either a cult classic or a culturally relevant film.

However, if it’s not the fourth Friday of the month, or you’re feeling like some elevated southern comfort food and jazz, head over to The Hepcat. Only a few blocks from Mother’s, heading east down McDaniel, turning left on Campbell, you will enter Springfield’s new and only jazz bar. The Hepcat is serving items like smoked-fried chicken, pickled shrimp, and twice-fried plantains, blackened shrimp and tomato-bacon gravy with grits, an apricot salad, and fried olives. The bar menu has complex cocktails for those that are looking for mixology at its finest, while at the same time there is a “Cheap Beer” list consisting of long-standing American classics like Hamm’s and Stag for $2.50. Suggestion: order the smoked-fried chicken and one of the cocktails that pique your interest and either see where the night takes you, or head back to your cozy room and crisp white sheets.

Saturday:

Take your time getting up in the morning (this is a mini-vacation anyway) and then head across the street to Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe for a slice of local flavor that will be very obviously popular by the hoards of people that will be waiting both in and outside. But don’t let that deter you; put your name on the list and pour yourself a cup of coffee at the Saturday-and-Sunday-only coffee station and settle in for conversation and delicious aromas. When you’re seated, read over everything, but note the skillet list. The skillets are part of the new menu items that were recently added and I’m in love with the “Big Bite Mike,” a skillet with ham, sausage, bacon, red and green peppers, red onion, mushroom on a bed of skillet potatoes and topped with eggs-your-way and queso.

While you’re taking your time with breakfast, start gathering a plan for which festival you’d like to visit. A few notable options include: 

Cider Days – a festival on Walnut Street in Springfield with arts and crafts vendors, food and beverage vendors and live music and dance performances.

Photos by Mt. Vernon Chamber of Commerce

Apple Butter Makin’ Days – this is an area favorite located in Mt. Vernon, MO. This is small-town goodness at it’s finest; a parade, craft vendors, an apple pie contest, a car show, live music and you can even stir the apple butter pot yourself. Mt. Vernon is a 43-minute drive west on 44. But if you want to really get into the spirit of a small-town adventure, take historic Route 66 west to Halltown and continue west on 96 until 39 where you’ll go south and land right in the heart of Mt. Vernon.

Glade Top Trail Flaming Fall Revue – this event takes place in Ava, MO in Mark Twain National Forest. Ava is an hour’s drive southeast of town with scenic, winding roads the entire way. At the festival expect food, music, a dessert auction, pumpkin and face painting and craft vendors. Once the festival comes to a close make sure to explore the National Forest while you’re in the area.

Once you’re back in town, check out Chicago Cheesesteak Company, a few doors down from the hotel. It’s a tiny hole in the wall and you won’t be disappointed. My favorite is the “Halle(peno) Berry” which comes with chicken or steak (choose steak), mozzarella, fresh grilled jalapenos, cream cheese and grape jelly. The fries are double-fried so they have that nice brown-ness and flavor that’s a rare find. If you’re looking for something to wash it down, head back to the hotel. The Order in Hotel Vandivort has an ever-changing cocktail list and an excellent wine and beer selection with many local breweries featured on tap. Enjoy yourself and then up to bed you go.

Sunday:

I suggest brunch in the Order for both deliciousness and convenience. Notable favorites are the “Circle B Overload” with Circle B Ranch bacon and sausage, bell pepper, onion, sweet potato fries, pepper jack, and chorizo gravy, or on the sweeter side the “Coffee and Salt Waffle Bowl” with a torn waffle, Askinosie cocoa powder, Coffee Ethic maple syrup, and house-made Scotch salt.

Once you’ve eaten and had your caffeine fix, grab your bags and let’s go on the last adventure of the weekend. Head north on Glenstone and into the country. You’ll veer slightly east on Highway KK, and then make an almost immediate right to stay on KK, you’ll then turn right again on Farm Road 171, and voila, there you are at Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery. This is the only winery in the area that actually harvests its own grapes into wine. The vineyard is right there on property with all of the best Missouri grapes. You’re welcome to stroll through the rows and pick and eat the grapes you find. My favorite wines are the Vignoles–a semi-sweet white with a unique floral and citrus flavors–and the “Hickory Barren”–made with Chambourcin, a red grape, but then fermented like white wine, with the skin peeled. Because of the skin being peeled, this wine is pink and tastes faintly like a full-bodied red and luscious like a white sweet wine. Stay awhile and talk to the owners, Mike and Kathy, they’re kind and treat everyone that comes in like they’re family. They’ll likely want to know what you do and where you’re from and by the end, you’ll be long lost friends. The wine is outstanding, but the experience is heart-warming.

And bon voyage, you’re off to your next journey. Until next time, I hope that the colorful leaves, small-town country drives, and excellent food and drink have left you warm and merry. Visit our town again soon, and look for other itineraries and suggested trips right here in the future.


This article was written by Meredith Tatum, Author, and Co-Owner of Vibrant Space.

5 Ways to Build an Influential Brand that Every Leader Needs to Know

The bottom line – as a business owner you want your business to grow. If you don’t, then you should probably question whether or not you should be a business owner. What’s the most common indicator that your business is growing? You’re making more money.

This is true for every business, non-profit, and individual. People don’t like to talk about making money, but the truth is we need money to operate. But what’s the best way to earn more money? It may be tempting to start throwing out tactics, buzzwords, and strategies like: “You need to innovate”, “You must diversify”, “You need to penetrate the market”, “You need to build a sales funnel”, “You need more Instagram followers”….  yadda, yadda, yadda.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid methods to consider and could play a large part in how you operate your business. But, for a business owner who’s growth has flat-lined and is struggling to keep up, “penetrating the market” means nothing. If you’re tired of just surviving as a business and ready to start thriving, I’ve got good news for you – it may be more simple than you think. Humor me if you will, and allow me to give you a more simplified answer to the question, “How can I grow my business?”

For your business to grow and make more money you need…

  1. More people to buy more of your stuff.
  2. More people to tell more of their friends to buy more your stuff.
  3. To invest more in methods that will get more people to do both of the above.

It may sound simple, but for most businesses who are struggling to gain traction – these three things seem like an unreachable goal. The reality is that for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) achieving these three things is easier than you may think. This brings up an important question that I’m sure you’re asking yourself: “Yeah, that sounds great and all, but what’s the best way to accomplish those three things?” It’s a simple answer, influence.

Building an influential brand for your business could be the best decision you have yet to make.

Understanding Influence

We’ve worked with many SMB’s over the years, and we’ve found a common trait shared among the ones who are struggling – a brand strategy is either underutilized or completely absent. That’s unfortunate because a strategic brand plays a vital role in virtually every aspect of your business. It can have a huge impact on your reputation, customer experiences, employee onboarding and engagement, important decision-making, gaining support for your vision…  and yes – influencing people to buy your stuff.

Let me make something clear – when I say influence, I do not mean “manipulate.”

Influence vs. Manipulation

Influence – the process of getting someone else to want to believe, do, think, or react the way you want them to. This approach encourages your audience to feel inspired, excited, and harbor warm feelings about you. It makes your audience feel like you care about their needs, and genuinely want to help them.

Manipulation – exerting devious influence over a person for your own advantage. This method creates anxiety, stress, or discomfort for your audience with the goal of getting them to take an action. This makes your audience feel guarded, and like you don’t care about their needs.

Both methods work in their own way. However, there are key differences in the outcomes.

Influencers…

Manipulators…

  • Seek to understand not to convince.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Listens to their audience.
  • Relates to the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the relationship.
  • Ask plenty of questions.
  • Focus on gaining a loyal customer.
  • Seeks to convince not understand
  • Communicate ambiguously.
  • Talks to their audience.
  • Control the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the transaction.
  • Don’t ask questions.
  • Focus on landing another customer.

It’s easy to see how being an influential brand will help your business grow. Now let’s begin to dissect how you can begin to build an influential brand for yourself.


 

The Building Blocks of an Influential Brand

1. Tell Your Story

Your story is the most human element of your business, yet it’s typically the last thing people bring up when they approach customers. Your story will begin a natural conversation with your customers. It’s this story that will show them that you care about more than just landing a sale.

Start with “Why?” Next time you are making a sales pitch start with answering the question “why?” Tell them why you do what you do, and why it excites you. This will give people something to relate to. It will also show them that you are passionate about what you do, and believe in its value – instilling confidence in them. Sharing your “why” is only one aspect of your story. Another aspect is the story of your brand.

The Story of Your Brand. Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. This 3-part approach is the natural progression of your brand story as well:

  1. Beginning (the Problem): Explain the problem that your audience faces.
  2. Middle (the Solution): Clearly explain how you solve this problem.
  3. End (the Success): Show the results and success your customers can experience.

Create a compelling story. You want your audience to feel like you’ve read their journal, and you understand their deepest thoughts. Really knowing the people that you’re talking to will all your message to stir up their intrinsic motivations. This will help you to influence people not because of what you do, but because of how what you do can help them. Telling your brand story can be one of the easiest entry points for building an influential brand.

2. Know What Makes You Different

Understand your position in the market. It’s hard to be an influential brand if you can’t clearly explain and defend what makes you different, and why someone should choose you over the competition. Many business owners mistake the quality of their product or service as their positioning. Simply stating, “we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

“we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” usually isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

Instead, try and pinpoint 1 or 2 specific and relevant aspects of your business that are completely unique in your industry or region – lean into those. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have quality products, but the process you use to ensure that every product manufactured meets your quality standards. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have the “best customer service”, but the fact that you guarantee a quality experience or you’ll give your customer a full refund.

Check out your competition. It’s important to do some competitive review, to see how your competition is positioning themselves. However, be sure to find something that is different than your competition. If you simply try to copy what’s working for them, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the market, and that’s a sure-fire way to not build an influential brand.

3. Make it Personal

Get personal with it. Know who you are talking to. Remember, “People do business with people.” Ask yourself, “What motivates them? What discourages them? What gets them up in the morning? What keeps them up at night?” Seek to truly understand your audience, and how you can best serve them.

This also involves getting face-to-face with your audience. Go where they are. Attend the same conferences, seminars, networking groups, or workshops that they attend. Doing this will not only help you make in-person connections but will also give you valuable insight into the industry or demographic that you’re targeting. It could help uncover areas that your business could improve to provide a better value to your customers.

Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you.

Your message. Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you. What I mean by this is that you should talk less about “I” (you the business owner), and more about “you.” (the customer). This will help you in your effort to make a connection with your customers, not just talking to them. Let’s face it, no one wants to hear about how great you are all the time.

4. Be Consistent and Clear

The value of consistency. Brand consistency is another simple approach that pays huge dividends. We’ve written about the importance of consistency in the past, but it’s worth mentioning over and over. Be consistent.

Put brand message and identity guidelines in place. This is why all BrandGPS clients receive a Brand Guidelines Handbook. It’s a vital piece to maintaining brand consistency across all customer touchpoints, as well as maintaining internal clarity around your brand values, message, and story.

Consistency earns visibility, visibility earns credibility, credibility earns trust, trust earns loyalty.

5. Be Authentic

These days, “being authentic” is one of the most common buzz-words to describe a business attempting to relate to millennials, or be relevant to modern culture. Despite the negative connotation that “being authentic” has recently earned, there is a real purpose in being an authentic brand. Building an authentic brand requires time and effort spent on keeping your promises, and ensuring that your messaging aligns with what you do.

The 3 pillars that play the part in building a healthy and influential brand are:

  1. How you look
  2. What you say
  3. What you do

If any of these three aren’t aligned, you risk being seen as an inauthentic brand, which can be extremely harmful to your business. A good example of this is when United Airlines responded to a passenger being pulled off a plane with two different messages – the messages contradicted each other, and caused public confusion. The mixed signals created a sense of distrust among the public and did further harm to the brand of United Airlines.

Actions speak louder than words. It should go without saying, but don’t claim to be something you’re not. Don’t make promises or claims you can’t deliver on, and be sure that what you say to your audience is exactly what they’re getting. If you claim to have the best customer service experience, and you have heaps of 1-star reviews saying otherwise, no one will take your brand seriously. You’ll never gain the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises, and you can kiss the idea of customer loyalty good-bye.

Building an authentic brand gives people a reason to care.

A Final Word

These five things play an important role in building a brand that is influential. I can’t stress enough the importance of a brand strategy for your business. If your business is struggling to get to the next level, gaining traction in your market, earning customer trust and loyalty, or simply getting beat by your competition – then you need a brand strategy.

An influential brand, like the ones we help our customers build through BrandGPS, is an investment you won’t regret.

 

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Or just email us at info@longitudebranding.com