Restaurant branding: Your step-by-step guide to success

When it comes to your restaurant’s reputation, the food is just the tip of the iceberg. Your atmosphere, décor, even your reason for being all contribute to a memorable and enjoyable experience. Key to that is branding: Good restaurant branding sets the tone by giving patrons a sense of what they can expect, and then following through on that expectation once they step foot inside. Here’s how to leverage your restaurant branding to get new and returning customers in the door (or on the outdoor dining patio). 

What is restaurant branding?

Restaurant branding is what you use to communicate your establishment’s personality, point of view, and reason for being. Parts of your restaurant branding include elements of your visual identity, such as your logo and colors; the words you use to describe your restaurant; your restaurant’s brand story and how you communicate that to customers; and your long-term strategy for setting your restaurant apart from competitors.

4 elements to consider when defining your restaurant’s branding

The way you set your restaurant up thematically, aesthetically, and operationally serves as the backbone to your restaurant’s branding. After all, branding is more than just the colors you choose for your employees’ uniforms or the font you use when you design a logo — Your branding is the whole persona of your business, from A to Z, that you rely upon to explain to customers precisely why your establishment is worth their business.

“[As a restaurant owner,] you want to deliver not only excellent food, but also an overall great experience which includes service, ambiance, and environment,” says Rodney Kayton, managing partner at Study Hall Research. “The experience begins when a customer pulls into your parking area. And some would argue that it begins at home when potential guests talk about your brand with friends and family when making the decision where to go eat.”

You may want to consider the following when defining your restaurant’s brand.

1. Have a clear vision for what you want your restaurant to be

Your business has a personality all its own. Sure, the location itself isn’t living or breathing, but small businesses grow to have their own feel or way of doing things. As the business owner, you get to set the tone for your business by implementing cultural guidelines within your staff and selecting the internal and external aesthetics of your business. That all starts with understanding who you are as an establishment. 

“Restaurant brands must decide on a brand identity or ‘who they want to be’ and then craft the customer experience around that idea,” Kayton said. “People remember the experience they had at an establishment far longer than they do a specific meal.”

Tap into why you opened your restaurant in the first place. Are you honoring a cherished grandparent’s recipes, celebrating your culture and heritage, or creating a space where people can indulge in a truly unique experience? That main reason shapes the core of your restaurant branding, and all the parts of your brand identity fall into place from there.

2. Define your ideal customer — and speak to them

Finding your restaurant’s niche is an incredibly important step to take when hashing out your branding philosophy. While it would certainly be great if everyone within a 50-mile radius came to your restaurant, it’s simply not a realistic goal. Narrowing down your audience makes it easier to focus your marketing and speak directly to the people who are most likely to come to your restaurant by choosing ways to advertise that are most likely to reach them.

“Do not target the entire food market,” Simon Brisk, CEO, Click Intelligence said. “Choose a niche and try to grab as many customers within that niche as possible.”

Ask yourself some of these questions while defining your ideal customer:

  • Who is most likely to visit my restaurant? Is it families, couples on a date, friends going out for brunch, or something else?
  • What does my restaurant need to look like to attract that customer?
  • What is my restaurant’s “voice,” and how does it attract that kind of customer?
  • What can I do in my marketing to convince my target audience that my restaurant is worth their money and time?

3. Consider your restaurant’s values

Your business has a core set of values that shape how you make important decisions and conduct everyday affairs alike. Closely related to the vision for your restaurant’s brand, your values can help shape how your brand is showcased to your audience. Your values may be anchored in a cause, providing excellent hospitality, being an authentic representation of a culture or cuisine, acting as a pillar in the local community, or something else altogether. Once defined, though, they serve as a rock-solid foundation upon which you can build a compelling, strong, and convincing brand story. Speaking of brand stories…

Photo by @shawnanggg on Unsplash

4. Branding should reflect your story

The most successful establishments have their own story. That story helps illustrate your “why” to patrons and bring to life the values and mission you have defined for your restaurant. Your story can connect to sharing memories of cooking with your grandmother, the bonds strengthened by managing a family restaurant across generations, or a similarly thought-provoking and emotional tale that explains not just what your restaurant is about, but why you opened your restaurant in the first place. 

The most important thing is that your brand story should be truthful: Your customers will know when your story is genuine and connect with that much more strongly when it’s particularly moving. Once written, bring your story to life: Use a website creator to publish your brand story and other pertinent details about your restaurant, such as menus, reservation information, and hours of operation.

11 tips for developing a restaurant brand

After you’re done defining your brand as a concept, it’s time to put those ideas into practice. This is where your restaurant’s story, personality, and aesthetic decisions merge to create your brand identity. There are plenty of dos and don’ts for company logos and branding, but your restaurant brand involves much more than that. These 11 tips can help you shape the essential elements you need to develop a restaurant brand.

  • Establish a consistent exterior and interior look

The most notable restaurants create a unique and inviting ambiance that customers can’t wait to talk about later. This consistent look starts from the moment your diners arrive, to the decoration on the tables, to the text on the menus, to the small details in the bathrooms. They all play a role in supporting your brand identity, look, and feel.

  • Work on brand positioning

How do you want to be perceived in the marketplace? Is your restaurant high-end or fast-casual, quiet or boisterous, cheap eats or high-end fare? That brand positioning is how your current and potential patrons will size up your restaurant. Your brand’s visuals, story, mission, and vision all direct how you want to be perceived and where you stand against your closest competitors, giving your patrons a clear picture of what to expect before they come inside and sit down.

  • Make a memorable logo

Your restaurant’s logo is often the first thing people see, so it should absolutely capture their imaginations. By working with a graphic designer or using a free logo maker, you can craft a unique visual identifier that stands in for your business on menus, fixtures, takeaway bags, and other branded items both inside and outside your restaurant. 

A good logo should be simple to read and instantly recognizable while visually representing what your brand stands for. The logo should also be scalable so it can be used in any number of ways, including on your website, business cards, and social media profiles. There are plenty of design tips to consider when crafting your own — read up for some helpful tips you can put to work with Namecheap’s free Logo Maker.

  • Pick good colors

From the color of your flooring to the palette chosen for your logo, your brand is intimately tied to the colors you choose. That’s because colors can have a huge psychological impact on your patrons, and a cohesive use of color can help visually tie all the elements of your restaurant to one another. 

For example, shades of gray tend to exude a balanced and neutral feel, while orange can make people feel a sense of friendliness or playfulness. (You can even choose a color like red that is thought to stimulate hunger!) The human eye also likes certain colors to be paired with others, so it’s important to choose complementary color palettes that look good when used together.

  • Select a good font

Just as colors are important, so too is your logo’s font, or typeface, to be precise. Each kind of typeface can elicit a different response, with serif styles feeling more traditional, sans serif styles feeling more modern, and script typefaces feeling more personal since they look like actual handwriting. Whatever you choose, though, it should be easy to read and consistent with your overall branding goal.

  • Come up with a good tagline

“When You're Here, You're Family.” “Come hungry, leave happy.” “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood.” Each of those taglines immediately make you think of a popular restaurant, and that’s precisely what you want to do when coming up with a tagline of your own. Your tagline should reflect your brand values and goals in a simple sound bite that will, over time, instantly remind patrons and the general public of your restaurant. Read the Namecheap guide to writing a tagline to learn more.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels
  • Invest in marketing materials

Whoever came up with the phrase “you have to spend money to make money” probably had advertising costs in mind among all the other financial responsibilities. Now that you have a general aesthetic figured out, complete with logo, tagline, color palette, messaging, and other brand standards, it’s time to get your name out there. Whether you’re utilizing a digital-first strategy anchored around a website you made in a website builder, creating flyers to distribute around town, or going “old school” with mailers, investing in the channels you want to use is an important next step once your restaurant brand is ready for its debut.

  • Research your local demographics

Ideally, this step was completed before working on your restaurant’s branding, but continued research into your local community can go a long way and help you map out a continued plan for growth. By following the shifting social, economic, and personal needs of your consumer base, you can pivot when necessary to meet those changing needs. Demographic research can also help your advertising efforts, since you can more easily send targeted advertisements and promotions directly to the right customers.

  • Train your staff to act according to brand expectations

Good customer service is an essential part of your restaurant’s brand. Invest in training your staff so they can provide the best support to your patrons as they dine. Your staff’s ability to be courteous, friendly, quick, and resourceful can go a long way in creating a pleasant dining experience for your guests. Their uniforms, flair on their shirts, or nametags can all play a part in reinforcing your brand as well. You can choose whether a branded uniform or an upscale all-black getup is more your vibe.

  • Consider investing in public relations

The media can be your biggest asset as a restaurant owner. Media coverage can be a great and effective way to raise awareness that your restaurant is open for business and ready for customers. Media relations professionals, PR firms, or a DIY approach where you speak to the media yourself can all have a significant impact in bringing new customers to the door. However, keep in mind that you need a “hook” when speaking to the press to generate interest or make your restaurant worthy of what’s called “earned media.” Tap into your brand identity to craft a compelling story that will intrigue a media professional.

  • Be consistent

Whatever you do branding-wise, the most important value to stick to is consistency. Remember that your branding efforts reflect your restaurant in its entirety. As you expand, add new offerings, or even open an additional location, staying consistent with your brand vision will ensure success, building upon the hard work you’ve already invested in your restaurant branding.

A strong restaurant brand means happy patrons

A lot goes into a restaurant’s brand. From your reason for opening, to the visual aspects like your logo and color palette, to the experience your patrons have when they walk in the door, your brand is the bedrock that you rely upon to build loyalty and increase your customer base. By making wise branding decisions, you can entice new customers and woo back recurring ones alike, leaving a lasting impression on all who come to your restaurant.

Now that you have some idea of how to conceive a winning brand for your restaurant, now it’s time to put that knowledge to work. The Namecheap Visual Maker suite of creative tools can help you to get started. All you need is an idea — our tools can help you bring them to life.


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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