A Guide to Building Your Self-Pour Restaurant/Bar Brand 101
If you have just added an element of self-pour fun to your business or you are about to, then you are on the right path to building your business’s unique personality.
Besides just being different from other bars and restaurants around your town, you are also going to give your patrons the freedom to taste more drinks and cut their wait time while your beverage sales skyrocket!
First and foremost, in a highly competitive industry such as the hospitality field, it is crucial to go back to basics and understand two key components of any business before you do anything else: your customers and your competition.
Understand Your Customer
You need to hone in on your target market. You will need to study your crowd in detail. You should have your target market in mind while building up your self-pour taproom or restaurant. It is important to know what your target market likes and what they care about. It will not only help you attract them to your establishment in the first place, but it will also help you with bringing them back!
TIP: If you have already established a successful restaurant or bar, find out what brings your regulars back, and emphasize this even further with other customers.
Understand Your Competition
It’s no secret that the restaurant industry is a very crowded and competitive space. You can’t underestimate other players on the market – you must know what they are doing.
If you are about to start your new adventure of becoming a restaurant or a bar owner, make sure to do thorough research and visit many other establishments. Ideally, take notes of your findings. What do you want to implement, what would you change, and what would you scratch altogether? This information will help you better serve your target market.
You can take two routes after visiting other establishments in your area. First, you can find a niche and do something completely unique, setting you apart from others. Or second, you can find out what your competitors do well (what works for them) and then execute that even better! Nevertheless, remember not to compare apples to apples. In other words, what works in New York City might not work in Colorado Springs.
Besides visiting your competitor’s establishments in person, you should also check out their online presence regularly. This will ensure you are at least a step or two ahead of the game. If they copy you, don’t worry about it too much, and keep up your game. This is just a sign that you are doing things right. However, you don’t want to be the one playing catch up with them. Branding and trends are always changing. You don’t want to rest on your laurels and let your competitors steal some of your sales.
Understanding your customers and your competitors is crucial, and that is where your branding starts, but if you really want to build a strong brand, several other key elements need to come into place. Which, is why we decided to go into more depth and first cover the must-dos for building a strong restaurant brand.
Key Elements for Branding Your Bar/Restaurant 101
There are many touchpoints for your customers when they walk into your establishment: the outside area, the entrance, the menu, the bathrooms, and even the uniforms worn by your employees. All these spots should reflect your branding as it inevitably impacts how your customers feel about the brand.
Your Message (Mission Statement)
When you understand your competitors and their activity, you need to communicate a message that makes you different and helps you stand out. This message is the foundation of your culture, environment, employees, and products you offer. Your customers will be building a relationship with your brand based upon all of these factors.
You should make sure to highlight your strengths and not communicate what everyone else is doing. Give the market a reason to remember you. Think outside of the box! The options are endless. You can highlight food trends, the alcohol you are offering, your service, your employees, the ambiance, or simply anything that makes your business stand out. A self-pour beverage wall is certainly a great start, but the more clearly you can define your brand and position it in a unique light, the better off you will be. Once you have developed your mission statement, repeat this message over and over, so it becomes an embodiment of your brand.
TIP: Set up Google Alerts with relevant keywords that will notify you anytime when something new about your competitors pops up in an online world. Also, scan their social media and event calendars to stay ahead of the game.
A tagline is a great way to communicate your mission statement and differentiate your business online and offline. It is a great opportunity to communicate what your brand is about and help capture guests’ attention. Your brand recognition will also increase.
The name of your bar or restaurant is often the first impression your customers will get of your brand. If you don’t have your restaurant up and running yet, we recommend sitting down and brainstorming your restaurant concept. Think about the feel of the restaurant you want your guests to experience, the drinks and food you plan to serve, the color scheme, and the style of the decorations you are planning to use. These keywords and key differentiators of your brand will guide you to find the most appropriate name.
A logo is a large part of your branding and should be created after understanding your market. Are you serving a younger, more hipster crowd, or are you trying to attract a mature, upscale market? Just like many other core elements of your branding, the logo comes down to your understanding of the target demographic and what will look good to them and match the rest of your business’ personality.
Signage & display outside
You don’t want to lose an opportunity to attract passersby to your business. Make sure that your establishment is getting great exposure to people walking by. You can create more exposure with appropriate signage and displays. Many restaurant owners realize this and choose locations in busy areas with big windows and really communicate their branding before the customers even get to their door. Leave a chalkboard outside your door with your special for the day/week.
TIP: A great way to evaluate if your signage and displays are clear and eye-catching is to check with your first-time diners and ask if it was easy for them to find you.
Storytelling is as old as time. For centuries, people have loved listening to stories and passing them along, which is why you should share your story. Do you have a family-owned business, or did you partner up with an old college friend? Whatever your story is, if it is interesting or if you can make it sound interesting, you must tell it!
TIP: If your story is really unique and cool, make it a core part of your branding so your guests can tell others when they are describing what your business is like. You can share your story on the coasters, menu, posters in the bathroom, or anywhere else around your space. Get creative with it! Our family members, The Redd Dod, do a great job branding around Redd, their dog. From custom flights to outdoor signage, they do it all. The story behind the name shines through. Check out some of their branded pieces below.
Your establishment’s attributes should answer basic questions such as who you are, what you are doing, and why are you doing it? To find your brand’s voice, list the core attributes of your company. This will help determine how to speak to your customers. What you stand for, what you do better than others, etc. The core brand attributes will help you define your business in terms of its personality. It’s just like describing a friend, only this time it’s about your establishment.
TIP: The core attributes of your business should be highlighted on your website. Social media is as good a tool as any promotional marketing you have on-site.
Once you know your brand’s core attributes, establishing your brand’s voice will be easier. Your brand voice is the type of communication you will use with the public. How you speak and interact with your prospective and existing customers is certainly a core part of your branding, which is why it needs to be consistent from your menu and signs on-site to your communication online.
TIP: When developing your brand voice, think of describing your business by choosing the most appropriate 3-5 adjectives, and this will help you set the core of your brand voice. We recommend putting these in a document that all involved in your establishment have access to.
Color Palette & Fonts
This might sound like a no-brainer, but your color palette and fonts need to align with your logo, brand voice, and tagline. For example, if you are trying to reach a crowd of Millennials and your brand’s attributes are bold, upbeat, hipster, and exciting, you don’t want to use gold and beige colors with some standard font because it would not go well with your brand’s personality.
Invest in the Right Employees
Your staff’s attitude can make or break your brand. Their behavior strongly reflects in your establishment’s branding and is a factor in whether your guests return. That said, we recommend investing in proper training. If your messaging emphasizes how family-friendly your business is, but then your waiter appears annoyed when a child accidentally (or not) spills a cup of water, this is not going to get you very far.
Many of our customers say that proper staff training and higher hourly wages pay off in their establishment in the long run. You should make sure your restaurant’s mission aligns with your employees’ characters and only hire people who can help you communicate the core message of your business in everything they do.
TIP: When it comes to branding your business through your employees, you can emphasize it by adding the right uniforms or creating guidelines for recommended attire.
Recommended Branding On-Premise
Glassware presents a great branding opportunity for any bar or restaurant as it allows your logo (and messaging) to become part of everyone’s experience pretty much throughout the entire visit. If done well, sometimes it also becomes a part of social media posts in so-called user-generated content (your customers take photos of your establishment and brand and post them on their social media pages). User-generated content is very powerful as it leads to your location getting more exposure online in front of the right audience, which is great as you always want to promote it.
Are you looking for a way to make extra money and get free advertising from your customers simultaneously? Branded merchandise will bring more than just that. Whether it is clothing or accessories, branded merchandise does wonders when building your brand recognition (other people get exposed and familiar with your brand).
Branded Promotional Items
There is never harm in adding more branding around your space. So, the simple rule goes that if it is within your budget, put your logo on it. From free balloons and reusable plastic cups for the kids to take home with them, to reusable bags which will help you position yourself as an environmentally friendly business, you will certainly benefit from it. If your branded promotional item goes home with your guests, that is best.
Your signage must align with your mission statement and core attributes. They can help you communicate what your brand stands for and make the visit more memorable for your customers. If you have funny, interesting, or super visual signs like the mural below, it will prompt people to take pictures and post them on their social media channels. This gives you some free advertising.
Menu & Coasters
They increase the visibility of your logo and your tagline throughout the customer’s entire visit. Menus and coasters are your space to play and be unique when it comes to standing out from the crowded market space.
TIP: With highly visual items such as food, we strongly recommend including food and possibly drink pictures in your menu. It will help your customers with decision-making, and overall, the menu will look more appealing to the eye.
Ambiance has a ton to do with branding. It has as big of an impact on a customer’s visit. Your interior design and color scheme communicates a message just as much as the logo, signs, menus, or even your employees do.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to experiment with music and lighting to really evoke the feeling you want your guests to experience.
Now, even if you understand your market, have an amazing branding plan in place, and own a self-pour beverage wall to stand out from your competitors, you should never really be done with your research. Continue to bring new ideas to the table as you will need to adjust to the ever-evolving needs of the market. Remember that the days when we all used to pay with cash are gone, and so are the times when we thought that self-serve beers or wines were sci-fi. Since the market is always changing, you and your business’s brand need to as well!
Finally, whether your customers learn about you through friends or they come for an event, having perfect branding in place won’t be that helpful if the on-site experience is not outstanding. The customers will not return, and potential new customers won’t have a reason (whether an online review or word of mouth) to visit. Delivering excellent customer service and overall experience is a critical part of a positive customer journey, and branding is just one component of the process. Now that you’ve mastered the beginning of your bar or restaurant’s branding, it’s time to dive deeper into the process with our Branding 201 Guide.
If you have any questions or feedback on our ideas, please get in touch with us