Establish Your Brand
The first step in establishing your brand is getting to know your customers. Depending on how long your restaurant has been in business, you may or may not have existing customers. If you’ve already opened, you may have regulars that you can consult. Editors at PopMenu suggest asking them what they like about the restaurant and what experience they expect when they show up. This will give you valuable insight about the brand you’re already projecting.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve opened, Amanda McNamara advises readers of ToastTab, you’ll also need to consider your ideal customer. Who is your target market? Get specific and develop buyer personas–archetypes of the typical customers you would expect to see in your eating establishment. Ask yourself who your ideal average customer is–how old are they, what do they like/dislike, what are their buying behaviors? The identities within your target market will inform every element of your branding.
Once you have a clear understanding of your current and target markets, you can start developing your brand strategy. According to Alexa Collins at Shopify, brand strategy is “the holistic approach behind how a brand builds identification and favorability with customers and potential customers.” In other words, it’s how you get people to recognize and like your restaurant. There are many elements to brand strategy, including your mission statement, brand messaging, guest interactions, brand voice, and appearance.
Your mission statement is a written outline of the service, product, and/or experience you want to provide for your customers. It does not need to be paragraphs-long or printed on every menu; it just needs to be something to which you and your staff are committed.
Now that you understand your restaurant’s mission internally, it’s time to figure out how to broadcast that to everyone else. The strategy by which you communicate your values to an audience is “brand messaging.” It’s important to have a solid mission to communicate through your brand messaging because your brand messaging is used throughout all of your restaurant’s content, including copy for your website, social media, signage, menus, and other marketing materials.
As part of your brand messaging, you must consider your brand’s voice. What tone will you take in social media posts? What sort of pictures will you post? What language will you use on your menus and signage? A good compass for figuring out the answer to these questions is to consider the “CARDS” of your brand voice: Character, Actions, Reasons, Dreams, and Steps.
- Character: Who are you?
- Actions: What are you doing?
- Reasons: Why are you doing it?
- Dreams: What do you want to accomplish?
- Steps: How will you accomplish it?
It may seem like a lot of extra work to go through the branding process, but knowing the answers to questions like those above is key to presenting a polished, cohesive business.
Serve it Up
Once you know what your brand is, you can reflect that in the appearance of your restaurant and all its affiliated materials. Your restaurant website, menus, signage, print materials, and other interior decor should all bolster your brand. It’s a lot of work and moving pieces–especially when you’re also trying to open and/or run a restaurant–so it is beneficial to consider partnering with a design or marketing firm.
When the owner of Silver Fern in Minneapolis contacted Evolve Creative, he was on a mission: bring local craft coffee and fine wine to a neighborhood dominated by chain restaurants. Evolve Creative took the design work off of the owner’s to-do list by drafting a cohesive look for the brand. The look included elements essential to restaurant design such as typography, color palette, images, and logo.
A logo is one of the foremost images associated with your restaurant and should be attractive, noticeable, and unique to your brand. For Silver Fern’s custom artmark, Evolve Creative’s graphic designer DJ Haasken researched photos of the specific plant for which the restaurant was named after. The restaurant’s founder was specifically inspired by the cafe culture in Australia and New Zealand, so our staff took care to let greenery from that geography be the inspiration for the logo.
Another example of a brand created from scratch is the logo for TRC. When Evolve Creative created a new brand for TRC–a leisure bar & grill in Bemidji, MN–we wanted it to be true to the restaurant’s simple mission of quality food and a bar-forward vibe off of Highway 71. Evolve incorporated the logo throughout their website, menu, and signage.
For Silver Fern, Evolve Creative chose a wide sans serif typeface to express sophistication and accessibility. The thin vertical lines of more script-like fonts combined with longer, more casual horizontal strokes simultaneously evoke class and approachability–plus, it’s easy to read, which makes it good for use across web and print materials.
The color story chosen for Silver Fern is consistent from the ceiling beams to the espresso machine. Evolve Creative’s design team had the opportunity to collaborate with the owner and architect throughout the construction process. Working alongside the restaurant proprietor and with the restaurant’s mission in mind, Evolve Creative incorporated a color story that emphasized the architect’s green paint, white oak, black wood, and silver foil accents. The earthy greens and subtle neutrals selected for the website are present throughout the building’s interior, creating a consistent look.
The classic example of restaurant imagery is, of course, pictures of the available food. Restaurants can and should utilize enticing images of menu items when appropriate. These images can be used in print and online. For instance, Red Stu, a breakfast bar in Bemidji, Minnesota that worked with Evolve Creative in 2022–advertises its food by showcasing it in the background and feature areas of their website.
People who visit them online will see fluffy waffles, bubbly mimosas, and hearty breakfast platters, and they may start to get hungry. A few well-placed, high-quality product photos can turn potential customers into paying ones.
If you are unsure of your own camera skills, –or your restaurant is not yet open to serve the food you would photograph, –never fear. A marketing agency like Evolve Creative will be able to supply you with more abstract imagery or custom illustrations. While such images will not depict your menu items, they can still suggest them while bolstering your brand. For example, Silver Fern is not set to open until later this year, so Evolve Creative temporarily used custom illustrations to evoke sophistication and sustainability. This underlines the restaurant’s brand identity.
Ambiance is the mood you want your physical and digital spaces to elicit. It is less concrete than the other elements of appearance, but it fuses the rest into a complete experience for your customers.
Bar 209, a high-end American eatery, wanted to create a haven of urban comfort in its small home city of Bemidji. So, Evolve Creative suggested dark colors with bright accents for a cozy, clean feel. The high-contrast scheme is invigorating and makes for easy-to-read materials while the natural brick and black walls suggest evening and warmth.
Consistent restaurant branding, writes Allie Duyne of ToastTab, is “just as important as always serving great food and providing quality dining service.” So, when you’ve developed a cohesive brand, use it everywhere. Your social media posts should use the same language as your menu and advertisements; your walls and website should be in the same color palette with the same typefaces. Every material produced should echo the establishment itself. In return, your establishment should serve as the embodiment of your brand: your mission statement come to fruition.
Partner with Evolve Creative
With so many elements of running a restaurant, it’s easy to let branding languish on the backburner. Let Evolve Creative take that work off of your plate. Whether you’re still in the construction phase like Silver Fern or looking to expand your restaurant’s online presence like Red Stu, we can create your cohesive brand. Reach out today for an estimate.