The food service industry is a huge one, both in the United States and around the world. In fact, it’s one of the most competitive industries due to the huge number of businesses vying for diners’ attention.
According to Restaurants.org, there are more than a million restaurants in the United States alone. The industry as a whole did over three-quarters of a trillion dollars in 2016. When it comes to attracting diners with marketing, restaurant owners – particularly those who don’t have the brand recognition of national chains – have their work cut out for them.
Logo Concerns for the Food Service Industry
Let’s begin by talking about logo design and what you need to know to choose a logo that will help define your brand.
People think a lot about food, and they want to be sure – for the most part – that they’re putting food that is safe into their bodies. Even people who eat fast food want to know that their food has been prepared safely. For that reason, it’s very important that your logo conveys reliability and safety as much as possible.
Of course, the other issue to be addressed is the deliciousness of the food you serve. Nobody wants to go out for a meal and get food they don’t enjoy. Your logo must be enticing as much as it is reassuring.
How to Convey Freshness, Food Safety, and Other Attributes with Your Logo
The elements of your logo that work together to represent your brand are: colors, shapes, images, and fonts. A well-designed logo uses all four to let customers know at a glance what to expect.
If you think about popular restaurants and their branding, you may realize that many of them use bright colors to attract diners. Psychologically speaking, colors like red and yellow are exciting and can help to stimulate the appetite.
On the other hand, green is a universal representation of nature and freshness. Many food service companies use green as one of their logo colors. This logo, which we designed for a company that sells wraps, uses both red and green together in a logo to that clearly represents the company’s brand.
The shapes and image you use also play a big role in helping to define your brand. Many restaurants use round shapes, which are welcoming and inclusive. Images related to food – such as forks, dishes, and particular food items – are also popular.
Finally, the font you choose can tell potential diners a lot about your establishment. Fancy or elegant fonts tend to be used for high-end restaurants, while bold and showy lettering is more common for fast food and casual dining.
How Your Logo Can Separate You from the Competition
Now let’s discuss how your logo can separate you from the competition. Because every food service company is competing to attract hungry dinners, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of them use similar images in their logos.
What that means is that using a fork or a plate won’t make you stand out in a crowd – unless you also find a way to make that image distinctive.
Here’s a logo that we designed that illustrates the point. Certainly it is not uncommon for brewing companies and bars to incorporate a beer glass into their logos.
What makes this logo unique is that it connects the beer glass with an outline of the state of Michigan in a way that’s memorable and different. When you select a logo, make sure that any common shapes are used in a way that sets you apart from your competitors.
Finding Your Target Audience
Once you’ve selected a logo, you must make sure that your target audience sees it. With so many restaurants to choose from, you can’t afford to take a scattershot approach to your marketing. You must take the time to think about the best way to connect with potential diners.
Creating a Diner Persona
Who are your ideal diners? If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s time to find out. Not every restaurant will appeal equally to every potential designer. A restaurant that regularly features a clown as entertainment should target families with children. On the other hand, a high-end romantic restaurant would be better served by targeting adult couples.
Creating a diner persona can help you to hone in on your target audience. When you think about your establishment, whom do you see eating there? You should take into consideration:
1. The food you serve
2. The ambience of your restaurant
3. The prices you charge
4. The area where you’re located
All of these things play a role in determining which people are most likely to come to your restaurant.
To create a customer persona, as yourself who would enjoy eating the food you serve as well as the atmosphere in which you serve it. For example, people who enjoy travel might be more likely to try a restaurant that serves an uncommon global cuisine than people who don’t.
There are obvious considerations as well. The majority of diners at a very high-end restaurant may be affluent. That doesn’t mean that some lower income people won’t eat there, but it is likely that they will do so less frequently than those who have higher incomes.
As you develop your diner persona, take demographics as well as hobbies and personal preferences in mind. You may need to consider making more than one persona. Restaurants that have a catering arm may want to develop a separate persona for that part of the business.
Crafting an Online and Offline Marketing Strategy
Nowadays, a huge percentage of the marketing done by businesses happens online. If you want your online marketing efforts to be effective, you have to plan them well. And the same is true of your offline efforts.
Developing a marketing strategy can help you on both fronts. A marketing strategy is a big-picture view of how you plan to attract diners to your establishment. You might decide that using images of your food is an important part of you online strategy. From there, you would have to pick specific tactics – such as posting pictures on Instagram – to carry out your strategy.
Your online strategy should include your website, including a blog; your social media strategy; and a paid advertising strategy that might include social advertising plus search engine advertising. Offline, you’ll want to consider television and radio ads, print ads, and in-person outreach such as appearing at local events.
As you develop your strategy, think about your diner persona. Where is your target audience most likely to be? That knowledge will help determine the best use of your marketing budget.
Creating an Appetite for Your Product
After you develop your strategy, it’s time to start marketing your business. Let’s talk about three important things you can do to help attract new customers to your business.
How to Use Instagram to Show off Your Food
There’s an old saying in the restaurant business: we eat with our eyes first. For that reason, it should come as no surprise that sharing photographs of your food is a wonderful way to attract new customers.
While many social media platforms are suitable for sharing pictures, Instagram is arguably the best. Originally launched as a way for people to share mobile photography, the site has become hugely popular, with more than 500 million active monthly users.
Here are some things you can do to engage with customers on Instagram:
1. Set up a content posting schedule that keeps your customers interested
2. Take photos behind the scenes, including food prep and pictures of your staff
3. Post beauty shots of your menu items
4. Encourage diners to share photos of their meals
5. Run a contest asking customers to share photos of their favorite recipes
You should also consider following chefs, farmers, and other food-related accounts on Instagram to build a community of influencers and fans.
Blogging for Customer Engagement
The next thing you should be doing to grow your brand is to start a blog if you don’t already have one. A lot of restaurants and food service companies don’t bother to blog, but it’s a great way to increase the visibility of your website and attract new customers.
What should you blog about? Here are a few ideas:
1. Tell the story of how you started your business
2. Do mini biographies of your staff
3. Share recipes and cooking tips
4. Shoot cooking demos or behind the scene footage and share them
Having a blog on your site ensures that Google will have to crawl your site regularly, and that will help improve your search rank.
Mobile Marketing to Local Customers
The final thing we recommend to help grow your business is to take advantage of mobile marketing. Online business might not have much need for mobile marketing, but food service is perfect for it. You can use mobile marketing tools to reach your customers when they are most likely to patronize your business.
Here are some things to try:
1. Create a mobile app to allow customers to place orders or make reservations from their mobile devices
2. Send out timed offers and coupons – for example, you might send out a happy hour invite at 5:00 on a Thursday night
3. Promote special events and new menu items
4. Use geofencing to ping customers when they’re near your business
Mobile marketing is inexpensive and very effective.
The key to marketing and branding your food service company is to be both personal and inclusive at the same time. Highlight the special things about your business and then share them with your target audience. If you do that, you’ll always have new customers to keep the old ones company.