The moment a customer picks up your menu, they are forming an opinion about your business. Branding is how you shape that customer experience and control the story you tell about your company. For a new business, brand identity may still be evolving, but even established businesses sometimes want to update their brand. This guide will help you define and develop your branding in your menu and beyond.
Every restaurant has its own culture. This includes the atmosphere of your building, the type of products you offer, the type of customers you serve, and how your staff approaches service. Your restaurant might be formal or casual, trendy or traditional, home-style or cutting-edge, urban or rustic, family-friendly or romantic. Maybe it’s the hot-spot for live music, or an intimate spot for date-night, or has all the best screens for watching sports. Define the culture that you want, then update your branding to promote that vision.
Show it on the menu by choosing a design that matches your restaurant atmosphere and tone. Upscale restaurants typically have plain menus with limited graphics, limited item options, muted color palettes, and lots of white space. Casual diners and pubs usually have more personality, more color, and may include food photos and splashy promotions.
Any successful restaurant values good food. But what are your specific values around food? Is beautiful presentation a priority, or using seasonal ingredients? Are you creating traditional favorites or experimenting with new flavors? Do you offer a wide variety of dishes or a few rotating specialties? Do you have recommendations for diners, such as wine pairings or staff favorites? Customers are trusting your expertise in this area, so the menu presentation should reflect your restaurant’s priorities.
Show it on the menu with professional-quality photos or mouth-watering descriptions. Use highlight boxes or icons to identify customer favorites, seasonal specials, or staff favorites. Be sure to avoid low-quality or unappetizing photos, which will be a turnoff!
YOUR COMPANY VALUES
Beyond food, what matters to your restaurant? Perhaps you have longstanding relationships with specific customers or a kids’ sports team. Perhaps you source ingredients from local farms, or encourage your employees to commute by bicycle, or donate a portion of your proceeds to a cause. Your building may be a historic site in the community, or your bartender may make the best cocktails in town. Maybe you offer catering for special events, or have a great private party room. Whatever is unique about your restaurant can be an interesting part of your story and gives customers a new way to connect with and appreciate your business.
Show it on the menu with callouts or photos, especially on a front or back cover page. Customers want to hear what your business really values!
YOUR ORIGIN STORY
Many businesses have interesting origin stories but miss the opportunity to tell it. From family history to personal history, think about what makes your restaurant unique. Where did the owners grow up? Was a passion for cooking inherited from a relative? Did a trip inspire new flavors? Has the chef or bartender had an illustrious history? For most restaurateurs, preparing and serving food is a passion as well as a career, and there may be a story worth telling.
Show it on the menu with a short “about us” feature on the front or back cover. Black and white family portraits, vintage photos of the building, a photo of a unique piece of equipment you use, or other unique mementos are fun and engaging for customers to see. This type of backstory gives visitors a truly personal connection with your business.