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Secrets Of Restaurant Branding

How to make a lasting restaurant brand with the pros at LMNOP Creative

branded items wooden table

When a guest walks into your restaurant, it should be a transformative experience for them, even if they aren’t always able to put their finger on everything that’s happening. They take in the table settings, the artwork and furniture, and the sights and smells of the food. They don’t know why the room feels so warm and inviting, but they do know they like it. It’s those moments—those thousands of little things working together to define a space—that make up a restaurant’s brand and establish its personality.

In the hospitality industry, it’s essential to create a brand that captivates every single guest before they even walk through the door. Developing a brand isn’t easy, though—it’s not as simple as slapping a logo onto all of your menus and calling it a day. So we’re outlining where to start in order to create a brand that sticks, with the help of hospitality branding experts LMNOP Creative.

Define Your Brand

“Start with the obvious,” says Leigh Nelson, owner of LMNOP Creative. That would be your name, philosophy, and logo, all of which will influence the physical elements of how your brand is expressed, from its visual identity online to the way the food is plated in the kitchen. Nelson also suggests asking yourself questions to elicit the important details to help define your brand’s personality:

  • Who are your customers?

  • How do you want to come off to new guests?

  • Which of your competitors do you think are doing a good job?

  • What are your price points?

The first thing that Nelson looks at when developing a brand for a restaurant is the design of the space, explaining that the interior and brand should compliment each other. “In an ideal situation, the interior design concept is still being developed” when LMNOP begins on the project so that “the two teams can bounce ideas and inspiration off each other,” Nelson explains. Cultivating the concepts at the same time allows for a more precise vision.

Take ownership of your brand by understanding your story and what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes just writing down your philosophy helps keep your concept targeted and focused.

Consider The Details

Again, this may seem obvious, but according to Nelson, this is one of her top three tips for anyone trying to brand their business. Up until relatively recently, “restaurant owners haven’t always had the budget for branding work or realized the value in it,” Nelson says. But in the past decade, restaurateurs have begun to recognize the value of investing in a lasting brand, due in part to the impact of social and digital media as a vehicle for promotion.

Not only do the interiors, menus, and uniforms matter for restaurants, but their online presence matters, too. 89% of people research a restaurant online before dining there, meaning that your online presence is important. The feeling a guest gets from looking at your homepage should reflect the feeling they get when they walk through the door.

Do Something Unexpected

The second tip Nelson includes on her list is doing something unexpected and making it memorable—emphasizing the need to bring “personality and something unique” to your brand so that “people will connect and remember you.” But with so many ideas and concepts out there, how are you supposed to set your restaurant apart? Nelson says by finding that extra layer, which is the part of your brand’s story that stands out and surprises you. Maybe it’s something about what inspired you, or a factoid or fun piece of history— whatever it is, that extra layer is what people will remember.

If you’re struggling with this, Nelson encourages you to consider why you started your restaurant. Exploring those details of your personality and how your concept evolved creates room for something important to emerge that will help shape your brand.

The Fundamental Secret: Have Fun With It All

Finally, have fun with your brand and it will shine through, Nelson explains. “Dig deep. Look for details or part of the story that isn’t obvious” in order to cultivate your brand. Stay focused, consider all touchpoints, and enjoy what you’re doing because, at the end of the day, you built something that creates a memorable experience for guests. Your brand should do the same.

Putting measured thought behind every aspect of your restaurant is what creates that feeling of warmth and hospitality that your guests can’t put their finger on. Your brand defines that feeling and ultimately defines your restaurant.

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