Restaurant Association of New Zealand

Build Your Business Brand To Help You Ride Out The Recession

There of course has been incessant commentary in the business pages on the state of the economy. However as none of these experts has a crystal ball the outlook for the future is of course unknown. So we must just carry on because as restaurateurs we are still responsible for our business viability, our staff, suppliers and customers as well as our own financial wellbeing. By Mike Egan

I dont believe that people will stop eating out because when purse strings tighten our customers will still want to eat in our restaurants and cafes. The social act of eating together is important; it reunites us with our tribe, transforming us from solitary beings to members of a group.

However in order for us to see through this period we must not always operate the way we did when times were good, we must learn and practice new ways to work smarter and with more effective intensity.

As mainly operators of small businesses it is tempting to try short term fixes like not replacing staff and doing more hours and shifts yourself to reduce costs. However this can ultimately have a negative effect as it can impact service quality which could ultimately exacerbate the retraction until there is no one left but yourself. In saying this we should still of course look at cost savings where they make sense however we need to ensure that we have the time to effectively work on our business as well as in it.

I believe the best and most effective way to work on your business is to work on your brand. These days more than ever when our customers want to eat out they want to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck. This does not of course mean they will eat at the cheapest place but that they will choose a restaurant or caf that ticks all the boxes for their specific dining occasion. Customers will choose a venue where the food offering; service style, ambience, and location, price points and so on all speak to the customer in a cohesive and consistent way. They dont want to risk their cash on a place that has good food but is not, say, that clean or the waiters are undertrained and may display a disdainful attitude. They will migrate to the venues that score, on their own personal scale, say 7s and 8s across all facets of the experience and bypass the restaurant where they judge the food as a 9 but the service and ambience maybe only score a 5.

It is all about brands, our customers are overloaded with choices and they need to filter them and they use their knowledge of your brand and your competitors brand to make the best decision for them. Customers trust brands and therefore will be happy spending their hard earned money on them.

Therefore you need to work on your restaurants individual brand. You need to revisit all facets of the business and ask yourself are they authentic to the brands core? When a new customer walks in will they get it? Will they intuitively feel that it all makes sense and that they will get whatever story you are trying to tell? All great brands tell stories.

The aspects that should speak loudest to your brand are your unique selling propositions. Your restaurant should have many that are easily articulated to your customers. Remember word of mouth is our most effective marketing tool and for a happy customer to be able to effectively espouse your brand they need to be able to do it quickly and effectively without really having to think. Brands that are confused just make it too hard. Once you have polished your brand go over it with all your staff so that they fully understand it and can make decisions independently that continue to tell your brand story with consistency.