Your restaurant brand is what the market thinks, feels and expects from your business. The power of your brand can often be a deciding factor when a patron chooses where they will dine and spend their money.
While brands are mental impressions, or what I refer to as brain tattoos, customers must allow a brand to have a place in their head. But you the restaurateur control access to permission and much of what that image and reputation by being proactive in these key areas.
When’s the last time you Googled your restaurant? What did you see? Lots of positive reviews, social media mentions and articles by the press touting your food and an awesome restaurant experience? Or was it tough to even find your place or website among your competitors? In branding, perception becomes reality. Consumers believe what they see and read. If search results are low, change this.
Remember that more than 34 % of diners report that information on a peer review site is likely to factor into their decision when choosing a restaurant, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2012 National Household Survey.
- Remind your customers to spread the word about their experiences via social media. You can add a note to their meal bill, create a social media poster in your restrooms or print your social media addresses on fun coasters in the bar.
- Reward them when they share love about your restaurant. This can a tangible gift, such as a free glass of wine, dessert or offer them a special VIP reservation privilege or free valet parking.
- Make sure your restaurant is listed on all of the search engines and all of the local free directories that list businesses.
- Send out regular news releases that include news about your menu, milestones, such as your anniversary etc. Many of these services are free, such as PRUrgent, PRlog.org and Newsvine, while others with stronger reach such as PR Newswire, PR Web or Business Wire have nominal fees.
As consumers we are conditioned to want to hang out in tribes of other like-minded people and are attracted to busy places. Packed parking lots, bustling dinning rooms or even a reputation of “it takes months to get table at restaurant XYZ” can all serve as psychological triggers that increase desire, versus the opposite impression that projects there must be something wrong with this place vibe.
As a proactive restaurant operator, you need to create social evidence that creates these magnets of attraction.
This can be as simple as:
- Letting your staff park close, so the lot is always full.
- Portioning off your dining room with screens or curtains in slower periods of business.
- Making sure your social media accounts have a critical mass of community members and activity.
Being at the top of customers’ minds matters in any category. Consumers have a lot of great restaurant options, so how can you stay present even when you are a single store location and don’t have a big budget?
Here are a few ideas to increase the awareness of your restaurant:
- Pass out menus in a creative fashion to the neighboring businesses and hotels. Whether you use a decorated box or interesting bag, show your brand personality with this effort.
- Deliver a sampler box of food items from your restaurant to tastemakers like journalists, bloggers, concierges and other influencers that can refer you business.
- Sticker a car or truck with your brand messages. I recently discovered a great resource called Stickergenius.com that prints reusable stickers. They come in many sizes and can be affixed to many different surfaces. They are fast and affordable and offer similar products for the walls and floor too.
- Paint a mural that’s on brand on the outside of your restaurant. This can be excellent way to gain exposure for your establishment and be a news angle to earn publicity. If you don’t own your building, check with your landlord and to make sure they are cool, and always check out all the zoning and or signage restrictions in your neighborhood too. Here’s an example a pizza place in New Orleans that has used this idea well.
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