The Art of the Rebrand

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Are your sales stagnant? Are reviews just negative rants? Have guests lost that loving feeling for you? There comes a time in the life cycle of most brands when you need to get some new blood flowing through your restaurant or bar.

Say hello to the rebrand!

Before you jump in and begin the process at your restaurant or bar, let’s look at the elements that go into a great rebrand. If you fail to learn from your past you’ll just end up with the same results and seriously, if you just want to keep the results you have now, why go through the headache of rebranding?

To guide you, let’s walk through a couple questions to kick off you rebrand.

Why Do You Want to Rebrand?

Let’s start with this first question. Knowing your why is crucial because it will tell you what kind of rebrand you need.

Sometimes a rebrand is like a home remodel: the foundation is solid and all we need are a few improvements to bring it up to date and climb to a better place in the current market. Other times it’s better to bulldoze that sucker down and start everything over!

If sales are a little down this month, it’s not a sign to tear down the sign and put up a new one (well, not yet). Sales slumps are a necessity in a business cycle—it can’t be all sunshine and roses every day or month. Now, on the other hand, if that dark cloud of declining sales seems to be sticking around like a relative who stops in to visit for a week and is still sleeping on the sofa in your basement three months later, it’s time to do something. But sales decline alone isn’t enough. You need a few more warning signs.

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What are they? How about a stream of negative reviews? Or a rapid increase in employee turnover? Animals have a sixth sense when disaster is about to strike, and so does your staff.

If you just have declining sales, it’s more likely that you want to rebrand because you’re bored. Don’t rebrand due to boredom—it’s a bad investment, poor business strategy, and a waste of time. If you’re that bored, get a dog or a cat. If you really want to spice up your life get a honey-badger!

Which rebrand do you need?

If a rebrand is in order, what type is right for your business? You need to decide if you need a touch-up or a teardown.

The Touch-up

The signs this is for you:

  • If you’ve been around for some time and you’ve lost that loving feeling mentioned earlier.
  • You still have a solid guest base, you just need to bring your brand up to date (or to replace your current demographic that might be getting older and don’t get out as much as they used to).
  • Your turnover is manageable.
  • You have more positive reviews than negative.
  • Increased competition has caused your brand to become overlooked (think of the touch-up like the celebrity comeback).

How to do it:

  • Update your logo. Even big international brands like Starbucks will update their logos and more over the years. 
  • Give your menu the same update. You don’t want to remove the items that are highly profitable and popular (the stars of your menu). This is a time to replace the dogs on your menu, the items that are low-profit and nobody buys). Again, this isn’t a time to remove popular and profitable items because you’re bored with them. When you have a hit, you keep it! I’m sure The Rolling Stones are bored playing “Satisfaction” at every show, but fans would have a meltdown if they didn’t play it. I created a Roasted Shallot-Poblano Meatloaf for my first restaurant back in the 1990s and I still get people who tell me to this day that they love it! I tried taking it off the menu one time and got nasty letters in protest. It made it back to the menu and I never attempted to remove it again.
  • Blow the dust of those core values. If you’re going to touch up your brand you also want to get back to the fundamentals. Besides, knowing who you are and what you stand for creates outstanding cultures, and makes for great story marketing (hint hint).
  • Invest in training. Remember that in order to get to the next level, you’re going to need to acquire some new skills. Take some online courses, listen to podcasts on leadership, or read a book. Or better yet, hire a business coach to help you break your bad habits—yes, you have a few—and build a solid plan.

The Teardown

The signs this is for you:

  • Sales haven’t just declined, they’re in a freefall!
  • Turnover is so high that you don’t even try to remember the new people’s names until they’ve been working for you for 30 days. You fondly refer to them as Hey You.
  • Your Facebook followers number only 6, and they’re family.
  • There’s a circle of vultures that fly over your business all the time.
  • All your vendors have you on COD because they don’t think you’ll be in business much longer. In fact, they have a pool going for when you’re going to close.

How to do it:

  • Admit that perhaps your cutting-edge idea for Ethiopian BBQ Sushi was probably from a bad acid trip you had after eating mushrooms given to you from “a friend”.
  • Time to rethink the 12-page menu that the kitchen can’t execute.
  • Come up with a better brand name than Fur Trappers Bar & Grill. On second thought, smack yourself for calling your restaurant Fur Trappers!
  • Stop partying with the staff.
  • Hire a professional restaurant consultant because you can’t afford another bad idea from a weekend of drinking with the gang.
  • Hire the best accountant you can afford—and listen to them. Red is nice for roses, bad for your profit and loss statement.
  • Don’t cut corners on graphics. If you’re not the best at it, then outsource it. Check out Fiverr or 99designs for a professional look. 
  • Build a team around you that can help you build a business. Don’t hire your friends and family unless they bring value and skills to your brand. Cheap labor isn’t good labor. Besides, the servers get tired of turning down the dishwasher (your drunk brother-in-law) who keeps hitting on them!
  • Run your business like a business! This is most likely what drives people into a teardown in the first place. You ran it like a hobby and sadly, hobbies don’t make money.

Rebranding is not something to consider lightly or to take on by yourself. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. If your first round was not the big splash you expected, don’t take chances with your rebrand.

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Have a plan. A really good plan! 

Get professional help. From a real professional. 

Don’t stray away from the new brand that you create. Whether it’s a brand touch-up or a teardown you need to stay loyal to your brand identity. Think of it like the lesson Maverick learned in the movie Top Gun: “I’m not leaving my wingman!” You need that same mindset once you get your brand right—don’t leave your brand no matter what!