As a small business or restaurant owner, you have some freedoms to “do as you please” with your enterprise. The opportunity to expand offerings, amenities, even add locations is available to anyone who is not locked into a corporate franchise or contract. That being said, new ventures or expanding offerings, even completely altering your business can be exciting and (hopefully) profitable. However, if you’re thinking of doing any of that, you may want to consider how changing gears and adding new profit centers could impact your brand.
Your brand is more than just a marketing zenith. It’s the feeling people are left with after they interact with it. It’s more personal than professional. Think about the brands you’re loyal to. You’re a loyal customer not only because the product or service is excellent. You’re a loyal customer because you feel happier, more productive, or delightfully satiated when you are a consumer of that product or service. Now, what if that brand decided to no longer offer what it is you consume? What if they changed it? Made it inaccessible? You would be devastated! Disgusted! Distraught!
While that might be an over-exaggeration, it will affect you as a customer, and ultimately, them as a business. Same goes for you. If you’re thinking about “making the change” in your hospitality business, consider the following:
Table of contents:
Should I make changes to my restaurant?
If you’re “adding” a particular product or service, explore all the realms of possibility about what you’re gaining. If it compliments your suite of existing offerings, this could be a new profit center that attracts new or different clientele. Always play the devil’s advocate in this situation. Are your current customers going to benefit from this change, too? For example, if a strictly-vegan restaurant started offering a new meat and cheese board for non-vegans, the restaurant is likely to lose a majority of its clientele. Don’t underestimate the power of change when it comes to loyal customers.
The problem of change:
That said, if you’re “subtracting” something from your business, you’re likely to disrupt or alienate the customer base that was attracted to that product or service. For example, if Starbucks stopped selling smoothies, it would disappoint (and lose) the customers who don’t drink coffee. They would become personally affected and need to find another drink brand to which to devote their loyalty and likely left with a sour taste in their mouth.
Managing customers’ expectations is a very subjective process, depending on your business. In light of change happening to your business, you may want to create a diversion or distraction. While you’re going right, they’re looking left. In other words, if you’re cutting something out of your business, perhaps highlight another product you have by having a sale, or adding a new product or service in place of it, or by creating a loyalty club or referral program. Depending on your situation, there’s a lot you can do by means of marketing. Which is a good way to segue into the next section.
How do I monitor my restaurant's brand?
Your business has a website and maybe even social media pages. That’s all well and good, but that’s not the only place your customers go to talk about you. Where does your customer base tend to congregate? Where are they from? What do they do in their personal lives where your brand might come into the conversation? Think about real-world scenarios. A small hair salon might struggle with attracting new clientele for a newly added waxing service. Social media can only go so far. Where are the customers? How can they be made aware of this service?
Bring your brand to them:
Time to think geography (and digital geography). Customers who use waxing services frequently tend to be people who are well-groomed either for their work or personal life. Bringing the brand to their work or personal space might be a way to get your brand in front of them. It’s fair to say college students frequently patronize salons for grooming services. Branded bulletins pinned up in a local university student center or café paired with making recommendations in a university or local group on Facebook puts many more eyes on the brand than just posting to social media accounts and updating the website alone.
Update social medial, and ads:
OK, so you made the effort to put the word out in all these new places and in digital formats, too. But DID you remember to update your website, social media accounts, and ads in other places? Is it properly advertised in a way that doesn’t hinder the rest of your business? Did you do your absolute best to tell your current customers what’s new? Communicate effectively—through all possible channels—about what has happened and why it’s needed. And that means knowing your audience very well.
Can change present opportunity for my restaurant, bar, or café?
Is your brand going to be altered by these new changes? Meaning, how are people going to feel when they interact with your business and new changes? Come to understand what those challenges or opportunities may be. Your new profit center or service may not necessarily compliment the rest of your business. For example, a dive bar that only served burgers and beer adds gourmet tacos to the menu. Current customers might be delighted at this new food offering and new customers may be interested. But are those two distinct menu items attracting the same crowd? Is the atmosphere going to be tainted due to lack of commonality between barroom regulars and health-conscious young adults?
Understanding the changes:
So, yes, while your new profit center might be attracting a different audience than that of your current market, it’s giving you the opportunity to understanding the nuances that differentiates this new audience from the one your used to. Your addition or change may create a ripple effect throughout your business and impact not only existing clientele, but even staff. This could have positive or negative ramifications. Try to envision all the ways in which your business is affected by change so you can manage situations effectively, or better yet, make improvements!
When should I look for advice on marketing in hospitality?
Sometimes adding a new profit center or changing your business offerings seems easy enough to handle—not a difficult transition. But oftentimes, that’s not the case. If you find yourself over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. That could be reaching out to someone you know who works in the marketing industry to give you some pointers about advertising on social media; talking to an expert or manufacturer that specializes in your line of work and sharing your problem with them; or even just consulting your staff. Talking things through is progress and can lead to solutions. So never be afraid to ask for help.
It’s an exciting time to be thinking about making some changes to your business—but not at the expense of your brand or business. Get the buy-in of your staff, think outside the box, and never stop learning from others mistakes and successes so that you can better your business.