Restaurant Branding: The Brand Promise

What do you promise to customers, employees, the community, partners, vendors, media, and other key stakeholders?

Great restaurant branding is about making a promise and reflecting that promise at every customer touchpoint.  The idea is that you don’t want to have a “business” – you want to have a “cause”.  When you make such a brand promise and have a cause, you are more likely to enlist the passionate help of your key stakeholders to help you cause (which benefits your business).  When you stand for something, you stand out.  When you stand out, you are doing one of the most important things in marketing – showing you are different (in marketing you want to emphasize how you’re different, rather than how you’re better).

A brand promise must be bold, clear, and made publicly.  Everyone you deal with should know what you stand for and what you won’t stand for.  A brand promise can be confused with a mission statement; and while there are some similarities, the two are dramatically different.

Examples of Great Restaurant Branding

Often I am asked for examples of successful restaurant companies who have a brand promise.  There are hundreds of examples but a very timely one is Chipotle.  They had the highest performing stock of 2010 with a 170% increase.  Their brand promise is “food with integrity”.  Their promise was so clear, the communication of the message so effective, and the “cause” of the business so compelling that they not only rocketed upwards in sales and profitability but they are creating and perpetuating number of new food movements in the wake of their success.

The promise can’t be “good food, good service and good atmosphere”.  Those are simply the tokens to get in to the game – all restaurants must have this and deliver on this inherent promise of the industry, so this is too generic to be your restaurants brand promise.

In pursuing the answer to “what’s our brand promise”, ask yourself what would be your “cause”.  Sure, it’s to feed people, do what restaurants are supposed to do which is “restore”, be a good employer, but past all that, what’s your reason for being?  What do you stand for?  What are your non-negotiables?  What do you defend or champion?  What are your belief systems and governing codes?  The answers to these questions will help you reveal the components of your brand promise.

A strong restaurant brand is built when the brand promise and operational/marketing execution are closely aligned.  You have a bold promise, deliver on that promise consistently and without wavering, and as a result you build a remarkable restaurant brand.  This notion – by contrast to what many restaurant consultants, ad agencies, and branding types preach – is the cornerstone of restaurant branding; not fancy creative, nicely designed logos and corporate identity, and the like.  Those can be tools to help communicate what the brand stands for, but the “brand promise” is the starting point and mother of all restaurant marketing efforts.