Restaurant Brands Need to Evolve for Customers | Brand Education

Smart brands are willing to evolve. Today, marketing requires ears perhaps more than anything else. Restaurant brands are learning to listen to their customers in order to better serve their needs. We all want happy, satisfied customers right?

What is the definition of insanity? That’s right trying the same actions and expecting different results. So then why do so many restaurants fight changing their marketing practices, menus, or pricing?

In order to evolve, something has to change. We are in the middle of a cultural shift where the power has shifted to the consumer. This is a very difficult concept for some brands to deal with. If you are in a customer service oriented business like the restaurant industry you don’t have a choice but to evolve.

There might not be a change machine, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult to evolve

It is hard to accept the excuse that a restaurant brand is not aware of what their customers want. They are either too far removed from their product to listen or they are a brand that doesn’t want to change. For those that do, lets keep moving on.

There are many ways to reach out to your audience to get feedback, from surveys to crowdsourcing consumers, interviews, following restaurant industry trends or mining big data. Consumers are comfortable sharing feedback on restaurants, the brand just needs to be willing to listen.

Change doesn’t have to be difficult, however it does require some effort and commitment from the entire brand including staff and management. In order for a change to be successful, the entire team needs to be all-in. Adopt or die, jumping into using new marketing tactics such as mobile check-in specials on Foursquare can backfire if everyone in the restaurant is not on-board.

What are some examples of restaurant brands evolving to better serve customer needs?

Let’s highlight 5 examples:

1. Staying Fresh and Relevant by changing up your menu items. Keeping things fresh with seasonal and daily specials or actually creating lighter fare options is a good way to drive new and repeat traffic to your restaurant. Keep the season and your audience in mind, several fast-food brands have introduced wacky beverages for the summer to entice younger audiences or customers just looking to cool off.

2. Following Popular Food Trends including food ingredients and beverages. Stay on top of Popular Menu Trends from new ingredients to different types of food preparation. Cronuts anyone? Seasonal menus are great way to drive new traffic, while keeping the menu fresh and exciting for repeat customers. It is important for independent restaurants to monitor what the bigger chains are doing, take advantage of their research and jump on trends such as wrapping proteins in Waffles and Pretzels.

3. Location no longer means a physical location, consider bringing the food to the people. The Food Truck craze is carrying over to brick and mortar restaurants who are using Food Trucks for convenience. Long standing brands such as White Castle are jumping on the Food Truck trend, along with Chick-fil-A, Applebee’s and Wendy’s also experimented with the concept.

If $5 is the sweet spot, don’t fight it. Embrace it.

4. Flexible Menu Pricing, consider finding the sweet spot for your consumer. QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) restaurant brands such as Dairy Queen, Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s are finding success with a $5 meal deal, have you considered changing your prices?

5. Encouraging and enticing Sharing Photos of Menu Items taken at your restaurant. We live in a social sharing world, where peer recommendations and implied endorsements are more trusted than advertising. Why not tap into the visual photography trend used by fans of Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and Flickr? Some Restaurants are even offering perks to diners who post photos of their meals, now that is what I call evolving.  

It is never too late to start over again, just don’t make the same mistake twice.

A good case study to consider reviewing is what went on with Bennigan’s. They completely shifted who they used to be as a brand to better serve the consumer’s evolving needs. Now, while it took bankruptcy to instigate these changes, you can learn from their original mistake and try to evolve to better serve your customer needs.

Bennigan’s new direction included trying new things such as catering, which meant altering their menu to present the product in the best possible way. They also realized that they lost touch of who they were and simplified the brand’s positioning: American Food served with Irish Hospitality. Again, they went back and reviewed their menu to simplify their offerings going from a 20-page menu to a 2-sided menu presenting an easier menu for the customers to review.

Change is a good lesson for brands to consider.

So there you have it, to better serve your customers be willing to evolve your restaurant brand. Embrace change. 

  • Stay Fresh and Relevant
  • Consider Popular Dining Trends
  • Step Outside the Restaurant’s Walls
  • Be Flexible with Your Pricing
  • Encourage Sharing of Images

What are you doing to listen to your consumer and stay relevant? Have you made changes to your menu items or prices? What about jumping on trends such as popular ingredients or social sharing? 

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