The Recipe for New Restaurant Success – Step 1: Prep Work
There’s nothing we love more than working closely with restaurateurs to build and grow a restaurant. After all, this isn’t our first shift on the Friday night dinner rush. We’ve worked with restaurant clients big and small; from casual eateries to high-end establishments, we’ve found the recipe for restaurant success. Like with any recipe, missing one element or changing the process could spell disaster for the finished product. If you have an awesome idea for a restaurant, or if you’re looking to revamp your existing business, keep reading.
Prep Work (Design Phase)
This initial phase is the design equivalent of making your menu for the night, rolling silverware bundles, portioning your condiments, and assigning the floor plan. Start your restaurant marketing journey on the right foot by creating a solid foundation for success.
At the heart of every successful restaurant is a well-planned concept. It’s what lays the foundation for everything in the business, including the menu, the atmosphere, and the attitude. The concept is a blueprint for how your idea fits into the market, and it takes time and research to create.
Know Your Market Demographics
Identifying the type of food you want to provide and the level of service that comes along with that is a key component. Another core component is the research and competitive analysis that outlines why people in your area would support your concept. When researching your concept, you may not have access to market research companies like Nielsen, but, you can use tools like Facebook Audience Insights to find out more about your target audience and how they spend their digital lives.
Facebook is a good place to start due to the sheer volume of people using the platform. As of January 2018, Facebook has 230 million users in the U.S., which is more than 80% of the American population. Facebook Insights can show you what people in your target market like and engage with. This could help clarify the direction of your concept, as well as how you should engage with your audience.
For example, if you look at men and women in Orlando (the city, not the Designated Market Area) between the ages of 21 and 35 on Facebook who have an interest in beer and barbecue, you see there are between 100K and 150K active users. You also see these users are much more likely to engage with Facebook pages including radio stations XL 106.7 and Rumba 100.3; publications such as Orlando Weekly and the Orlando Sentinel; TV stations such as WESH 2 News and WFTV Channel 9; and venues such as Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and The Beacham. While this data is primarily used to target ads to a specific users on Facebook, if you are a restaurant owner looking to advertise or partner locally, this knowledge can help provide options on reaching your target audience.
More importantly, this data is just a small sample of what’s available. If you connect this with your Facebook page, you can see what other pages on Facebook people interact with as well as demographic, activity, and household information about the audience.
Get Specific About Your Competition
Another core component of this phase is researching competitors in your area. One thing we hear from newer restaurant owners is, “Every restaurant is my competitor.” While that may be somewhat true, it’s a little misguided. You have to dig deeper, looking at other restaurants in your category, neighborhood, and price range. Focus your competitive analysis on their concepts, customers, and advertising strategies.
A great restaurant concept is more than just a pun-derful name; it is a huge part of your business, and one that should be chosen carefully. Make it memorable, and ensure it complements your concept, brand, and everything else you own that relates to the restaurant.
When we tackle a naming exercise, we spend time digging deep into the concept, the atmosphere, the food, the personal feelings of stakeholders, and the attitude of the brand. From there, we brainstorm words and phrases that evoke feelings related to our discovery. Ideas are vulnerable during the brainstorming stage, so it’s important to keep an open mind — we rarely kill any idea in the first brainstorm session, and instead use it as an opportunity to get ideas on paper. Next, we work with our clients to narrow down the options and potentially expand on some favorites. It takes time and dedication to fine-tune the name, but it’s worth it.
The final step to the name is evaluating how the name works in the real world. Sometimes a great name doesn’t lend itself well to real-world scenarios. For example, an intentionally misspelled word may hinder search results, while a generic name may not be strong enough to stand out against local competitors. We work through this by experimenting with the top three choices and researching potential applications throughout the brand structure until we find one that fits.
Your brand should reinforce and enhance your name, concept, style, attitude, and customer touchpoints. Customers will engage with your brand in person, online, and on social media; they’ll post pictures of it, tell their friends about it, and buy merchandise displaying it. Your brand has to be flexible enough to live in all of those mediums, so it’s important that you own it, embrace it, and put some effort and thought into it.
Keep it Simple
We look at look at logos a lot, and we can confidently tell you that “less is best.” Oftentimes, logos that integrate too much detail end up failing. Your logo (like your brand) has to be flexible enough to live across mediums; complicated logos get lost as profile pictures and icons online.
David Wingard, our founder and creative director, says to keep the following in mind when creating your restaurant’s brand: “Think of ways to expand your restaurant brand beyond the logo. Secondary branding elements, like illustrations and typography, can be used for environmental graphics, on the menu, and in external marketing materials.”
Brand Voice and Personality
Your brand not only includes your logo and other visual elements, but also the tone and personality of your brand’s voice. Is your voice male or female? Formal or conversational? When you read the copy, who do you picture in your head reading it? Make sure the answers align with your goals and concept.
You’d never see a high-end French restaurant write, “Kick back on our super chill patio. The vibe is cool, and the appetizers are totes amaze-balls.” While that may be true, it doesn’t align with the brand voice. Instead, they would say something like, “Relax on our elegant terrace with exquisite table-side service from our expertly trained staff and chef-inspired hors d’oeuvres.” This better complements the overall restaurant aesthetic and reinforces the brand.
You already know your physical location is important, but your digital presence is equally important because it’s how you build loyalty, offer deals or incentives, share new information, and engage with satisfied (and unsatisfied) customers. A study from 2017 found that 80% of people used a search engine to find a local business or service, while the company’s website was the second option. Your information will be published across a variety of online locations, so it’s important to keep your information accurate and updated so customers have a good experience before they even arrive.
When planning your digital presence, evaluate and narrow down the platforms you want to participate in, and create accounts to reserve your expected brand name (before someone else gets it). You’ll also want to plan the type and frequency of content and information to share on those platforms. In our next post, we’ll explore social media content and management, as well as the key to getting better reviews.
Interested to see how your restaurant information looks online? Use our free business lookup to check the accuracy of your listings and see how your reviews stack up against other businesses.
Architecture & Interior Design
The architecture and interior design of your restaurant should complement your brand and concept. It doesn’t matter how nice your logo looks or how mouthwatering your food looks on Instagram, if you’re operating out of a former Pizza Hut building, you’ll have an uphill battle to change people’s expectations before they even walk in the door.
Small restaurants that are renting their space may not be able to change the core architecture of the exterior, so focus on signage, paint colors, landscaping, window treatments, lighting, and other outdoor updates that will enhance your look without changing the architecture of the structure. As for buildout, think through how people will move in your restaurant. Set up empty boxes or other physical objects to get a feel for how the space operates (yes, we’ve done this exercise with restaurateurs, and it works). Once you get the layout squared away, focus on interior design details. Don’t be afraid to go bold if it fits your brand.
If you build or buy a building, you will have much more control over the architecture and design. Partner with an architecture or design firm that understands your style and direction.
- Use Facebook Audience Insights to find out more information about your target audience.
- Get specific when looking at your competitors. Focus on what they are doing right and what you think they are doing wrong.
- Make sure your brand works across mediums. Too much detail can get lost in some formats, so keep it simple.
- Brainstorm your restaurant name and focus on words that echo your concept and resonate with your stakeholders.
- Reserve digital handles for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other relevant platforms when you finalize your name.
In the next post in this series, we’ll focus on menu design, wearables, collateral, and other core touchpoints. If you have a question or comment about anything we mentioned here, feel free to reach out to us.