Business and Operations
From the Editor’s Desk: July/August 2006
The brand wagon
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing a
Little Caesars franchisee named Mark Demore. I asked Mark how he took
his restaurant from an average Little Caesars store, to a high-volume,
gold-standard location. Among all the insights he shared, one statement
resonated the most deeply with me.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing a Little Caesars franchisee named Mark Demore. I asked Mark how he took his restaurant from an average Little Caesars store, to a high-volume, gold-standard location. Among all the insights he shared, one statement resonated the most deeply with me.
He said quite simply, “you have to believe in the brand.”
Although it seems like branding has become one of those clichéd, abstract, marketing buzzwords, Mark reminded me of how vital the term is to the restaurant industry.
The Quantified Marketing Group, which specializes in restaurant marketing, tells us that branding is not something that happens through advertising alone. It’s not that customers can recognize your logo or recall your advertisements.
Branding is about delivering on the promises you make in those ads. For Little Caesars, which boasts a fun-loving, family-orientated brand image, it’s about making sure the crayons are always fully stocked; that there’s ample ice cream reserved for Free Ice Cream Fridays; and helium balloons are ready for big birthday orders.
Branding is huge in foodservice because the restaurant experience is based on a number of emotional factors. It’s as much about the service and atmosphere as it is about the food.
The independent pizza operator has a particular need for strong brand loyalty. Strong branding allows operators to step out from under the generic “pizza sector” umbrella (where there’s just too many people selling the same darn thing) and into a market all their own. It’s imperative that pizzeria owners clearly distinguish themselves from their competition.
How does one determine what their brand image is? Take a look at the customers. If they’re part of a young, urban crowd then sell that vibe with jazzy tunes and maybe some artwork from local artists. If you’re serving the baby boomer generation, consider starting a wine club or distributing loyalty cards.
Branding is aimed at getting a response from those customers – the target audience or “brand loyalists” – by increasing frequency of visits and generating lifelong customers.
As the saying goes, “fish where the fish are biting.” Branding takes the same approach. For example, some restaurateurs look at the slow periods of the day and think they should be spending money on advertising a “happy hour” to drive sales during that time. But there’s a reason people don’t typically visit restaurants between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m, and it’s a far reach to think advertising is going to change that behaviour.
On the same note, trying to generate new customers via mass-market advertising is a costly alternative that doesn’t always guarantee a return on the investment. For the independent pizza operator, advertising dollars are often better spent on in-house branding and loyalty programs.
We all know that in foodservice it’s impossible to please everyone. So determine not only what it is that you do best, but who you serve best. Take the time to step away from your business and re-evaluate your brand. If it’s a valid reflection of your typical customer base, then there’s nothing to stop you from dominating that market.•