Grandma Lee's Pie

Restaurant Brand Storytelling: How A Story Can Sell More Pie

Great restaurant brands are all about restaurant brand storytelling. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say there is no such thing as restaurant brand marketing, at least not without a great story. As an example of how a story can sell more pie and make your restaurant legendary, see which pie you would rather to try.

Pie number one: Southern Apple Pie, house-made with a flaky crust, and a dusting of sugar. Served warm from our ovens, right to the table.

Sounds pretty good, right? Nothing better than a fresh apple pie right from the oven. You can almost taste it. Now let’s look at another apple pie.

Pie number two: Grandma Lee’s Before The War Pie, made from General Lee’s grandmother’s recipe. General Lee loved this pie so much, it’s the only way he would ever have apple pie. In fact, when he died, he had this recipe in his lapel pocket.

Be honest, aren’t you even a little bit interested in trying General Lee’s pie?

The Impact Of Restaurant Brand Storytelling

Not only that, you’d probably like it better, and you would pay more just for the opportunity to have it. You may even want to take a whole pie home with you, especially if it had a cool label on the box. Plus, your servers would get asked for the recipe. And better yet, if you were told the actual recipe was the same as the Southern Pie, about half of the people who tried the pie would argue they tasted a difference. That’s the power of restaurant brand storytelling.

You see, storytelling for restaurants goes way beyond the product. It needs to include the business it self. A great story can and will get consumers to change their mind about your business. It will make them remember you, as well. And a great brand story will create buzz.

John Sparks, Where Are You?

Huddle HouseI read an article recently about Huddle House buying Perkins. Sadly, Perkins has struggled to make money over the past few years, filing for bankruptcy this past August. I’ve eaten at a number of Perkins restaurants and being a storyteller marketer, I have read their entire menu and all the little POP materials sitting on their tables. My impression is, the stuff has no personality. No story I can dig into. Nothing to connect me to the business.

Then I looked online and suddenly I could understand why Perkins doesn’t have a story to tell. They actually don’t have a story. Well they do, but not a very good one. Not one that offers a reason to try their food, or to stick with them. All they have to work with is something about a guy in Minnisota who took over the business and did some advertising and built a bunch of restaurants. No romance, no love for the food, just a business guy and his wife making a bunch of restaurants.

Without A Great Story, Can Perkins Grow?

Without restaurant brand storytelling, Perkins is just family restaurants without any consumer connection. And who knows, maybe the Huddle House model of a tower entrance and modern look without a connection to its past will work for Perkins, too. As a brand storyteller, I know from experience that the brand will grow more quickly with a brand connection that resonates with consumers, however.

Who’s The Most Boring Person You’ve Ever Met?

Have you ever met a person at a party or another event and thought they were just the most boring person in the world? The kind of person that doesn’t have an expression on their face and the conversation stutters like an old garden tractor? No hopes, dreams or a joke to tell. And they don’t ask you about your hopes, dreams or listen to your jokes, either. That’s the problem with a restaurant that doesn’t have a story. It’s boring and forgettable.

Once the story is written, it can become legendary. 

That, and restaurant brand storytelling will give all the other creative in the business something to stand on. It’s the foundation.

If I just purchased Perkins, the first thing I would do from a marketing standpoint is, write a good story in the form of a creative brief. And then everything I did from there would echo the story. It would seep into the menu, the table talkers, posters, advertising, Facebook, Instagram and website. And then I’d make it legendary. And if I owned Huddle House, I’d bring back John Sparks and allow his voice to drive my marketing.

Building A Brand Story

Here are the 7 most important elements of writing great restaurant brand storytelling. The story itself needs to follow the right structure as well, but without knowing what drives a great brand, the rest doesn’t matter.

  1. A Brand Should Last – mostly forever, if you’re careful (and as long as you havent drifted off course, like Huddle House, or never had a story worth telling, like Perkins). So as you write the story, make sure it can evolve so it can live on.
  2. Self Aware – like any solid personality, the brand needs to be self aware. As Shakespeare put it, ‘to thine own self be true’. It is said that Shakespeare was a pretty good story teller. If you tell a story that doesn’t fit the offering, you’ll have nothing but trouble.
  3. Invents or Reinvents a Category – at this point in history a family restaurant cannot be invented. So you’ll have to do some work with reinventing. But like apple pie, the story will actually do the reinventing for you. And it will get a lot of guests to want to know more about your business (if it’s well written).
  4. Tap Emotions – this is essential. People are emotional creatures, and they want to ‘feel’ you. The emotions you’re looking for are moments of joy, passion and love.
  5. Steady Personality – like any great actor or celebrity, the business needs a personality, preferably one people will like and want to visit often. Unless you are Ed Debevic’s in Chicago (and they closed in 2015).
  6. You Need A Look – this is your style. Better design is good business and your brand story needs to be surrounded with a look that fits your business.
  7. Relevance – your story must be relevant. It needs to be closely connected to the time and what guests are looking for at the moment. It’s how you get your share of stomach.

Looking For Restaurant Brand Storytelling?

If you’re looking for a great story, and you should be now that you understand how important it is to your business, don’t be afraid to reach out. HotOperator has some really good storytellers. Just ask, we’d love to help you get your story straight.

Click The Link To Get Started!

Mark & Kelly LauxMark and Kelly are a design-engineer team and managing partners of HotOperator. They have been working in the restaurant business since 1989. Either can be contacted through the HotOperator website, or by calling 800-316-3198.

Menu Design & Engineering • Restaurant Marketing • Social Media • Websites

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