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This is the first article in a five-part series that details exactly what you need to market your restaurant and make it a success.
Successful restaurant marketing is contingent on more than simply sending some coupons and taking out a yellow page ad. Branding your restaurant - for your food, your atmosphere and your customers - has as much to do with your restaurant's success as your location. Unless you have zero competition (which is next to impossible), you need an intelligent branding strategy to earn the customer loyalty that will keep you in business for decades to come.
Branding is important because people purchase on emotion. When it comes to restaurant marketing, they want to feel that they're eating the highest quality food prepared with care just for them. It's important to identify and promote your branded identity so you can connect with your target audience at a glance. If your restaurant is not branded, then you're just another restaurant. There's nothing that separates you from the competition.
This reduces your potential customer pool to make choices based on factors such as price, convenience and preconceived notions. Without a branded identity, you have no control over preconceptions and therefore you're forced to compete on pricing and location alone. This is not a way to grow your restaurant. Cheap does not outsell quality, especially in the restaurant industry. This is why franchises such as Papa Johns Pizza have gone to great lengths to market the fact that their ingredients are fresh.
Branding goes beyond locale as well. If you have franchise aspirations, successful branding is critical. Remember that McDonald's began as a single restaurant in San Bernardino.
Consider how you're different from your competitors. What do you offer that they don't (or that they don't promote)? If you're the only place to get fresh fish in town, identifying your brand niche is relatively easy; but if there's massive competition it can be more difficult. Perhaps you have the best food in town, a master chef at work, or provide a particular atmosphere well-suited to your audience (such as a bistro, night club or family restaurant).
To help you define what type of restaurant you are, consider the features and benefits you offer your diners. Understand the distinction between the two. For example, having a world-class chef on-hand is a feature; guaranteeing that your customers will enjoy their food is a benefit. List all of your features and benefits, and pick the most important that also differentiate you from the competition to base your brand on.
Skilled graphic design can transform your restaurant's branded identity from a concept to a visual motivator. This image is what the world will see, and your customers will perceive the ideals and emotions that your image expresses. The power of graphic design is limitless, especially when you incorporate sound brand identity design principles for your restaurant.
Food is a visual motivator in and of itself, but when you take care to snap the best photos of the right dishes for your target audience and present them in a fresh, crisp light, you can make mouths water through something as simple as a postcard or poster. Your restaurant branded designs should not only say what you offer, but what your customers will experience when they visit your establishment.
Your restaurant colors, logo, corporate identity package, website and other print marketing materials are all a reflection of your brand; so familiar, cohesive design must be applied to all mediums. The goal is for your prospects to be able to glance at your material and instantly recognize who it's from and what you stand for. When you achieve this, you've developed a powerful restaurant brand identity.