The restaurant industry is growing. A 2017 study by IHL Group shows that the restaurant industry is strong compared to other retailers, with both casual sit-down restaurants (4 percent) and fast food (3.2 percent) seeing sales growth. In addition, restaurants in both segments are opening more locations than closing them. In fact, there were 1,852 new locations coming from just 16 restaurants, including quick-serve brands Chipotle, Papa John’s, Jersey Mike’s, and Smoothie King.
This data begs the question: why are more established chains succeeding while smaller restaurants might be struggling? One potential answer: brand consistency.
Having brand consistency means you’re delivering a similar brand message in every area of your business, from social media to email marketing. The best restaurants pride themselves on having a consistent menu and taste to their food. Brand consistency is similar—it’s what makes your customers immediately recognize your restaurant and know what the experience will be like.
There are long-term benefits to developing unique brand consistency for your growing restaurant, says Kathryn Wheeler, from HubSpot: “Having a brand identity doesn't just make your product more memorable; it makes your brand more authoritative in the marketplace. A brand that establishes a face, and maintains that face consistently over time, develops credibility among its competitors and trust among its customers.”
Use this guide to both develop that brand consistency and also learn the best ways to follow the pillars that define your restaurant in every area of your marketing.
1. Create Visual Brand Guidelines
Visual brand guidelines allow you to formalize style and design so you can maintain the same look and feel across all platforms. Chances are you won’t be solely responsible for every promotional aspect of your restaurant. Different people are creating your menus and running social media, and while everyone might have an idea of what your brand assets should look like, guidelines keep everyone on the same page.
These guidelines cover every marketing area where customers may experience your brand, from blog posts to emails and social media updates. Include these important visual brand aspects in your guidelines:
- Logo: Include specific logo color variations, sizes, and placement on all marketing materials.
- Colors: Determine your primary and secondary colors, as well as how and where each should be used. Consider how colors can psychologically impact your customers’ emotions and purchase habits when making your decision.
- Fonts: Outline the various fonts and sizes for different applications. For example, a bolded font may always be used for headers, while a light font may always be used for main text areas.
2. Follow an Editorial Calendar
In addition to maintaining a consistent style, you need to be consistent with the type of content you share and how often you share it. An editorial calendar ensures that all of your content is aligned, from blog posts to email blasts and social media posts, which is critical for restaurant branding, suggests CoverWallet.
When content is planned ahead of time with an editorial calendar, you can build campaigns around the most important pieces, major holidays and annual promotions. Connecting your content in this way drives a seamless and aligned brand experience. For example, when customers click on a blog post, they might see an ad for a related product or promotion, connecting your business with your content and sending another reminder about who you are.
If this is new to you, use this free editorial calendar download to get your content organized.
3. Align Messaging Across All Social Channels
Don’t forget to address messaging. While each of your marketing channels should be unique, you need to tell the same brand story across all platforms. This means using the same messaging and tone of voice so no matter where customers find you, they recognize you.
Add messaging into your brand guidelines, denoting whether your voice is fun, sarcastic, informative or informal. Then use these strategies to maintain that messaging across your major marketing areas:
- Social media posts: Use the same social posts for various platforms. Plan your social media posts ahead of time, so you can edit for consistency and easily copy, paste and edit before scheduling. Check out these templates from Hootsuite to find one that works for you.
- Email marketing: Create email templates that can simply be updated as needed, so less needs to be changed and modified with each email send.
- Social media customer service: Create a cheat sheet for responding to customers on social media. The voice and tone will be consistent, no matter what the question or request is.
Create a Consistent Brand to Flourish in a Competitive Industry
The goal of creating brand consistency is for customers to immediately recognize your establishment, whether you’re posting on social media or sending a marketing email. Most successful chain restaurants have mastered this, but you don’t need to be part of a franchise to win at brand awareness. Follow these suggestions to build a brand that your customers will recognize and keep coming back to.
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.