The foodservice industry grew by more than seven percent over last year, with 4,442 new restaurants in the U.S. according to a restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Not only is the number of restaurants increasing, but so are customers’ demands for things such as Wifi, new menu offerings that bring the world’s taste to North American doorsteps, different delivery systems, and whole new ways to integrate mobile into processes such as ordering and making payment. Indeed, the entire foodservice industry spectrum, from fast food to fine dining, is going through massive changes. As foodservice operators try to adapt, with so many options to consider, they often overlook a less obvious strategy of ensuring their brand remains relevant by defining a unique value proposition.
To determine if your brand can claim a right to win in the current market, review the following eight factors we have found to be the litmus test of a strong position:
1. Your brand clearly defines a unique and proprietary position in the market
Would your customers be able to articulate what differentiates your chain from a competitor, and would the answer be consistent from person to person? If the answer is no, you need to start determining what is unique about your restaurant, what separates you from your competitors. It could be the type of food you offer, a signature item, a unique experience, or the location or format of your chain.
2. It is both believable and relevant to the consumer
It’s great to have something unique, but if your customers don’t see any benefit in your uniqueness, it has no value to you in helping differentiate your restaurant from competitors. To understand if your restaurant’s position is relevant to your customers you need to talk to them about what is important to them and their priorities in selecting a restaurant, and how you meet these priorities. Customers have a shortlist of preferences when they’re considering eating out. First of all, you need to be on that list, and secondly you need to be at the top of the customers’ preference. To achieve this you need to have an offering which your patrons perceive to have greater value than that of your competitors, but this is not the entire equation. In addition to meeting the customers’ needs, your restaurant must be credible in delivering them. So many restaurants have attempted to expand their menu offering to attract new customers, only to fail since they lacked credibility in that given offering. Dairy Queen struggled for many years trying to sell hot food, but customers saw them as an ice cream and frozen dessert establishment. It wasn’t until we reinvented the entire customer experience that they were able to break through this barrier.
3. Your brand is experiential and makes an emotional connection with its audience
Being relevant and believable today is the cost of entry for restaurants wanting to effectively differentiate themselves. The restaurant or chain needs to own an emotional need of their customers. Most patrons select a restaurant based first on an emotional response. Once the customers’ emotional needs are met, they then refine their decision based on rational factors. But do not be fooled: the majority of customers’ first decision criteria is rooted in how the brand makes them feel.
4. Your brand delivers on its promise
A brand is a promise consistently delivered on every visit, every day. This cannot be more important for restaurants who live and die based on frequency of visit and meeting broader day-part needs. A bad service experience is the one key trigger that will ensure your customers never return. Understanding the lifetime value to your restaurant, reflected in the total value of that one customer over the life of your restaurant, is precisely why you need to deliver a consistent experience.
5. It speaks from one consistent voice, and every consumer touchpoint delivers the same message
It is also important that your restaurant’s experience and marketing reinforce your position in a consistent and focused approach. You should not be lured into changing your key message or tagline because you’ve hired a new advertising agency or because you’re bored with your current direction. Before making any changes, please review the previous four factors and ensure your decision is one that aligns to those goals.
6. It has the buy-in and support of all key stakeholders
It’s important that everyone from head office staff, to field operations, all the way up to front-line staff, buys in to your position and clearly understands what you are trying to achieve. If you are not totally internally aligned, it’s critical you go back and evaluate where the challenges are and to find a solution prior to making the big announcement.
7. Your brand is one that is built from the inside out
Your most effective marketing tool is your front-line staff, who are the ones to deliver on your brand promise with each customer. It’s important that they clearly understand what makes your chain or restaurant unique, and are confident reinforcing the point during every customer interaction. It could be emphasizing the history of the chain, what makes you unique, or a key proof-point of your position, but whatever position you take, the front-line staff should live and breathe what differentiates you.
8. It gives a reason to believe
Ultimately, your new position needs to have supporting proof-points of consistent, tangible benefits and features that support what makes you unique. These proof-points are the foundation of the front-line staff talk track, and are how you are going to differentiate yourself within the market.
More than fifty percent of a restaurant’s value is its intangible assets, meaning its position in the marketplace. By paying greater attention to defining an effective position, operators are ensuring they remain relevant as new competitors and offerings flood the market.