Operations – Developing A Brand

By Peter Thor, President, Bellissimo Foods

Your restaurant name or organization, like a personal brand, defines you.  A brand, whether business or personal, is similar to a reputation  in that it takes a long time to build and can be tarnished or destroyed overnight.  While many think of brand names in just a retail sense, in fact foodservice is built on a brand as well.  This is true for the restaurant as well as for the food brands used.  In a broader sense, you and your employees are individual brands representing your restaurant brand.

One of the most important concepts in brand building is consistency.  For a brand to mean something, it requires repeatable quality of product and service over time.  For a brand to build a lasting reputation, it also must have defining characteristics that are differentiable from competitors in ways that are meaningful to your target customers.  A first step in moving forward is to define your target customer.  Specifics like age range, economic profile, and other demographics of your current customers should be compared with trends in your geographic draw and the type of customers you hope to attract in the future.  Simply put, you need to define the intersection of your preferred customer with the realistic potential pool of customers.

To effectively build your brand and your business, start with defining your target customers, followed by defining their product and service preferences.  Pizza is consistently rated #1 food choice for busy people on the go.  Pizza is also favorably viewed as a good value relative to other dining choices.  Common trends amongst consumers include growth in both fast casual, take & bake, expanded dessert and health related menu items. 

What should your brand message be?  Successful companies have been built around many differentiable ideas.  Once again, having all parts of your business consistently communicating to customers the same thing is critical to building a successful brand and profitable business.  Low price is the message of Walmart and certain low cost pizza chains.  Fast delivery is a claim of another which appeals to eat-at-home customers.  Fresh and natural are claims made by retailer Whole Foods and also by Fresh Brothers, winner of Pizza Today’s “Independent Pizzeria of the Year”.  As an independent restaurateur, your route to long term success and profitability will be by differentiating your product and service, not by being cheaper than the discount chains.  If you have multiple products, e.g. menu items, the quality levels should be consistent.  Other aspects of your brand must also be consistent with the brand persona.  Items like service levels, décor, sanitation, packaging, promotion, and pricing should convey a consistent message.

Your brand differentiation may include how you reach out to customers and your community. Reputation management is becoming more important in the internet age, as younger generations especially turn to the internet to check out places to eat.  Even if you do not offer online ordering (yet), you will want to pay close attention to your visibility and online and what review say about dining experiences.  There are ways to respond even to negative reviews and get them behind you.  Use social media to your advantage, and it can be a positive brand builder.  Another interesting aspect of social media is that it is a good way to keep track of your competition.  Both positive and negative comments offer much to learn from.

It is always interesting to witness both rising brands and those that are losing their luster or reputation.

In retail, think of brands like Apple and Costco which have positively differentiated themselves in quality experience and price expectation, one high and the other low.  Compare that to brands that have not lived up to their quality or consistency like Sears, K-Mart, and countless restaurants which have failed to deliver a product or service worthy of customer support.  For the independent restaurateur, loyal (repeat) customers are the lifeblood of the business and the best measure of success.

Can you describe in a few words or a phrase your differentiator, and the main benefits you offer?  Make sure that each of your employees understands the benefits and can fulfill their responsibility as a reliable member of the team in delivering on the promise.  Build your business and your brand by focusing on these few things.  We wish you all success, and please do not hesitate to seek counsel from the experienced Delco Foods Representatives who are experts in your area.

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