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The Importance of Pre-Launch Branding for Restaurant Startups

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Food and Beverage Financial Model Template (Excel workbook). Presenting the financial model template for a food and beverage startup business, designed to assess the viability of the business idea and for fundraising purposes. This template comprises three essential financial statements - income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement - both on a [read more]

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Branding is something that many startups aren’t using in their pre-launch marketing strategies, and they really should be. It is, in fact, vitally important when targeting the audience that you will be catering to in your restaurant. If you reach them in the very beginning, even before you open your doors for business, you will find a much higher percentage of satisfied diners because they will come prepared for your cuisine, ambiance and the customer service that sets you apart from the competition.

That’s what branding is all about, setting you apart from other restaurants in your area. Restaurant branding is actually defined long before you even begin interior design and construction. Everything you do from the moment your restaurant was conceptualized will be your brand and the foundation upon which you build.

Branding as a Foundation – An Allegory

Consider for a moment the importance of a foundation when building a home. Unless you lay the foundation just right, the home is likely to collapse even before construction is completed. A poorly laid foundation cannot support the weight of the materials used in the structure. So it is with restaurant branding as the foundation of your new eating establishment.

Your brand is meant to support all that you do in terms of food and service and so the brand you create is meant to support the weight of the Customer Experience, CX. Your design which is being laid on that foundation (brand) is the CX and if you tell them what to expect and are able to follow through with that, your brand is established and your patrons are left with a pleasant taste in their mouth, no pun intended.

Elements within Restaurant Branding

So then, what are the elements you will focus on when creating your own unique brand? Bear in mind that most of the complaints and negative reviews you will often hear are in terms of poor customer service. There are times when a meal wasn’t cooked to their liking or perhaps a menu item was unavailable, but for the most part, you will read reviews on how they were treated by employees. This means that ways in which you can provide excellent service should be highlighted when building brand within pre-launch marketing.

It is also important to be able to clearly define how you will provide excellence in service. Therefore, the type and level of customer service will be specific to the type of restaurant you are launching. If you will be a full-service establishment with the bulk of your business being dinner hours, then speed is not going to be as important as ambiance and attentive servers. On the other hand, if your restaurant is busiest during lunch hours where your customers are on a limited time frame, highlight your efforts to get them in and out timely with few delays.

This is where you may want to provide kiosks so that your lunch crowd can pre-order upon arrival so that when they are seated, their meal is already being prepared. This will eliminate many of the complaints about not being served timely and you just may find that your restaurant becomes a community favorite for this reason only.

Pre-Launch Marketing

Now that you understand that CX is going to be key to your success, pre-launch marketing should discuss how your brand deals with:

  1. Prompt delivery of meals – mention kiosks to highlight this!
  2. Professional customer service – their importance to your brand.
  3. Special orders when required – food allergies taken seriously.

If you will be launching a fine dining, full-service restaurant then you might want to highlight features such as:

  • Fine wines with a professional sommelier on staff
  • Candlelit tables with linens
  • Meals cooked to order

And any other services you would like to promote. It’s all about your brand based on what customers expect when dining with you and that is how you will promote your brand even before setting a launch date.

Customers ARE Your Bottom Line

Once again, a successful restaurant brand is built on customer expectations. There are probably dozens of restaurants in your locale, but will they cater to their customers like you will? That is your brand. Remember to define your audience by demographics when strategizing a pre-launch marketing campaign because your audience is your brand when you are in the service industry. That’s where so many startups get it wrong.

For example, what do customers expect when they go to fast food restaurants like McDonald’s or Burger King? You’ve got it! They expect to get in and out in mere minutes and that is because that’s how they’ve branded themselves. While you may not be building on that business model, you get the point. Fast food is their brand and they’ve marketed that to the max. Learn from them and you can be successful as well. It’s all about understanding that the Customer Experience, customer service is your brand and that’s the bottom line.

1-page PDF document
A business capability model for a food and beverage company. To be used as a core document for Enterprise Architects and EA work. Also very valuable to Business Architects and Business Architecture projects/programmes. The Food & Beverage Company Business Capability Model is an essential tool for [read more]

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About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.

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