Operating a successful business is no easy task; and operators know that to be on top of your game, you must update, refresh and reevaluate your brand. Even establishments that have been around for years need to understand who and what they are, explains Brad Miller, operations associate at Synergy Restaurant Consultants.
The first thing an operator needs to do is to ask “who they are as a business and as an owner,” says Miller. “We really like to get into what an owner’s core values are, what they believe in and what’s important to them — what their goals are. The brand is your identity. It’s the DNA of your restaurant and bar.”
Once owners know who their ideal customers are, they can start differentiating their establishment from the competitors. Creating those tactics and focusing on doing products, including food and drinks, well are the first signs of a good branding campaign, Miller adds.
Challenges abound, however, for owners looking to refresh their brand. A common mistake is trying to please everyone by doing everything. If owners are doing that, then they’re “not doing a good job,” he says.
For example, Miller worked with a restaurant that had been around for 25 years. Although they were still successful, they had fallen behind with how they were representing themselves. The restaurant owners had always sought out a younger, upwardly mobile demographic, but they had not been marketing to them in the past couple of years. Miller’s team helped them readjust their image, upgrade interiors and change menu items to reflect current trends.
For a brand to be successful, they have to constantly be evolving and evaluating who and what they are, Miller adds. Most brands run into problems when they rest on their laurels. “When they’re making money, they won’t change,” Miller says. Unfortunately, owners who never change miss out on engaging customers.
Miller advises independent owners to refresh their image every five or six years. That can entail anything from menu and kitchen innovations to adding new furniture, fixtures and equipment. It depends on how much an owner wants to invest in a refresh, he says, adding a big renovation can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Although owners should never lose focus, Miller says it’s OK to take things one step at a time. “Have a set plan to follow and stick with that plan. One of the biggest mistakes we see operators make is they do things too quickly or do too much,” he explains. “There’s no downside to taking it one step at a time, judging reactions and making sure” you are doing everything right.
In addition, Miller suggests talking with loyal customers and longtime staff to help create a strategic plan. “The No. 1 thing is staff buying into the changes you’re making,” he says. “If the staff isn’t behind it, it will be difficult.”