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Know your customer and focus on what they want.

How to Create the Next Great Restaurant Brand

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The industry is rapidly changing.
By Larry Reinstein August 2019 Expert Insights

Our world is changing rapidly and dramatically, and this quickening pace has not been lost on restaurant operators. This is true especially as they work toward creating the next great restaurant brand or franchise.

So, what is precipitating this change? Mobile orders, delivery, robotics, and the abundance of guest data available to restaurateurs are examples of items that are now disrupting the way restaurants operate.

In creating the next great restaurant, founders can’t rely long-term on one piece of equipment or one approach to technology. This is because those items will be rapidly displaced. Great brands today will have to provide guests with what they are looking for and be ready to change as their clientele does. Consumers are driving major shifts and this isn’t about to change anytime soon.

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How can operators today work toward the creation of the next big idea, big brand or big concept? Here are a few things to consider:

Navigate the unknown: Make new mistakes and don’t repeat the mistakes you’ve made in the past. Keep learning and keep things in perspective.

Experiment: New ideas don’t have to be perfect and over analysis can lead to indecision. Experiment in one location or use a core group of a small locations to test new ideas, new piece of equipment or technology, or new menu items. Then, adjust quickly. It is always best to be fast, then measure, tweak as required, and roll out if the test is successful.

Keep trying new things: You need to be three steps ahead in order to not fall behind. As much as it can be terrifying to change something that isn’t working, it may become a necessary part of doing business.

In terms of the above points, this also can apply to your menu. Know your customer and focus on what they want. If your customers is food focused, make sure you have someone on your team who can provide new ideas for a really differentiated product. To do this, successful restauranteurs will need to have a close ongoing relationship with their guests so they can learn what is working and what is no longer considered special in order to innovate rapidly.

This can mean your menu where some consumers are more interested in plant based foods, superfoods, or a paleo or Keto diet. It can mean your ingredients where guests are interested in how they are sourced and held until they are consumed.The  It can mean packaging where plastic straws, plastic bottles and styrofoam are not accepted in preference for disposables or recyclable items. Just pick a direction and stick with it.

Your experience and design also will have to be well thought out as the flow has to work for the benefit of your guest. It has to help deliver the experience and the overall branding. Therefore, focus on who and what you want to be, and then do it better than anyone else. If technology is part of your brand, make it worthwhile for your guest to use.

New technologies will need to be tested continually to determine what changes will provide an edge. Provides gusts with information they want to know without bothering them. Loyalty today is understanding what your guest enjoys and then giving that to them. It’s an appreciation of who and what they are. People like to save money, but Millennials are very excited by what they haven’t had elsewhere.

Coming out on top

In addition to creating a brand that resonates with your core consumer, successful brands also have to resonate with team members.  Your concept will be a place that they will strongly recommend to others due to the company commitment to product, packaging, community, and most important, to the people working there.

A culture with a clear vision, commitment to training and development, and rewarding the team for delivering excellence, should all be a major factor. Set up systems so that good people can do great work and create a fun and enjoyable environment with team member involvement in restaurant decisions. This is vital and will be vital to your ongoing success.

Keep in mind that simplicity is important. Be focused, be relevant and be creative. And remember, everything has to be done with the idea of how do we make this better for our guests? Build a restaurant with an end game in mind. When you put in the time and effort everything will come together.

Larry Reinstein is founder and CEO of LJR Hospitality Ventures, a consulting firm that provides profitable and executable solutions to private equity firms, and owners and operators of restaurant companies. Previously, Reinstein was president of Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina and was a founder, president and CEO of Fresh Concepts, a multi-concept restaurant and catering company. He led the creation of Fresh City in 1998.