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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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.