BigHospitality puts one reader’s question about creating a business brand to Neil Giles, creative director at design consultancy Circle Brands.
Problem: “I run a neighbourhood restaurant and have just opened a second in a nearby commuter town. I’m considering developing a brand as I’d like to have a third site in the future but money is limited and I don’t know where to start. Can you help?” Anonymous.
Solution: “If you are opening a second restaurant and thinking about a third, then it sounds like you already have the foundations of a brand. The first thing to do is to be clear about what you want to achieve in the long term.
Then define what your brand is all about - what makes you different? Why do your customers keep coming back? As an international consultancy, we work with brands around the world and recommend the following as the basis for sound brand management.
Consider all aspects of your restaurant as 'brand opportunity'. Work out what makes your food offer special. Is your identity and interior style distinct? Do your staff deliver a particular style of service? How do you deal with customers when things go a little wrong? The more specific you can be when answering questions like this, then the easier it will be to manage and expand a brand - you will have a framework to judge when things are right and when things aren't.
Know your market space
Create a brand that appeals to your target audience. Are you selling attitude or authenticity for example? Do you target a niche, local custom or transient commuters? Think about where you want the brand to be in five or 10 years. When noodle restaurant Wagamama launched, it started with premium architect-designed London locations but the plan was to expand to the ‘three W's’ (Wimbledon, Watford and Woking). In other words, retain the essence of the brand but broaden the appeal to commuter towns.
You don't own your brand, your customers do
Successful brands live in the hearts and minds of people, so make them advocates for your brand. Starting with your current staff, make them part of the branding process - in a service industry your staff deliver your brand. If they don't get it right, customers won't come back.
Cookie-cutter or customised
Dream about the future. Do you intend to replicate a consistent experience in many locations - á la McDonalds - where customers know what to expect from the menu, the price, the interior and the service? Or do you want flexibility? A brand like Leon that allows for local interpretation (food, interiors, price etc) without losing the 'essence' of the brand. Size and format opportunities should also be considered. For example, you may operate a restaurant seating 50 people but could the brand work in a radically different, small-format style in the future?
Get external help
If you have the vision and the rigour then you can create and manage the brand yourself , but it can sometimes be tricky to have an objective view. Working with a professional brand consultant will bring fresh sets of eyes and often design capability. Brand consultancies range from one-man bands to huge international firms. Find a consultant who you think will be easy, fun and inspiring to work with. Expect to be challenged along the way, but above all work with people who understand you and your vision.
Do you have a problem that needs solving? Send your questions for our panel of experts to firstname.lastname@example.org.