Summer is the time of year when many people try to spend as little time as possible in their own kitchens. Whether they’re eating out or bringing food in, the summer months present both a challenge and an opportunity for restaurants. The challenge is that it’s tough to rise above competition. The opportunity is that by using the right mix of branding tools and marketing you can create a loyal customer base that keeps coming back well after your shorts and bathing suits are packed away for the winter.
Build a Brand for Your Restaurant
Brand building is not easy, but it presents rewards for anyone willing to put in the work. It’s often overlooked by business owners who think it’s just for major consumer brands, but that’s the thing that often makes it a golden opportunity for those willing to put themselves out there.
There are many ways to build a brand that influence how clients feel about your restaurant. You can control many of them, and they key to building brand reputation is a combination of several tactics.
Here are five suggestions for how you can take advantage of that control to make your restaurant more memorable.
Service with a Smile
Customers will only spread the word, good or bad, about a restaurant if they have strong feelings. In every business, a positive brand reputation begins with a product or service that you can be proud of.
People come to a restaurant for the food, not for its marketing. If it’s not excellent, nothing else really matters. With that in mind, make sure that you understand what else it is about your restaurant that your customers love. Be certain that your marketing materials reflect what makes you special, whether it’s the ambiance, the specials or the attentive service. Ideally, it should be all of the above. This is not the time for modesty. Spell it all out.
Not everybody is going to like everything, and it’s important not to shy away from complaints. They won’t go away if you ignore them. Make sure that you quickly address customer complaints and concerns. You won’t be able to make everybody happy, but eliminating basic service issues gives your practice a platform to build upon as you expand your branding.
Use a Megaphone - Remind Satisfied Clients About Reviews and Referrals
Once you start getting that great feedback, it’s time to convince your customers to do some talking. Restaurants rise and fall on reviews and on and offline reviews and referrals are critical. We all know how much more likely customers are to talk about a negative experience than they are a positive one, which is why you need to encourage your best customers to spread the word about your restaurant.
Make it easy by setting up an easy to access review and referral program. Pick your favorite platform for online reviews – usually the one that brings you the most business, -- Google, Yelp, Facebook or some other service. And show your customers how to do it. Write a step-by-step process for customers to follow when they’re willing to leave you an honest review
For referrals, create a rewards based program for your current customers who recommend a friend or family member. Free drinks and desserts work wonders, and often lead to extra customer expenditures. Using small rewards is a powerful way to generate word-of-mouth marketing and build your brand.
Make Sure Your Logo and Visuals Are Unique
Once you know that existing customers are happy, create a first impression that lasts. Your restaurant needs visual assets that benefit your business and showcase your brand.
Small things like consistent colors, fonts, a tag line, memorable contact details, will help your practice stand out in a competitive field.
A picture really is worth 1,000 words, so use them to create a uniquely compelling visual identity that your customers will instantly recognize. Ensure your marketing tools and channels reflect these visuals consistently so that they become ubiquitous, whether prospective diners find your restaurant online or in the real world.
When it comes to the food don’t be too show to take photos of what you’re serving. As we said before, the food is ultimately why people are coming to your restaurant. Show them how good it really is.
Get an Unforgettable Phone Number and Website
They’re going to see your logo and ogle your pictures, but when prospective customers see your ads, will know what to do? If your restaurant has a complicated domain name and a random phone number, the chances are they won’t. If they’re hearing your ad on the radio or seeing it on a highway billboard or even in a magazine, they probably won’t write down your contact information.
Make it Easy For Potential Customers to Remember You
Getting a custom domain link and a vanity number instantly makes your restaurant more memorable. If you can associate that custom contact point with your services – words like dinner or delivery for example – that’s all the better for your brand. These are simple and affordable brand assets that are often worth their weight in gold. Take advantage of them.
Act on Feedback
If you follow these suggestions, you’re going to get a lot of feedback, both good and bad. Use it to improve your service offering and show your customers that you’re listening and that you care.
But you don’t have to just sit back and wait for the comments to start coming in. Get the ball rolling yourself. Send a survey to longstanding patrons and ask for their comments. The sooner you start getting suggestions, the sooner you’ll be able to start creating a memorable - and improved - brand.
Great brands aren’t built overnight. It’s a process that can be challenging, but is ultimately incredibly worthwhile. Start from a commitment to excellent service, then make sure your brand assets and customer follow-up make it easy to reach your restaurant and refer it to others. From that base you can create a memorable experience that clients are excited to talk about.