Build it and they will come. Good movie. Bad marketing plan! But it seems as though restaurants are among the most guilty of this flawed approach.
Maybe it’s the romance of owning a restaurant. Maybe it’s the substantial investment required to get up and running. It definitely has to do with the tiny margins involved in running a successful eatery. Whatever the cause, we’ve watched a lot of different restaurants invest heavily in building out the space, invest less heavily in branding the concept, and invest next to nothing in the marketing required to get people through the doors.
A Solid Brand Strategy
All of the good restaurateurs I’ve worked with have a solid understanding of their audience. The funny thing is that’s the first step in a solid restaurant concept as well as a solid brand strategy, right? It seems straight forward, but often times the obvious information is overlooked and the branding is either based on very little strategy or seems to take a generic approach that lacks personality.
The branding should speak directly to what customers can expect when they eat at a restaurant, from food, to service, to price point, so generic as a branding strategy doesn’t tend to go well. In a perfect world, branding and marketing is part of the startup’s budget and is tied into and treated with as much importance as the design of the space. We have a number of successful restaurant clients that invested up front in branding, worked with us to expand that into a branded space and then followed that initial investment up with an ongoing marketing budget.
Consistent marketing & PR
That ongoing marketing budget is the foundation for a solid and consistent marketing strategy. Maybe the initial marketing announces the grand opening and introduces the concept. Then what’s the next phase? And how does it work directly with PR? We are big fans of PR when it comes to restaurants because the approach is the perfect balance of organic and transparent. The most effective approaches we’ve found are centered around the basic marketing approaches that require ongoing and consistent implementation. Make a solid plan and stick with it.
That said, we see restaurants as outstanding sources of data. Whether you’re looking at butts in seats or which dishes are the most popular, a flexible approach is essential. The funny thing about being flexible though, is it only works well if you have that consistent baseline to back it up. Perhaps your social accounts are focused on the latest specials, but messaging and the foundational pieces like your website, menus and the customer experience once they walk through the doors has to be consistent.
So, build it. Build it because we always love new restaurants, but don’t expect people to just show up. That only happens if you build and maintain a solid brand and marketing approach.
Brandt Hoekenga is the Founder and Creative Director for TIV Branding
TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at info@TIVbranding.com.