Restaurant brands need to be refreshed every few years or they start to grow mold like expired bread.
So, how about your brand? Is it as fresh as your bread? As relevant as the latest technologies your core audiences are using? Today’s tech-savvy consumers expect their smartphone provider to come up with a new technology every twelve months. Restaurant industry executives who don’t think the same expectation for speeding up innovation doesn’t apply to their businesses are wrong. Both the tech and restaurant industries share the same consumer, so it’s time the restaurant industry started getting used to the idea of continuous innovation.
Here are a few general tips relevant to any company considering a rebrand—but like a custom set of replacement dentures, it really should be custom-fit to work best.
EMBRACE CHANGE WILLINGLY
It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, it is scary to do a brand reboot if you are doing it right. If you’ve been there since the early days—or have a lot of your own money on the line—you must be pushed beyond your comfort zone. Change willingly. If you wait until a brand rejuvenation project is obviously needed, it’s too late. Ask yourself: When is the last time my business did a brand review? Remodel?
WORK FROM THE INSIDE OUT
When you analyze it, you’ll see that nearly every successful restaurant brand turnaround started in the heart of the house: in the kitchen, with the menu. Ill-conceived restaurant re-branding strategies start from the outside and work their way in; meaning they announce changes with expensive advertising campaigns, start with new signage and exterior remodels, and then they work their way in with interior remodels and after-the-fact staff training. Win the hearts and minds of the internal customer (the crew/associates) and come up with killer new signature items your associates believe in and rave about.
CONSIDER THE SIX SENSES
KNOW THE TRENDS
Before you spend the first dollar planning or implementing, make sure you’ve spent at least a nickel researching and analyzing. Sure, you need to know your internal trends like you know the back of your hand. But you also are going to need to own up to the fact that there is more happening in the world than you alone can master. Make new friends and travel with them. Bring in an outside perspective. To start, see these restaurant trends. You should definitely benchmark and look at what others are doing, but if you mimic another brand yours can only ever be a counterfeit.
FOCUS YOUR RESOURCES
Not even Coca Cola with a seemingly limitless budget can afford to do everything it wants to do at the same time. When you do a full top-to-bottom brand review and look to budget out for a reboot, you will inevitably exceed the parameters of what it makes sense to do simultaneously. This is a natural part of the process so don’t feel discouraged. Embrace limitations as a source of inspiration to be more creative. Start with the basics. For instance, how current are your brand standards documents? You know, things like a professionally crafted positioning strategy, brand personality statement, set of measurable brand promises, and a compelling brand story. Plan and articulate first.
GET A NEW DRESS
Often times, car companies will put a new skin on a proven and renowned chassis. Maybe your underlying framework and chassis is solid and it’s only your headlights and bodywork that’s out of touch. Car companies can’t keep getting top dollar and industry accolades if they put the exact same model car out every single year. Are you retooling your menu and marketing every 6 – 12 months? Sure, it costs you too if you have to re-evaluate your menu a couple times per year and repackage, but wouldn’t you agree those boring car companies have it so much worse?
BE BRAVE, NOT BORING.
It fascinates me how many companies say in the same sentence, “We’re looking for innovative ideas,” but also “we need some case studies to get the support of the board.” If it’s truly innovative, you won’t find a case study for it because it hasn’t been done before. And if you can find a case study for it, it’s not a novel idea and can only at-best be a commandeering of someone else’s innovation. A good rule of thumb here is to ask, “Will what we’re doing be considered so unique, exciting and ground-breaking that journalists from around the country (or world) will write about it?”
SOMETIMES IT'S BETTER TO START OVER.
In some cases it’s better to just get a fresh start than to keep trying to repair a brand that’s built on a compromised foundation. Don’t be afraid to change your name or start a new company/brand. Sometimes you’re better off cleaning the slate and doing something fresh that was unrestrained by the previous brand parameters.
I’m not asking you to depart from your current ‘brand’ with reckless disregard; nor am I pushing you to hire a consultant or to not trust your gut. I want you to find the courage and inspiration to do something so special and unique that you attract not just guests but associates, investors, and journalists. If you feel a little lost or overwhelmed, it’s okay. It should feel that way if you’re doing it right. Go it alone or hire experienced help. Companies like mine do this for a living, but you don’t have to hire help. What you have to do above all else is aspire to do something meaningful and be willing to put it all on the line to bring it into the world.