Branding and Duplicating Food & Beverage Concepts

By Peter Karpinski Partner, Sage Hospitality | August 06, 2017

In an age where new restaurants are popping up on every corner and shuttering just as fast, the idea of developing an original concept and growing it to a multi-unit business seems next to impossible. In my experience, the most original concepts begin with a blank canvas and a group of passionate individuals. A continued focus on: distinctive consumer experiences, unmatched food and beverage offerings, superior service, consistency, an approachable atmosphere, and constant competitive innovation is what paves the way to success.

Forming Brand Identity: Ingenuity with Integrity

Developing a brand identity, and molding one that stands out from the crowd, can seem like a daunting task at first. Where do you start? Brainstorming the name; designing the logo; creating the website? There are many winding roads to achieve your vision, and for some it comes easier than others.

In order to set the tone and formulate core messaging, it helps to first envision a background story. What sort of experience do you hope a guest will have when walking into the restaurant or bar for the first time? When SRG ( Sage Restaurant Group ) opened the first location of Urban Farmer, a modern farm-to-table steakhouse with locations in Portland, OR; Cleveland, OH; Philadelphia, PA; and Denver, CO, we envisioned a rural rancher and a well-traveled woman meeting, getting married, and transforming a run-down farm into a self-sustaining restaurant. Thus, the concept of Urban Farmer Portland was born; we wanted to provide guests with a bespoke experience as if they were dining at that re-imagined farmhouse. In other instances, perhaps the concept is built from time spent abroad, touring and tasting the regional cuisine and having the desire to share that culture. In that case, you would want the ambiance, food, and drink to transport guests to another land without ever having to step foot on a plane. Whatever the setting or background story, the most novel ideas are born from creative spaces constructed with added-value experiences.

Once the vision is established, and the brand promise created, it is time to field the team. Most developers will build the team piecemeal and will begin by gathering a chef and a beverage director to create the menu or an architect to design the space. While this may work for some, it is not necessarily the best model. Ingenious concepts originate when everyone is brought to the table while the canvas is still blank. When everyone is able to collaborate and work towards the same goal, the creative process thrives. If I’m developing a new concept and walking into the first meeting, I imagine my team as an army, but the titles and egos are dropped and each member of the team is of the same rank. This is crucial to maintain integrity and allow the prophecy of the concept to shine through.

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Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.