Voice of the Restaurant Industry
Recently, I wrote an article discussing the Unique Selling Proposition: its definition, its use and its penultimate importance in all aspects of marketing, no matter what business you’re in. In another article, I told the story of Julie’s Mansion, a wonderful restaurant I was studying as a young hospitality school student. I mentioned that Julie (Jules F., the owner) was an eccentric, flamboyant entrepreneur who knew how to differentiate himself with the public by using the media and other crazy goings-on that took place in his restaurant on a totally irregular basis. Julie knew how to create a “Unique Selling Proposition” for his restaurant. His USP was classic. Julie had learned how to differentiate himself from the others competing in the same market segment. Moreover, he did it preemptively.
Let’s apply this definition to Julie and his Mansion. He first took a unique building; an old mansion built in the 1890’s, and turned it into one heck of a restaurant. Next he added impeccable food and service. Then, for entertainment, he differentiated his place with carefully chosen “jazz music” when not many were playing jazz on the radio or television. Finally, he added himself as the additional, no charge, and secret surprise ingredient.
His antics and reputation for craziness were both intriguing and appealing to this discerning crowd of upscale jazz lovers who could buy the best wherever they wanted. But you could only see Julie--live and in living color—here, at Julie's Mansion.
Julie was the preemptive factor.
Who could follow an act like that? And if they did, they would instantly be labeled a second-rate copy cat, no matter how good they were. First in is always best. Julie was first to do this, and he dominated that “position” in his target group’s mind for years.
He had designed and pulled off the perfect U.S.P.
This allowed him to “brand” himself by virtue of his offerings, his unpredictable behavior and his resultant reputation on the street and in the local media. These are the kinds of things he was famous for in his own place. People would go to Julie’s place firstly for the renowned food and service (you still can’t really be in this business without this) and to see what Julie would be up to next. What craziness would emanate from his office during the evening?
This was one of the most enjoyable student projects of my university career. I learned tons from Julie. I learned that branding is really theatre. It’s the taking of every single aspect of your business—as seen and experienced by the public—and then ‘managing’ those aspects so the buyer/customer experiences them discreetly as your brand within that category of food service outlets. Julie’s Mansion was a distinct brand of restaurant that included much more than the food, service and ambiance. Included, at no extra charge, was the surprise element of unique experiential enjoyment.
What is your brand? I’ll tell you what it’s not. It is not your name, logo, décor, website, menu, music, smiling serving people, prices, easy parking, location, ad campaign, or the color of your delivery vehicles. Sure the elements of your brand might include these components. But your brand is something that is identified as a perceptual experience by your customers and consumers. It’s a way that a customer “sees” you in his or her mind.
In the case of Julie, he was the brand. He personified the uniqueness of this business. He made that restaurant. He gave it a human face, one of laughter and surprise. His business was his own personal circus, and he knew it. He planned his moves and added his own spontaneity to come up with a blend of zaniness that intrigued and entertained people. They experienced his restaurant with stick-in-the-mind-memories. When someone was asked about Julie’s, they would respond: “isn’t that the big place on Jarvis street, with the wonderful food, owned by that whacko guy who does all the crazy stuff?” Notwithstanding the wonderful food and service, the question was never answered: “oh, yes, that’s the place on Jarvis street with the super food and service.”
You have the innate ability to be your own brand. For some, that will sound scary. But for others, those of us who have a bit of actor or actress in us, it will sound downright exciting and challenging. Break down your customers’ experiences into components that can be managed and offered better than is being done anywhere else in your local trading area... now. This is your basic recipe. Now add to that some uniqueness that customers/guests can't experience elsewhere. Mix in a bit of the unusual. Now turn up the heat, while adding a dash of surprise. Then cook on the front burner for a few minutes. Serve it up steaming hot.