Six Steps to Bringing Your Brand to Brick-and-Mortar
Building your first physical space, whether retail or food service, is a thrilling and scary process. A new space opens up both opportunities and challenges, and there are many chances for mistakes along the way. Smart business owners know that research and planning are key, but where should you start? Here are six steps to get you started towards your food brand’s first brick-and-mortar.
We worked with our friends at Rayvn Design, a food and beverage design firm, to create this series. The photo above is a space they designed for an office café!
Look out for Part 2, How to Design and Build Food Spaces, next week!
1. Have a vision.
Often, restaurant owners fail (and have to rebrand) because they rush into getting the restaurant open. Having a vision for your restaurant goes beyond just the furniture, decor and logo you have purchased. It’s what sustains a business over time. Simply put: if you can’t articulate a vision for your restaurant, how do you expect your customers to see it?
2. Know your audience and your location.
In every city, there is a Top Ten list that becomes a pilgrimage for every food-loving individual. Many of these are found in the oddest of places, supporting the adage “if you build it, they will come.” However, those are often outliers, and the adage doesn’t necessarily translate to those starting out. If you plant yourself in a locale, understand your primary audience within a 1-3 mile radius. Who are they? Working professionals or students? Are you surrounded by office parks or are you in the suburbs? These are some of the questions that would help you refine and market your space and offering.
3. Pressure test and refine your product.
We’ve all had those light bulb moments: “if only someone built a juice spot here!” or “if we had a Chipotle for vegans, that place would be busy!” But before you start designing logos or begging friends & family for a capital raise, find out whether there is interest around what you have to offer. For example, pop-ups at farmers markets, colleges or within your community would give you a front-row seat to the chatter around your product. These also bring in unsolicited feedback that help you understand your product better. Keep your eyes and ears open.
4. Design & Build:
This could be the fun part (and/or the most expensive part!), based on the type of retail or restaurant space that you are developing. Here’s an example in the fast casual category. The fast casual space is very exciting, and also allows you to be very creative from a design point of view without breaking the bank.
Imagine you are looking at designing a sandwich concept (such as a torta, shawarma or Cornish pastry) and you have a footprint between 500-800 square feet. In this case, you would create a restaurant that is for order and pick up (to-go) with limited seating. For this, you would start by designing the back of house and make your way to the front. For a fast-casual to be successful, it’s crucial to have working equipment that is ergonomically laid out to make the sandwich makers’ life optimal for increased speed of service. That is where the bulk of your expense should be.
From there, we make our way to the front of house, making sure that the flow of traffic is optimal and way-finding/signage/ menu boards are placed in the right areas. Be a customer for a minute! Walk the walk and make sure you are able to identify everything you need to place your order, or even add to it with impulse purchases. The same process can be used for aesthetics and décor; walk through the entrance and look from left to right.
Where do you see opportunities for ‘focal points’ within the restaurant? Try not to do too much, and be selective in the process. A focal point could be something as simple as a yellow wall or a vintage bicycle that you found at an estate sale (especially if the name or logo or community created that connection). Another typical big-ticket item are floors. In this scenario, you have a lot of foot traffic, so it does not make sense to go high end. We would advise going for durable, like stained concrete floors or maintaining the existing floor on day one if it’s in good shape.
In 2019, building neighborhood buzz isn’t enough to ensure a successful brick-and-mortar food brand launch. You’ll need to dedicate a portion of your opening budget to marketing, both digital and physical, to ensure you’re reaching your potential customers. Though your methods will depend on your audience and your strategy, a mix of digital advertising, social media marketing, local and regional PR, and innovative experiential campaigns can all contribute to a strong launch. You may not be able to do all this alone, so ensure that you’re enlisting the right help.
6. Roll your sleeves up:
This is one area where the old-school wisdom rings true. The restaurant business is a tough one, and it is important for a business owner to get involved with every aspect of the business, whether they enjoy it or not. From payroll to bathroom checks, most first-time business owners do it all because they don’t have the luxury of employees that they can delegate. Be humble, check your ego at the entrance, and roll those sleeves up.