How to Develop a Restaurant Brand that Stands Out

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge has six years of digital marketing experience. She enjoys digging into what brands do well and where they go wrong. Her specialties include working with companies in the retail, non-profit, and marketing sectors. She is based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Opening a restaurant is a high-risk, high-reward enterprise. While many restaurant owners develop successful companies that their customers love, the vast majority close their doors within a few years. One of the main keys to success for opening a new restaurant is its brand. Your brand touches every element of your restaurant and can determine whether it succeeds or fails. Here are the top elements of restaurant branding and a few ways you can build a restaurant brand that stands out.  

Storefront with the recognizable Starbucks brand logo

The six elements of restaurant branding

As a restauranteur, you need to take a high-level view of your brand and make sure that each element of your restaurant reflects your vision. Your customers will notice if the concept is only halfway-executed and it will reflect poorly on your brand. The six elements of restaurant branding to keep in mind are:

 

  • Your logo and other graphics: the logo is the most basic part of your brand experience. It tells people about your restaurant’s style and expectations. Even before your customers see your food, they will form opinions based on your logo. 
  • Your photography: you want to present your food in its best light to bring potential customers in. Professional photography reflects the quality and style of your brand.
  • Your messaging: the messaging is what you have to say about your brand. Your food and atmosphere send nonverbal signals, but the messaging is how you position yourself. 
  • Your atmosphere: a poorly designed atmosphere can drive customers away. Consider the customers who will be visiting your restaurant and what they expect from your interior and exterior atmosphere. 

 

  • Your food: the best branding in the world can’t save bad food. The quality of the food, the presentation, and the types of menu items you serve all point back to your concept.  
  • Your staff: how your team interacts with customers and their skills reflect your brand. They are the product of your management and your training.

Maintaining your brand is also a process of continuous growth. You may have a strong brand when your restaurant opens, but dirty menus or bad staff members can threaten it. It’s the job of the restaurant owners and managers to make sure the branding stays consistent and strong over the course of time.   

Research the competition in your area

If you want to launch a brand that stands out, then you need to know what restaurants you are trying to stand out against. Consider the local dining options in your area and look for ways to create something different. There are two types of company research you need to conduct:

  • Cuisine-based: how will the brand of your cuisine differ from other restaurants that serve the same style of food?  
  • Brand-based: how will your overall brand differ from other restaurants in your area?

For example, a vegan brunch place will need to look at the other vegan and brunch restaurants in the area. How is their food different? What sets the experience apart? However, the owners will also have to look at other, non-vegan restaurants to make sure their brand gets noticed across all restaurants – not just by members of their vegan niche. 

Remember the “Four Ps” of marketing

Conducting market research is an essential part of developing a stand-out brand. As you form your brand, make sure you have every aspect covered. Focus on the “Four Ps” of marketing to consider your place within the market. These are:

  • Product: what you sell
  • Promotion: how you sell it
  • Place: where you sell it
  • Price: what you sell it for

Your brand can be similar to other restaurants in the area, but still stand out if it is in a unique location or offers better prices. Plus, defining how you plan to make a difference as you open your restaurant within the parameters of these “Four Ps” can give you guidance as you make smaller decisions based on the menu style, interior design, and plating.  

Build your brand around your mission statement

Every strong brand ties back to a mission statement. This is a one or two-sentence idea that describes what you are doing with your restaurant and why you are doing it. Consider the elements of your brand discussed above. Does your atmosphere match your mission statement? Does your food compliment your overarching goal? 

Developing a mission statement will also help you, the owner, delegate tasks to your team. Every member of the kitchen, bar, and waitstaff should be able to make decisions that reflect the brand throughout their day-to-day work – whether that involves developing seasonal bar specials or deciding how to deal with a difficult customer.  

Taking a look at a restaurant with an evolving brand

If you’re looking for a national-scale example of a restaurant with a strong brand, then Buffalo Wild Wings is a good place to start. The sports bar has seen impressive growth levels over the past few years and is currently in the process of rebranding to evolve with the goals of customers. 

Everything about the brand, from the football jersey uniforms to the wings served in paper trays (mimicking the style you would get at a stadium) reinforces their goal of creating a sports-focused experience for fans. They want customers to stay for hours and create ads celebrating close games that go into overtime. This way, their brand targets the tight-knit community of sports fans. It’s Buffalo Wild Wings, your friends, and your team against any rival they face.

While you want to launch your restaurant with a strong brand, you can continue to evolve it once you open your doors and settle into your niche. You want to create something unique and memorable in your area that draws in visitors or new customers while winning over existing customers with your great food and atmosphere

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