Deciding to rebrand a restaurant can be a major risk—it might involve redesigning the physical space, opting for a new logo, significantly changing the menu, or even choosing a new name. In essence, a rebrand is a signal to customers and other businesses that the restaurant’s whole approach to the preparation and serving of food will be different. In today’s volatile markets, rebrands sometimes are necessary. A rebrand can renew a restaurant’s business and generate a whole new group of regular customers if it is approached carefully. Unfortunately, restaurant developers often fall into a few common pitfalls when they decide to undertake a rebrand.
Below are some of the hazards that arise during the rebrand process and a look at how they can be avoided.
1. Failing to do market research.
Before undertaking a rebrand, restaurant developers need to research the market and determine if the rebrand will help secure a greater share of it. What exactly will the new brand say about the restaurant, and why would it appeal more to customers than the current brand? To answer this question, it’s important to analyze why a rebrand is necessary in the first place. Sometimes, restaurateurs will find that they can realign their brand rather than undertaking a radical rebrand.
Since big changes cost a lot of time and money, restaurant developers should see how customers react to more subtle ones. The results may be surprising. Listening to feedback from customers can reveal a lot about what they already like about the brand, which can point to ways of preserving it or identify what elements should be reincorporated into the new brand. The value of market research during a rebrand cannot be understated. Restaurant developers cannot lead a successful rebrand unless they fully understand how customers think about the restaurant as it is now, and how they feel about proposed changes.
2. Not integrating the new brand into all aspects of the business.
When restaurateurs limit the rebrand to just a new name or logo, they may be disappointed with the results of the project. When customers hear that a restaurant is undergoing a rebrand, they will want to see changes in the food, the service, or the look of the place—in other words, in the way the business is run. If longtime customers come into the restaurant and see that nothing has really changed except the name, they probably won’t give the establishment another chance. Even worse, a superficial rebrand can drive off some regular customers who may not like the new name or new look, even if they like the food.
A rebrand is a promise to customers and employers that the restaurant will operate in a different way. If a restaurant developer hires a new chef and decides to turn a neighborhood café into a high-end, luxury restaurant, everything from the décor to the presentation of the food must change. Simply altering the menu will result in a strange hodgepodge that drives away old customers and sends mixed, confusing signals to new customers. Customers, whether old or new, quickly see through a superficial rebrand, and it may put them off.
3. Avoiding differentiation.
When restaurateurs are motivated to rebrand their restaurant to make it trendier, they often lose what differentiates them from the competition. Rather than trying to make their restaurant more like the competition, restaurant developers should identify and embrace what the restaurant does well and highlight that with the new brand.
For example, if a restaurant developer notices that their establishment’s seafood dishes sell very well, despite the fact that the eatery presents itself as a steakhouse, it may be time to ditch that identity and transform into a seafood restaurant. However, if the restaurant developer decides to turn their steakhouse into a seafood eatery simply because that’s what the most successful restaurants in the neighborhood are serving, then the rebrand will likely fail.
4. Underestimating or misjudging the power of the existing brand.
Some restaurant developers try to rebrand because they feel that the new brand will appeal to customers more than the current one. Too often, however, restaurateurs do this without taking the time to think about what is appealing about the current brand.
Take, for example, the neighborhood bar and grill that people frequent for a quick meal and a drink after a long day at work. Some restaurant developers may take the success of the eatery to indicate that it could shed its pub image and instead open as a luxury cocktail lounge with upscale food. If customers like the restaurant because it is a laid-back, casual place to get solid food at a decent price, a transformation into a pricey lounge will drive them away.