The Brand Gap

I have spent a lot of time thinking about a restaurant company’s worst nightmare - The Brand Gap.  Executives work hard to evolve their brands.  Some need a complete make over.  Others continue to tweak and tinker to make sure their brands remain relevant in an ever-changing marketplace.  They spend hours in meetings reviewing research, analyzing data and conducting focus groups trying to ensure their concept has a point of difference that resonates with consumers.  

When the process is complete they usually come up with something brilliant in the way of a brand promise.  Then comes the hard part - making sure the people throughout the organization get it and live it everyday.  

It’s been my experience that most organizations do well instilling the brand to a certain level.  Typically the multi-unit operators get it and they do a pretty good job getting the message to their management teams.  Then the most daunting task of all - making sure the brand is represented all day every day with each and every guest.  This my friends is The Brand Gap.

The excuses for not bridging this gap are many; some are even legit!  Over my years in the biz I’ve heard it all:

“My employees are only here to make money”

“With varied schedules it’s difficult to communicate”

“We are too busy to take the time to instill the brand promise in our employees”

“Our employees won’t get it”

“The work ethic isn’t what it used to be”

The list goes on...

In the restaurant biz, there’s no denying that the brand happens at the table!  Those who market packaged goods don’t have near the challenge we do.  When was the last time you were disappointed in a box of cereal or a bottle of ketchup?  Enough said.  

We must hire the right people (servers, cooks, bussers, hosts and hostesses) if we expect our brand to be consistent table to table, restaurant to restaurant.  When dealing with human nature there is no magic wand. There is no perfect science.  However I would contend that science can help.  Here’s how...

Adding science to the selection process can make a difference.  Too often we overlook the importance of making sure we get the right people on the “frontline” bus.  Most organizations exercise extreme diligence when they hire managers.  When it comes to hourly employees, not so much.  The key is hiring employees who have the competencies (the innate ability) to create extraordinary experiences for their guests.  

Including behavioral assessment as part of the process has proven to be a huge assist in hiring the right people.  Of course it’s not perfect.  As one of my mentors has often said, “It’s like going to Vegas with loaded dice” - it’s going to help you win more often than you lose.  

If you run restaurants and you believe bridging The Brand Gap is essential to improved performance why wouldn’t you add some science to your selection process?  I’d love to hear your comments!

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