I haven’t posted in a while but I do have one of the better lame excuses I’ve heard. My husband and I bought a restaurant in Chesapeake, Virginia called Winston’s Cafe. The perception that owning a restaurant is a 24/7 job was actually our reality over the past several months.
But I’ve learned quite a bit. In the past, most of my experience has been in developing brand strategy for large organizations with an international, national or regional footprint. A restaurant is 100% a local business. And it is very personal. No matter how good the food is, it is the experience that builds the brand.
Experience branding for a small, local restaurant requires incredible finesse. We need to respect the experience the customers wants. At lunch, quick service is critical. Friendly service is part of our brand so is critical. But some customers like to chat with their regular server or cook, while others prefer to be ignored once they have what they need. Some are taking a working lunch and don’t want to be distracted. Others are taking a break from work and they appreciate the friendly small talk about their job, children or day. The best talent can read these cues and respond accordingly.
On the other hand, the bar area is all about relationships. The art of building loyal customers is about creating an engaging experience that is fun and personal. Done well, the bartender and the owners feel like friends that are there to help customers enjoy themselves. Because the reality is – the beer and drinks are no different than those served at other bars. The prices are similar. But it is the experience that makes one bar a local hangout and another a stop along the way.