This week I was at the Tampa airport headed to New Orleans to address the National Boys and Girls Club of America at their annual meeting. I’ve written about my hometown airport in past blogs, as they are a shining example of excellent destination branding.

The airport is experiencing a massive facelift and expansion costing over a billion dollars just in phase one alone. One of the new cool things is that the airport is focusing on local and independent restaurant operators—most chain restaurants will soon be gone. What a great way to showcase Tampa’s local fare and support our entrepreneurs too!

I had lunch at famed wildlife artist Guy Harvey’s newest location of Rumfish. The food and service were great. For a minute I forgot that I was at the airport. The space and décor are fresh and inviting. One thing that really caught my attention is the giant aquatic tank with a fish that protrudes outside of the glass. Not only was this a nice twist to on an old idea—a fish tank—but also it was unique, artistic, and eye catching.  The fish that fill the six-foot tank were colorful Florida species and the concept supports the restaurant’s overall mantra to totally immerse their guests in the dining experience.

Photo from

Photo from

It’s a brilliant branding tactic, as over 7 million eyeballs will take in this on-brand display every year. Plus, the restaurant group has earned some awesome local and national publicity; Animal Planet’s “Tanked” show, a program all about fish tanks with millions of viewers, ran a major feature about the restaurant’s tank creations and installation. Very nice hook.

See more detail here.

This got me thinking…

What can you as a restaurant operator do to add a new dimension to a not so new idea? And then earn some serious publicity too?

I made another observation this week while I was playing tennis on Davis Island. Davis Island is a quaint, kitschy, community just outside of downtown Tampa. A new Italian place just opened called Oggi Italian Street Food. I haven’t experienced their place yet but I love the name and category creation of Italian street food. I will be checking it out next week for sure.

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What I really found effective was their curb appeal. They’ve created an entrance to the outdoor dining area from repurposed metal kitchen utensils. There’s also a fence made out of motorcycle mufflers. These are creative examples of attention-grabbing and intriguing curb visuals.

What can you repurpose either inside or outside of your restaurant to add an interesting dimension and enhance your brand’s curb appeal?

For even more curb appeal ideas, check out an article I did for

And a last thought: Departure Magazine, a publication of American Express, recently featured a small tattoo shop in Brooklyn, NY called Meattt. While this is not a restaurant, the business markets heavily to chefs and professional foodies and they practice many stick-to-the-brain branding techniques that are worth checking out.

Marina Heintze, the 29-year old entrepreneur who runs the place, distinguishes her shop from others by offering up a menu of custom designs including many culinary designs.

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Today there are thousands of shops putting ink on bodies, but she decided to pick a lane and dedicate her craft to restaurant, food, and beverage people.


Not only has she picked a niche, she also selected a great name, Meattt, and created her space to look like a meat market. If that’s not cool enough, check out the cutout of her logo that becomes a photo opportunity so patrons never forget the unique shop.

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Plus, she painted the sidewalk outside like a fresh street of meat, earning her attention from passersby. It’s one more visual to build and reinforce the brand identity.

So what’s your unique niche? How do you stand out from your competitors? And how are you leveraging your brand’s angle in your environment, marketing, and brand building.

I hope that these three examples and questions challenge your thinking. Explore how you can be a more distinct, standout brand that gives your customers something to hold on to.

Next week, I’ll share what I discovered on my trip to the Houston Restaurant scene.