Everyday ambitious restaurateurs spend time and money on building great brands.

When done right, a strong brand is distinct, it’s part of the dining experience and it reflects the brand story. The brand becomes the reason why one restaurant should be the chosen one over competitors.

We love to hear from entrepreneurs who are committed to building their brands because brands impact the bottom line. Hopefully this means an entrepreneur is living a dream and making money, too.

However, what we see so often, too, is while these same restaurants are investing in brand building, they’re not leveraging their most important brand machine, their employees. With just a few changes they can add fuel to their efforts and make everything (all that branding and marketing expenses) work even more efficiently.

Think about how customers experience restaurant brands. Employees are the face of the brand and a large part of the customer experience.

Getting employees engaged and on the brand wagon will not only help you deliver a better customer experience, but studies show employees who are proud of the brand (their employer) will be loyal and stick around too.

Here are three low cost ways to get your employees on the brand wagon.

1. Brand education
When you on-board and have orientation for new employees, a portion of your training should walk through your brand essence. In addition to the concept, this includes the restaurant’s purpose, brand personality, points of distinction and brand promise.

To make these ideas more concrete, you should have ways to explain how the brand essence is reflected in your restaurant and translates into their roles. To show that you’re serious about your brand, consider having all employees sign a brand oath. This can be one pager describing the brand and what you expect from your team.

Related reading 7 steps to building your brand’s personality

2. Brand street support
Create ways for employees to get involved in grassroots marketing. Always reward and recognize them for their efforts. This can include: posting social media items, visiting local hotels and providing copies of your menu to signing up guests to your loyalty program or even volunteering to be a mystery diner at one of your competitor’s places.

If you invite them to mystery dine, make sure you’ve covered in clear terms what this means. For example:  how do you want their experience report submitted? Do you have a form? Does it include taking pictures, talking to guests, asking certain questions or even sampling the menu?

Every six months run a contest to recognize the employee who is truly carrying the brand torch. Important contributions can include: listening to and sharing with management customer insight, helping a co-worker or helping the restaurant solve a problem. Rewards for all employee brand support efforts can be gift cards, VIP parking or even an opportunity to treat their family to night out.

Related reading How to make your employees care–7 helpful tips

3. Brand collaboration
Invite all of your team to collaborate and provide feedback when you make changes. Your employees may have great ideas that they’ve learned from talking to customers or experiences they’ve had outside your restaurant.

Yes, this can be an added step, but in the long run you will have more support on implementing change and trying new things when you’ve asked for input. This can include: new menu item sampling, an idea session to create new promotions or even how the restaurant wants to be a good citizen and give back to the community.

Your employees are such an important part of your brand. When you explain the importance of the brand, reward them for supporting the brand and get their ideas to improve the brand, it can provide benefits that will pay off ten times over.

Related reading Building your brand from the inside out

Do you have a question for us? We’d love to answer it here on the blog. You can email us jring[at]restaurantbrandingroadmap[dot]com or reach us on our Facebook page or Tweet us.

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