What separates your restaurant or bar from your competitors?
- Are you the place with an amazing food and drink menu that is being constantly updated?
- Are you the venue that often hosts out-of-town guests who come to hang out and drink with friends?
- Does your staff boast excellent service while serving as representatives of your brand inside your location and in your community?
- Do you promote consistent entertainment options and scheduled events?
- Does your location have a cool gimmick or theme that would prove enticing to potential customers?
If you can’t firmly answer “YES” to at least two of those questions, then chances are your restaurant or bar does not have a strong brand identity. Without a strong brand identity, your location faces a major disadvantage in a competitive market.
When a customer decides to make a purchase decision — whether they’re choosing which phone to buy, which frozen pizza to eat for dinner, or what candy bar they want in the checkout aisle — they unknowingly engage in something called “The Evaluation of Alternatives.” During this evaluation, all possible brand options are considered and put into three concurrent groups: the Universal, Retrieval, and Evoked Sets.
The outmost group is called the “Universal Set,” which is composed of all possible brands for the given purchase decision — even ones that the customer is not already aware of. For example, for a purchase decision involving which phone to buy, the Universal Set would contain well-known brands like Apple and Samsung but also global brands like the Chinese brand Vivo, which the typical American might not have ever heard of.
The middle group is called the “Retrieval Set.” This group would include the brands in your purchase decision that immediately come to your mind as potential options. For example, for a purchase decision involving frozen pizza, the customer may think of DiGiorno, Red Baron, or Screamin’ Sicilian given that they have some familiarity with those brands.
The third and smallest group is the “Evoked Set.” This group is composed of the brands that the customer would actually consider buying. Given the candy bar purchase decision example, the customer may have Reese’s in their Retrieval Set but not their Evoked Set because they don’t like peanut butter. Every brand wants their offering to be in the Evoked Set when customers evaluate their alternatives.
If your venue does not have a strong, positive brand identity, then you have doomed your location to a spot in the Universal Set in the minds of many of your potential customers. You are regulated to the “just another bar” status in what is already an extremely oversaturated market. By building a strong brand for your restaurant or bar, you will inevitably move your way into the Evoked Set in customers’ minds, giving yourself a needed competitive advantage in an aggressive marketplace.
Establishing a Brand Identity
So how do you establish a strong brand identity for your restaurant or bar? It starts with being honest with yourself about your location.
If you have to wonder whether or not your restaurant or bar has a strong brand identity, then it most likely does not. Without it your venue loses out on a competitive advantage in an extremely cut-throat industry, dooming itself to being average. Once you’re comfortable with admitting that changes are necessary, you need to begin to build your business’ brand.
Build your brand identity from the inside out:
- Review and develop your core statements.
- Your four core statements (value, vision, mission, and cultural statements) are key to establishing your brand identity because they lay the foundation for the steps below. It is vitally important that both you and your team understand and buy into them.
- Provide a positive staff experience.
- When you promote a positive staff experience just as much as a positive customer experience, you create a better and more productive work environment. This style will help limit staff turnover and increase the chance that your employees act as brand ambassadors within the community.
- Know your ideal customer.
- Who is your ideal customer? Know who they are — their likes, dislikes, spending habits, entertainment preferences, etc. By doing this, you will be able to better match your brand identity to the right audience.
- Inject life into your restaurant or bar.
- Give your location a new vibe to match its new identity. Some options are to switch up the menu with food that exceeds your guests’ expectations, serve drinks found nowhere else in town, and/or create consistent entertainment options far in advance to give you time to promote the event properly and customers time to plan ahead to attend. Need advice on how to spread the word about your promotions? Check out our article here.
A strong strategy, coupled with strong execution of the above steps, will position your location to obtain positive word-of-mouth feedback in both offline and online mediums. It will help give your venue a true brand identity that makes your location not “just another bar” but rather a true destination. A destination that will increase loyalty among your staff and consumer base, while driving your location in a sustainable, profitable direction.