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’ 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.
Understand Your Customer
You need to know who you want to attract to your business and do so in their language and on their terms (speaking style, right platforms). This means you’ll need to study your crowd in detail. You should have your target market in mind the entire time throughout the process of building up your self-pour taproom or restaurant. It is important to know what your target market likes and what they care about because 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 it is that brings your regulars back and try to emphasize this even further with other customers or improve this point so it is even more obvious to others.
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 taking notes of what to do and what not to do in order to better serve your market.
You can take two routes as an outcome of your visits to other establishments in your area. First, you can find a niche and do something completely unique which will set 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 Spring.
Besides visiting your competitor’s establishments in person, you should also check out their online presence on a regular basis to always make sure you’re at least a step or two ahead of the game. If they copy you, don’t worry about it too much and just 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 and you don’t want to rest on your laurels and let your competitors steal some of your sales.
Understanding your customers as well as 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 are going to feel about the brand.
Your Message (Mission Statement)
When you understand your competitors and their activity, you need to make sure 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.
This goes without saying, but you should not communicate what everyone else is doing, because what’s the point? Give the market a reason to remember you. Think outside of the box! Whether it has to do something with special food trends, alcohol type you are offering, type of service, your employees, 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 both online and offline. Not only it is a great opportunity to communicate what your brand is about, but it will also help you with capturing your guests’ attention and retaining brand awareness.
The name of your bar or restaurant is often going to be 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 about your restaurant concept – from the feel of the restaurant you want your guests to experience, drinks and food you plan to serve, to the color scheme and 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.
It is a large part of your branding and should really be created after properly understanding your market. Are you serving a younger, more hipster crowd or are you trying to attract an elderly, 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. Your logo, tagline and even a chalkboard with your special for the day/week is just a cherry on the top of the pie.
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!
In essence, with your core attributes, you should be able to answer basic questions such as who you are, what you are doing and why are you doing so? In order to define your brand’s voice, you should list the core attributes of your company which will help you understand the right direction for your communication with 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: 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 have a good understanding of your brand’s core attributes, it will be much easier to establish your brand’s voice. 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, just 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 is accessible by anyone who has something to do with your business’ messaging (whether online or offline).
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 oftentimes a decisive factor for your guest’s return, which is why we recommend investing in proper training. If your messaging emphasizes how family-friendly your business is but then your waiter shows annoyed behavior when a child accidentally (or not) spills a cup of water, this is not going to get you very far.
Many customers of ours say that proper staff training and higher hourly wage pay off for 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 it 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.
Looking for a way to make extra money and get free advertising from your customers at the same time? Branded merchandise will bring more than just that. Whether it is clothing or accessories, branded merchandise does wonders when it comes to 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 items “go home” with your guests.
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 really funny, interesting or super visual signs such as the mural below, it will prompt people to take pictures with it and post to their social media channels, giving you some free advertising.
Menu & Coasters
They increase the visibility of your logo and your tagline throughout the customers 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.
One might not realize how much ambiance has to do with branding, but it is another important element which has as big of an impact on customer’s visit as other key elements do. 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 feel 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 the new ones won’t be given reasons (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!