As the restaurant industry continues to change, it’ll be more important for organizations to prioritize their restaurant branding strategy to meet customers’ preferences and differentiate themselves from the competition.
We’re all aware of how difficult 2020 was for the restaurant industry. The following year saw some improvements, but many restaurants continued to struggle — particularly smaller establishments and those without a nationwide footprint. As a result, restaurants pivoted to meet consumers where they were: with online ordering, mobile order pickup, home delivery, and more. These same services continue today and will continue for the foreseeable future as the world continues to work itself out of a complex past couple of years.
While there is greater flexibility today than two years ago, the restaurant industry is and has been facing additional challenges. These include the well-documented labor and supply chain issues. A common solution has been leveraging greater technology to better understand customers’ preferences, behaviors, and patterns to optimize menu options as well as facility operations. Over the past two years, many restaurants leaned on ghost kitchens (off-premise food preparation) as well to assist them with the increased online and mobile order pickup and delivery demand.
But with that demand still higher than ever according to The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI), restaurant brands are looking to optimize their existing spaces to better meet consumer preferences for the long-term. These include updating existing spaces to create distinct pickup areas for delivery drivers and mobile orders, optimizing parking lots for consumer traffic, and exploring or expanding drive-thrus.
Much like the larger hospitality industry, food service organizations nationwide are taking a hard look at their restaurant branding strategy to ensure it aligns with where they are in their journey. Hotels and convenience stores from coast to coast are updating their image both conceptually and physically to better engage customers and capitalize on their positions in their daily lives, and it’s time for restaurants to do likewise. According to data from OpenTable’s ongoing restaurant industry survey, the number of seated diners at restaurants is up — and climbing.
Here, we’ll explore three areas that your restaurant branding strategy should focus to ensure that your brand continues to grow while engaging consumers on their terms.
Serving Brand Success: Explore Stratus’ capabilities for the restaurant industry.
1. Revitalize the Dine-In Experience
When was the last time the interiors of your restaurants got some love? While the hospitality industry works on cycles when it comes to major overhauls, you don’t need to wait seven to 10 years before sprucing up your facilities. Taking a prioritized approach to locations that haven’t had updates in some time is also a good first step. A quick-turn program of interior refreshes might be all that is needed to give your customers a delightful new experience.
Refreshes, as opposed to remodels and major remodels, are lighter programs with updates that don’t require lengthy periods of work or significant construction or demolition. They are completed quickly, typically anywhere from one to five days per restaurant. Examples of what a restaurant refresh entail include:
- Painting and decoration, updating doors and trim, and replacing flooring
- Fixture assembly and installation and minor electrical work, like new lighting
- Updating or installing new interior signage, wayfinding signage, or graphics
2. Rethink Order Pickup and Drive-Thrus
Over the past two years, online and mobile order pickup saved the restaurant industry. Today, consumers have grown accustomed to this method of engagement and expect it to continue. That means restaurant brands must have solutions for serving this channel. Do your locations have designated mobile order pickup areas? Just as important: are those areas welcoming, branded, and engaging? Many brands simply put up a sign over a specific area, or require staff situated where host stands are to manage mobile orders.
Proactive brands, on the other hand, created new areas or revitalized existing spaces that were optimized for more frequent traffic and service — without impacting sit-down diners. Similarly, proactive brands completely re-optimized their drive-thrus and outdoor menu boards to more efficiently track, engage, serve, and funnel customers through. Investing in these areas as part of a restaurant branding strategy has the potential to yield significant dividends, too. Here are some helpful resources and additional insights on this area:
- How Drive-Thru Maintenance & Technology Affect Customer Decisions
- Drive Thru Optimization: 4 Upgrades to Better Serve Your Customers
- The Restaurant Customer Experience: Making Patrons Feel Comfortable Dining In
- Explore Our Portfolio of Order Pickup Solutions for Restaurants
3. Rethink Your Greater Image
An organization’s overall brand is essential to how customers perceive and engage with it. This applies to the physical aspects of branding just as much as the conceptual, emotional aspects. Elements such as exterior signage, building exteriors, parking lot conditions, parking lot and exterior lighting, and more all influence how consumers feel about your locations.
If you’re an upscale establishment, but your building exteriors are cracked and weathered, your customers are going to experience some cognitive dissonance. If your signage is outdated, poorly lit, flickering, or simply looking past its prime, that could tell the customer that the brand doesn’t care about its appearance or may be struggling. If your exterior lighting makes customers feel unsafe, or if it’s outdated and harsh on the eyes, the customer experience is damaged. And for each location experiencing these issues, you’re losing that much more business.
Ensuring the clean and functional design and condition of your buildings, signage, and lighting systems goes a long way in creating a welcoming image and inviting space for customers. We all know the impact that a negative review can make, so prioritize these elements in your restaurant branding strategy to keep winning those high ratings.
Don’t Leave Your Restaurant Branding Strategy to Chance
Stratus has been partnering with some of the largest, most recognized restaurant brands in the world. Our team has been entrusted, year after year, with everything from signage solutions and maintenance services to complete, multi-site renovation programs. Above all, we are brand-focused — delivering excellence for interior and exterior brand assets while managing every aspect of the program from start to finish. We manufacture signage, manage a network of more than 4,000 field partners nationwide, handle all logistics and warehousing, and even ensure efficient final installation for every brand asset in your program.
If you’re ready to ensure the success and strength of your restaurant brand for the road ahead, connect with our team today.