Words by Ollie Booth
Published 29/04/2020

Why restaurants should focus on Brand.

→ A barista at a local coffee shop in East London summed up the benefits of Branding perfectly. This was during a short conversation, standing 2 metres from the counter, in the thick of the current Covid-19 lockdown.

The accidental advert

As I spoke about how nice it was to be able to get a proper flat white the Barista explained — “I think everyone figured we would have just closed down like a lot of other local spots, but we’ve been here the entire time. We haven’t been publicising the fact that we’re open but each day we’ve had a few more people coming in, everyone keeps saying the same thing — We didn’t realise you guys were open, but we just saw people with your coffee cups when we went for a walk — It’s funny because you never really think about branding, but it clearly works.”

Branding is one of, if not the biggest components for differentiation. What’s the difference between Coke and Pepsi? Brand. What’s the difference between Apple and Windows? Brand.

The statistics back it up too, The UK Design Council (a non-profit) found that “companies saw a £20 increase in revenue for every £1 they invested in design”.

Another study by Motiv Strategies, and the Design Management Institute tracked the results of design-centric companies. They called it the Design Value Index, it showed that 15 rigorously-selected companies that utilised the value of design beat the S&P by 228% over 10 years.

"£20 increase in revenue for every £1 invested in design."


So, what is Branding?

The practice of Branding originally came from the Ancient Egyptians who would brand their cattle using a hot branding iron, to help differentiate one person’s cattle from anothers. In the 21st century this quickly developed into a method for distinguishing a company or product from its competition.

In simple terms if a logo was the car badge, the Branding would be the leather seats, the engine, the experience that feels considered and refined. You might find someone buys a car just because it’s a Ferrari, but it’s the brand equity that provides the badge with its perceived value.

As Gary Vee aptly said, “The reality is, the greatest companies in the world don’t sell. They brand.

The good, the bad & the ugly

Good Branding helps your business to cut through the noise and stand out in the market place, making your products, marketing or content easily identifiable and in turn helping to build valuable Brand equity.

Bad branding sees companies following sector based formulas (aka familiar design language) that leaves their products blending in with the crowd. Take the wine section of a supermarket for example, if you don’t find a familiar brand how do you differentiate the good from the bad? Price isn’t always a trust worthy indicator of quality when it comes to wine, we’ve all heard the stories about a £6 supermarket wine beating out globally renowned vineyards in blind tastings. So without price to rely on consumers are left to make their decision based on what they can see, which is the brand.

How do you develop a successful brand?

We recently completed a Branding project for Channel 4’s in-house restaurant in London. Their problem was simple, the restaurant provided great food & drink at great prices, but for some reason people didn’t eat there.


Step 1: How are you unique?

We began the project by looking at what made the restaurant unique, how could we separate the restaurant from other food options in the area?

We defined points of difference that could be used to form a brand ethos, and found the most compelling was the multiple uses of the space. It could be used as a restaurant, an event space and also a meeting area for people to catch up with clients.


Step 2: Injecting a ‘Can’ do attitude

Taking our brand ethos, we developed bespoke messaging and formed a hook. This naturally became the first 3 letters of the name “CAN”. We built this into simple word play:

Can eat, Can meet, Can drink.

This then became a fun & quirky way to inform how we designed signage, grease proof paper, digital comms and much more.


Step 3: Opportunistic Marketing

By branding specific things like disposable cups, signage and food packaging in eye catching and unique ways, we were able to turn the employees that did use the restaurant into walking billboards.

All of this resulted in the Branding becoming instantly identifiable and provided a subconscious reminder to employees that the Canteen was a lunch option they might not have otherwise thought of.

Great Branding = Great Profits

The proof is most certainly always in the pudding. The compounding efforts of rebranding the restaurant with a strategy that avoided blending in with the crowd and focused on standing out, consistency and creating awareness helped the Canteen to increase food sales by more than 25% and coffee sales by more than 70%.

The evidence is there and through strategic Design & Branding, profits are there for the taking.

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up below to find out when more articles get published.

Related Articles

Why restaurants should focus on brand


The key to a strong Brand


How to stand out in a busy market


Don't be shy, say hi.

Instagram / Behance