Using other brands in your restaurant or cafe is common practice but how does it really benefit your business?
It might be an American Express sticker by the front entrance, a Mount Franklin-branded drinks fridge, or even takeaway cups emblazoned with a gourmet coffee brand. It’s a rare thing to find a restaurant or café without at least one other big-name brand featured somewhere in the physical space. But what impact does the presence of these other brands really have on a business? Apart from any savings in getting branded items or equipment for free or at a reduced cost, what effect do other brands have on the success of the business? What kind of message does their use send to customers, and what can be the effect of getting it wrong, maybe too many brands or using the wrong types? The bottom line is, using other brands is an essential marketing tool for restaurants and cafes, so it pays to know how to do it well.
The real appeal of displaying other brands in a restaurant or café, is the chance to send the right signal to consumers. Whether it’s a sense of quality, reliability, trustworthiness, professionalism or even innovation, the sight of a particular product’s logo in a restaurant environment can make a big impression on diners.
“If it’s a well-known and trusted brand, it can be a real drawcard for your business,” says restaurant marketing expert Jill Groves, of Rich Restaurants Group. “If you’ve got a drinks fridge with an unknown brand all over it, they may not feel as safe and comfortable buying their product from you.”
Security is a big issue for customers, especially those travelling or not familiar with the area the restaurant’s in.
“For the restaurateur, you get that credibility from the association with a massive, multinational brand, like American Express,” says Geoff Begg, Vice President, Merchant Services Australia at American Express.
Another reason to use other brands is the simple fact that customers are used to seeing them around, with all the various messages and signals they send. A restaurant or café with no branding whatsoever can have a negative impact for some customers. “They call it a ‘clean store policy’, where a restaurant that doesn’t put anything up, and I think it just puts a question mark in front of the consumer,” says Begg.
That first impression another brand creates for customers can translate directly to dollars spent.
“Once they’re in and see the branding, they can be more inclined to spend,” says Begg. “We’ve got studies that show globally you can increase your turnover up to five per cent by putting up the decals and letting people know the merchant welcomes your card. We offer the consumer protection of people dispute the charge, and in our experience, if you’ve got a credit card you’ll spend more than if you’ve got cash.”
In a broader sense, using big-name brands is a way to boost the recognition of your own business.
“Drink and food companies are big businesses generally and have the power and money to do their own branding awareness,” says Jill Groves. “Smaller businesses like restaurants and cafes don’t have the budgets for that, so you can attach yourself to the big companies and ride off their marketing gains.”
There’s the obvious benefit of reduced set-up costs and running costs, if branded equipment or items are supplied cheap or free by other companies. Branded items range from the small, like stickers, napkins and coasters, to larger furniture items, like umbrellas, or even structures like awnings or lightboxes. It’s worth contacting companies to ask what items they have available, rather than waiting for them to visit or send things in.
It’s also worth thinking of it all in terms of a business relationship with suppliers, that can benefit both sides. “I recommend restaurants go to the best suppliers and use their branding, then they can say things like, ‘We only use the best quality ingredients’, that sort of thing,” Jill Groves says. “Sadly, often restaurant and café owners fall in love with their own brand and it hinders them from making money.”
The first step is choosing the right product for your business. Some brands, like credit cards, are more generic and likely to suit a wider range of restaurants and cafes. Other brands might be more suited to certain styles of restaurant or café, and it’s essential to stick to other brands that reflect the feel and personality of your business. For example, displaying a range of mainstream, multinational brands might be good for some bigger restaurants or cafes, but fine dining restaurants or quirky cafes might benefit more from associations with boutique or organic brands, for example.
With lesser-known brands it can help to follow up with more information in any menus or other promotional material.
“You might have a coffee brand’s logo out the front, but don’t assume the consumer knows all about that,” Jill Groves says. “You need to tell a story about that coffee, that it’s been roasted by a master roaster in Zimbabwe or whatever, and that it’s superb and better than what’s being served down the road.”
It’s also important to use other brands where they’ll have the biggest impact. That can range depending on the product and the size and location of the restaurant/café.
“The first thing is having something on the exterior of the business,” says Geoff Begg. “If somebody’s walking past, it can bring them in, and then, to have branding in the interior, next to where you pay the bill, when you’re doing the transaction.”
It can also help to think beyond the business’s physical space.
“Use the brand online, on their website, as that’s where a lot of people do their research,” says Geoff Begg.