This post entitled “Restaurant Branding Tips” is a result of my new morning coffee meet up called Steve’s Lanai. I provide the coffee and smart folks stop by before work on Tuesday mornings (7-8:30am) to share a little community chat time.
This week was the first installment and although there were just two of us, it felt like there were a dozen. Thx to Keola Reyes for opening my mind with his well-read mind. Keola came to me by way of a project I recently did (the Entree´-treneurship Center at ChefZone). Keola is a food service guy, energy guy, entrepreneur and was one of the coaches at St. Louis HS who raised Marcus Mariota through the football program from grades 6-12.
One topic we chatted about at length was that we’re both fans of John Taffer, the host of the TV show “Bar Rescue.” Taffer is a super-smart guy who has huge cred having started NFL Sunday Ticket and served as a president of the Bar & Nightclub Association. He owned numerous clubs and bars and is a scientist of the bar. Hearing about Taffer’s thinkings brought me back to my design days (I designed hundreds of restaurant concepts myself ~ Taffer for me is like hearing God talk to us choir boys). Anyways, a few tid-bits for the foodies from today’s coffee:
1. Brand to a Unique Food Concept
Many restauranteurs think that a super-wide menu is awesome. They think it attractive. But what really attracts customers is a clear food concept. Folks want a signature dish. They don’t want to wade through pages of menus ~ particularly if your dining room is romantically dim. it may be ego-gratifying to a chef that she/he can cook anything under the sun, but an unimpeded decision point brings in more customers, the right customers and facilitates table turns.
That also means going strong on your specials. Make it easy for folks to know what you’re best at. Put the special in a box in the middle of your menu. Make it big. Make it bold. Put a Chef’s Choice icon next to it. Instruct your wait staff to push it. Be stupidly direct.
2. Sound: Beats Per Minute
Taffer has this theory that the cadence of music will affect your bottom line. Too fast and people leave before they’ve spent. Too slow and they don’t order much. The right music is important to keeping the feeling fun alive and active. That’s all on top of the genre and style of music of course.
I have a pet peeve myself about acoustics in restaurants. If it’s a white tablecloth venue, it shouldn’t have an echo. You should be able to hear yourself think. You should be able to hear others speak without shouting. Ego architecture with poor acoustics drives customers away ~ and your bottom line suffers.
Alternatively, for quick service restaurants and family establishments, a more live environment moves folks through. Eating and running, especially for those with kids is fine.
3. Paint with Light
Taffer believes that lighting should be used to move people’s eyes through a venue. Spot on. Absolutely. My mentor, the great Bill Bardsley, once told me that every line in a concept rendering is an opportunity to guide eyes through a drawing. Lines are like arrows to renders. According to Taffer, light in the built space is like arrows too. I buy it. Amen. Heck, in my casino development years, it was all about the lights. Lights. Lots and lots of lights.
Then there’s table lighting. Recessed down lights over tables are an absolute NO-NO. Remember when you were a kid under the covers with a flashlight? Spooky, no? That’s what recessed lights do over tables. What woman feels comfortable under them? In bars, if you can’t attract the women, you’re in trouble. Better to use light from the sides or up from the bottom. Footlights do this. Votives do this. Uplight lifts the face. Lifted old faces mean happier customers who come back and tip copiously. Or try side light from diffuse sources: think Apple store… where does the light come from? Yep, the sides. It makes you feel like a rock star at a makeup station. Happy light. Warm light. Youth-infusing light.
4. Names Count
The name concept of a bar or restaurant is essential to its success. Folks need to be able to find your establishment. That means easy to pronounce, remember and spell. You also should make sure you can secure a URL (website address) that’s consistent with your name. It should be catchy. Full of personality. Tasty.
Restaurants are a highly experiential offering. If your pre-show isn’t tasty (name, logo), why would anyone think your food or ambiance is going to great? Fortunately, food communications work well with the use of metaphors so there’s tons of options to finding a juicy way to communicate your concept.
5. Socializing Spaces
I recall a Bar Rescue show in which Taffer noted that corner seats at bars out perform in-line bar seats by 20%. He has the data to prove it. Smart. Really smart. So why do architects design a straight bar if the space allowed for a “U” shaped bar? Cause they didn’t read Taffer’s book or didn’t see his show. Bail on the M Arch. Do not pass Go. Go get a beer with John Taffer. Or read his book. I’m off to do the latter soon, may be with a beer.
This tip reminds me of a bar we worked on once long ago for Planet Hollywood. It was star-shaped in plan. Huge. Massive. So huge that it had 60 seats (12 on each arm). On Taffer’s principle, that made every seat a corner seat. EVERY SEAT. Boom. Put that in your jigger and shake it.
Beyond bars, dining rooms should socialize well. Table configurations should be flexible to change yet frame patrons like actors on stage. Most people want to look at others. Many want to be looked at. Cater to those needs and make them all look good. When everyones a rock star, everyones having fun… and spending money.
So thanks again to Keola for a super-stimulating chat… I’m off to read Taffer’s Raise the Bar… If you’re in food service, you should too. Aloha!