March 2, 2021

How to Define a Brand Purpose That Becomes Your Restaurant’s Key Ingredient

By Brock Campbell

Why does your restaurant exist?

If your gut answer is, “to make a profit,” or “to serve good food (duh),” or “I’m not sure,”  then you really need a brand purpose.

You’re probably rolling your eyes right now, and we get that. The term does sound like nonsense marketing-speak. But there are real advantages to nailing down your restaurant’s brand purpose. Bonus, it’s not as complicated as it seems.

Just hear us out. We’ll take you through the ins and outs of brand purpose, and provide a strategy to define one — and leverage it — for your restaurant.

Restaurant Brand Purposes’ Identity Crisis

Restaurant marketers may be skeptical about brand purpose because they have incorrect preconceived notions about what it even is. Let alone how to take advantage of it.

Know this first, a brand purpose does NOT have to be:

  • Explicit. Typically, restaurants aren’t broadcasting their brand purpose verbatim to their customers. Instead, brand purpose drives decisions made internally that subtly and consistently communicate your values to your customers externally. Customers might have a feel for your brand purpose because of the decisions you’re making to stay true to it, but it’s not something corny you’re required to shout from the rooftops if you don’t want to.
  • Complicated. Brand purpose is uncovered, not invented from scratch. It’s not some pie-in-the-sky marketing concept contrived out of nothing with no practical application either. In fact, we’d wager that you already have a perfectly suitable (and simple) brand purpose and just don’t know it or use it. More on that later.
  • Philanthropic. The shoe brand TOMS is the original buy one, give one brand. It’s a fantastic brand purpose, no doubt. But sometimes restaurant owners get stuck thinking a brand purpose has to be philanthropic, and that’s false. If your restaurant is already engaged in the community, a brand purpose centered around giving might make sense for you. Still, understand that brand purpose isn’t married to philanthropy by default.

Defining a Restaurant Brand Purpose Once and For All

What is a brand purpose, then? Well, it’s really quite simple. A brand purpose is the reason your restaurant exists, aside from making money.

It’s a cocktail of core values, mission, and business strategy. A brand purpose is your Northstar, ensuring you stay true to your founding principles as you make decisions for your restaurant.

We said it’s simple, and it is in practice. It’s the concept of brand purpose that can be confusing to grasp. To illustrate, here are two food industry veterans doing brand purpose right.

Who Wants Chipolte?Chipotle Keeps It Real

This Mexican chain’s brand purpose revolves around ‘real’ food. No artificial anything. Chipotle boasts its lack of microwaves, can openers, and freezers too. They even cap their ingredients list at 53 to assure freshness.

This brand purpose, these defined values, are behind all of their decisions. Chipotle is committed to local and organic produce, for instance. And their meats are responsibly raised. They’re really walking the walk, and it’s working for them.

McDonald’s Culls Consistency

McNuggetsAgain, brand purpose doesn’t have to be as obvious or publicized as Chipotle’s. McDonald’s does have many press-frenzied corporate initiatives, it’s true. But one of their more implicit, longstanding purposes is consistency.

You can go to a McDonald’s in Baltimore or Barcelona and get the same McNuggets. And boy, that’s comforting. This dependability is tied up in their brand purpose. It’s uncomplicated and unpretentious and satisfying. Better yet, this consistency angle has worked for McDonald’s for 50+ years at tens of thousands of locations across the world.

Brand Purpose for the Everyman

Brand purpose could also be as simple as:

  • A promise to be authentic to your cuisine’s country of origin
  • A commitment to family-style dining that brings people together around the table
  • A pledge to pay your employees a living wage

There are so many shapes brand purpose can take for your restaurant, whether you’re a global outfit like McDonald’s or a local multi-unit franchise.

4 Restaurant-Specific Benefits of Rocking a Brand Purpose

You’ve arrived at the “why this matters to my bottom line” section. Congratulations! Lucky for you, the advantages of a successfully implemented brand purpose are far-reaching for restaurants.

Consistent, Brand Purpose-Driven Decisions Comfort Customers

We’ve already established that a brand purpose serves as a helpful checkpoint when you’re making decisions for your restaurant. Should we take on this new product? Well, if the product in question is bratwurst and your brand purpose relies on dishing up authentic Italian cuisine, hard pass.

Moreover, it’s important to note that these consistent decisions, flowing from your brand purpose, make for a consistent and gratifying customer experience. After all, throwing customers a curveball, like a bratwurst at Gino’s, won’t land in a spaghetti-expectant crowd.

Customers’ Emotional Connection with Brand Purpose Breeds Loyalty

All restaurant owners covet loyal customers. But loyalty programs and reward systems, while valuable, aren’t always enough (and they’re certainly not one-of-a-kind). Consider how brand purpose can foster brand loyalty too.

It’s human nature to seek shared experiences and bond over shared interests. A brand purpose can show your customers you share their interests and values. That fosters an emotional connection between your restaurant and your customers that won’t falter when they lose their free coffee punch card.

Brand Purpose Unites Employees and Streamlines Image

Your brand purpose might reach your customers subliminally, but it should be obvious to your employees.

Use your brand purpose to align your employees around shared goals and a united image. Talk frequently internally about how decisions ultimately support your brand purpose, and involve your employees whenever possible. You’ll likely find that your brand purpose is another source of truth that keeps everyone on the same page.

Brand Purpose is an Untapped Differentiator for Restaurants

Chipotle and McDonald’s are just the tip of the iceberg — tons of restaurants, big and small, are leveraging the power of a brand purpose. You might need to put thought behind your brand purpose just to keep pace with your competition.

Want to take it up a notch? A brand purpose has the potential to push you ahead of your competition too. It’s another differentiating factor for your restaurant. A way to emerge from the pack that doesn’t involve menu adjustments, the first place most restaurants look when it’s time to spice things up (literally and figuratively).

To illustrate, picture this:

Papa John’s and Domino's

Papa John’s and Domino’s sit catty-corner in your town square. You love pizza, and you really can’t pick a favorite based solely on pizza quality. Dominos has your preferred pepperoni, yum, but Papa John’s has Epic Stuffed Crust. How do you choose? Say Domino’s has a brand purpose that you’ve absorbed, even subconsciously, even a little. That might be the something extra that pushes you through their doors instead of Papa John’s.

As you know, any possible leg up in the neck-and-neck restaurant space is at least worth exploring.

How To Unveil Your Restaurant’s Brand Purpose

Earlier, we teased the idea that your restaurant more than likely already has a totally serviceable brand purpose. And meant it. You just need to bring it to light and put structure around it so you can realize all of the benefits of a thoughtful brand purpose for your restaurant.

But how?

Littlefield has deep restaurant-centric experience helping marketers uncover their unique brand purpose.

We host collaborative workshops with restaurant teams to explore their values and goals, and form them into a refined, actionable brand purpose. We’ll even work with you to align your restaurant’s day-to-day activities and choices with your minted brand purpose to ensure that all-important consistency.

Having an independent third-party guide the discussion around your brand purpose is invaluable. We offer fresh, outsider perspectives that you might be too close to your company to see. These new views contribute significantly to a meaningful brand purpose.

It’s time to uncover the brand promise that can push your brand forward. Let’s talk.