How To Stand Out With Your Restaurant Branding: A Complete Guide
Being the restaurant that springs to mind when hungry people ask, 'Where shall we eat tonight'? is every restaurateur’s dream. But the question is, how exactly does a restaurant build a reputation that earns them that winning spot? With a strong brand and an effective restaurant branding strategy, of course.
A restaurant’s reputation goes beyond its food and menu. Whether it’s the ambience, staff, playlists, or decor – restaurants are all about the experience. From marketing to menus to main courses, restaurant branding should communicate who you are, what you offer and why customers should choose you over your competitors, time and time again.
Getting this right makes the difference between a successful restaurant and a less successful one and is invaluable to the longevity and popularity of your business. Regardless of whether you’re starting a brand from scratch or building on something you already have, getting your branding right is no easy task. It goes beyond just selling delicious products and having an appealing logo.
This brand-building guide will help you create and strengthen your restaurant branding – not to mention drive that all-important brand loyalty. We’ll discuss what you need to consider when developing your brand and why restaurant branding is so critical. Full stop.
Whether you’re just starting out, rebranding, or updating your look, this guide is guaranteed to help. Let’s dive in.
For starters: What is restaurant branding?
Restaurant branding encompasses everything your restaurant wants to communicate about your brand personality, identity, values, and goals. It’s how you want your customers to remember you, from their first search online to their first bite of food.
The importance of food is undeniable, but a brand concept extends far beyond the dishes served in the kitchen. A brand’s story, space, services, and experiences are all crucial components of its branding.
A strong brand is present in all aspects of the business, from the design, interior and social media marketing to playlists, merchandise and marketing materials. Strong branding fosters emotional connections with customers, which form the basis of that all-important brand loyalty – but more on this later.
Essentially, restaurant branding tells customers what your restaurant is all about. It gives your company a distinct personality and, when executed effectively, positively differentiates you from your competitors.
How to define your restaurant branding
There’s no denying that restaurant businesses face lots of competition – especially in today’s booming digital age, where customers can order food at the click of a button. The key to success for your restaurant is strong branding.
The right brand can boost customer loyalty; even if your service was not up to standard, you had to close unexpectedly or accidentally serviced frozen food. Ultimately, customers invest their trust in you, and if you give them a good reason to do so, they will keep coming back for more.
The question is, what is the secret to strong restaurant branding?
As daunting as it may seem, we are here to guide you through the process step-by-step. Let’s get stuck in.
Identify your mission statement
Your mission statement or value proposition determines how your culture, product, environment, employees, and customers relate to your brand.
When drafting your statement, keep your customers in mind. What are the ways and reasons your restaurant serves them? Is there a reason you serve this type of food in this style? Is there a promise you make to your customers, and why should they care about it?
Here are some questions you can use to start your brand development journey:
- Who are you?
- What are you offering?
- What is your reason for doing this?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- What are your plans for achieving this?
Answering these simple questions will help you define your brand’s beliefs, purpose, and values. More importantly, the answers will help you identify your unique selling point (USP), encouraging customers to choose your restaurant over your competitors.
Position yourself in the restaurant market
Having established your “why,” it’s time to establish your “what” and “where.” This is known as brand positioning, and it determines where your restaurant ranks among your competitors.
To position your brand, you must determine your price, products, promotions and physical location. Consider your restaurant’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and competition when determining your brand’s market fit. Consider the following when positioning yourself:
1. Determine your demographic. Who is your target audience? How old are they? Are they a particular gender? Find out what they’re all about – their likes, income, interests, tastes, wants, buying habits, and opinions on your competitors – by taking a deep dive into their world. Conduct market research to gather insights on their eating habits, dining preferences, and expectations.From here, you can utilise different forms of strategised marketing to reach and appeal to your demographic and form emotional connections with them. Customers, both new and recurring, should have their branding and content tailored to them. The ability to know – really know – your customers will allow you to identify their expectations and provide them with services and experiences that exceed their expectations.
2. Conduct a competitor analysis. Make sure you do your research on your direct competitors, including their menu, pricing, location, marketing strategies, customer base, and marketing strategies. Determine where there are gaps in the market and how you can leverage these gaps to set your restaurant apart from the competition.
3. Develop a unique value proposition. Establish a strong and clear value proposition for your restaurant that will allow you to differentiate it from others in the market. It may include your menu, the atmosphere, the service, the price, or the location of your business.
4. Establish your brand identity. Your restaurant’s brand identity should capture your restaurant concept, reflect your restaurant’s unique value proposition and resonate with your target audience. Colours, fonts, messaging, imagery, and logo are all part of this.
5. Develop your marketing strategy. Decide which channels are most effective for reaching your target market, such as social media, advertising, events, or brand partnerships. Restaurant marketing requires a deep understanding of your customers’ habits, so make sure you know how and where to reach them.
6. Keep an eye on things and make adjustments as needed. Maintain regular contact with your customers and monitor the performance of your restaurant. Don’t be afraid to fix things if they aren’t working. The information you collect can be used to adjust menu items, pricing, service, and marketing strategies as needed.
Identify how your brand should look, speak and feel
The next step is to define your company’s look, feel, and brand voice. How will you communicate with the public? What do you sound like? Do you have a tagline? What emotions do you evoke in your customers?
The design of your brand is a crucial component of your brand strategy. Before your customers even know you as a brand, the look of your restaurant could be the factor that makes them decide to spend time with you – or not.Beyond logo design and typography, your brand aesthetic should be reflected in interior decor, signage, restaurant menu design, beer mats, and other merchandise. A restaurant’s website, social media profiles, and social media presence all speak to its brand, so all need to be, well, on brand.If you’re developing your brand’s look, try creating a mood board with your favourite logos, colours, restaurant designs, and other aesthetic elements. This will give you everything you need to hire a graphic designer to create the visual elements for you – or do it yourself! Whatever option you go for, don’t forget to maintain a consistent and recognisable visual identity across all channels.
Your brand voice plays a vital role in connecting with your customers and flexing the personality of your brand. A consistent and unique brand voice should be used across all communication channels, including websites, social media, menus, and signage.If you are developing your brand voice, try describing it with three words – for instance, compassionate, playful, wise – and then elaborate on each until you grasp its personality well.
It’s key for your restaurant brand to evoke a sense of emotion or feeling among your customers. Ideally, this feeling should match your restaurant’s atmosphere, values, and cuisine. No matter what kind of experience you want to deliver to your customers, it’s your job to ensure that your brand constantly delivers it!
Five essential elements of restaurant branding
As touched on above, there are many different elements when it comes to branding a restaurant. These brand elements are the makeup of your brand. They are your necessities. They are what your customers and potential customers will recognise you by.
Think of Burger King’s instantly recognisable lettering, itsu’s unique packaging design or fast food giant McDonald’s globally infamous menu items. Due to their unique and carefully crafted brand elements, they’re all instantly recognisable.
Let’s look at what you need to create a strong restaurant brand.
1. Restaurant name
Restaurant owners know the importance of getting this right. It’s how you present yourself to the public. It’s how people will speak about you. It helps customers identify with you. It tells people what kind of restaurant you are and gives them a peek into the quality of your service.
Your restaurant’s success depends on having a quality name that is memorable, unique, and relevant. The right name enhances every aspect of your business. If you pick the right name for your restaurant, it will accurately describe the cuisine, the service and the atmosphere of your establishment. By doing so, you set yourself apart from the competition and drive customers to your restaurant.
2. Restaurant logo
A logo encapsulates your brand in a single graphic element and is the core of your brand identity. The logo of your restaurant communicates what kind of restaurant you are, and it greatly influences the perception of your brand among customers. As your audience’s first point of contact, this is a vital element in bringing your brand’s personality to life.
Make sure that your logo fits what your restaurant is all about, both in terms of offerings and overall atmosphere. In an already crowded culinary field, the best logos ensure you stand out and give your customers a taste of what you have to offer. No matter what your menu items are, your logo should reflect your brand’s unique flavour and be distinctive and memorable.
3. Physical elements
From your restaurant menu to your signage, business cards, and takeaway packaging, each and every brand item should reflect your distinct personality. To ensure a memorable customer experience for your guests, ensure your brand design is consistently integrated across all your branded collateral, such as the below.
While your menu should entice customers to order your food and keep coming back for more, it should also convey your restaurant’s values and experiences. As the first point of contact between your customers and your food, your menu should be appealing, on-brand, and informative. Your customers will enjoy a glimpse of what’s to come when you give them a taste through words, colours, shapes, fonts, and images.
Curating a physical space that reflects your brand personality and appeals to your customers is crucial. Staff uniforms, table decorations, crockery choices, napkin choices, and so on should all be consistent with your brand colours, style guide, and values.
Signage isn’t limited to your exterior sign. It includes everything from bathrooms, walkways, exit signs, hours of service, and so on. As with all branding elements, your signage should be informative and consistent with your overall branding.
Whether you opt for t-shirts, aprons, or no uniform at all, the uniforms of employees should reflect the brand’s personality and style and contribute to the company’s visual identity.
Takeaway containers, bags and other merchandise convey a message about your brand. Each of these items can be shared and kept by customers and provide an opportunity to get your brand out there and boost your brand recognition. Being known for the right reasons is important, however. Consider your packaging’s environmental impact and your carbon footprint.
4. Restaurant website
Before deciding whether to eat with you, most people look you up online. The majority of customers today browse a restaurant’s website to find out its opening hours, view its menu, or book a table. An enjoyable online experience will not only inform them of your business and get them in the door but will also encourage them to return and become loyal customers. SO whatever you do, don’t overlook the importance of a customer friendly and engaging website.
In essence, your website should be the one source of truth for all questions your guests might have. Whether you design it yourself or hire a web designer, your website should include everything from your story, to your menu, food photos, and reservation information. The more user-friendly and cohesive it is, the better.
5. Social Media
In today’s market, social media plays a pivotal role both in connecting a brand with customers and growing its customer base. It’t not uncommon for people to discover new brands on social media platforms, so it is essential to have a captivating online presence. No matter which platform you choose – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or TikTok – make sure its audiences and purpose are aligned with your restaurant’s needs.
Develop your restaurant brand identity
Your brand identity should be evident no matter where your customers interact with you – brick-and-mortar or online – and should always reflect your restaurant’s personality values. The following three brand elements are the holy trinity of your brand identity and should never be forgotten.
1. Brand voice
This is your opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality through speech. Whether it’s the words you use, your tagline, or your customer service – your brand voice should align with your restaurant’s mission and resonate with your target audience.
As part of your brand identity, your brand voice may influence other stylistic decisions. For example, a bold font and bright colour palette might work well for a brand voice that’s loud and informal.
2. Colour palette
Your brand’s colour palette speaks volumes about your brand and plays a huge role in how your audience perceives you. The colour palette of your brand is always on display, whether on social media, on your website or in your physical establishment and it provides the perfect opportunity to showcase your personality and tell a story.
3. Brand imagery
If a restaurant has pictures on the menu, do you stay away? Before eating at a restaurant, do you check its Instagram account? In either case, the images a restaurant uses influence customers and can make the difference between a yes and a no.
Your brans imagery will grab your audience’s attention, whether on your social networks, marketplace or website. The following are just a few of the most important assets your restaurant brand should possess:
- Physical elements such as your menu and physical ads
- Digital elements such as your website, food photography, and/or social media content
Effective restaurant branding ideas and inspirations
We’d like to conclude by giving you a few examples of compelling restaurant brand designs. Let’s take a look.
Sweetgreen serves healthy, seasonal food to its customers. But putting their food aside, customers know to expect an easygoing, health-oriented experience based solely on their branding. With neutral tones, an understated and effortless interface, bright restaurant lighting, natural photographs, and engaging staff, Sweetgreen immediately communicates its mission both offline and online.
Bill’s website tells customers exactly what to expect. With bright, clashing colours, playful fonts, appetising images, and a variety of events and offers, Bill’s mission and values are clear to see. They display the same commitment and love for social engagement and community in their UK-based restaurants, with colourful seats, cosy decor, friendly staff, and the option to purchase produce.
Room for dessert?
It doesn’t matter if you’re an Italian bistro or a Polish Pierogi stand – a successful restaurant branding strategy is a vital first step in plating your restaurant above the rest.
But with so many small details, we know how time-consuming and challenging it can be. Fortunately, our expertise as a branding agency with extensive experience in the hospitality industry means we can help.
Whether you’re reinvigorating or launching a new brand, seeking to increase your digital presence or implementing a new brand strategy, we’d love to help you own your space in the fast-paced restaurant industry and unleash your brand’s full potential.