For a great lesson in Branding, visit a successful restaurant

How many lessons in life come with great food, great wine, good company and people at your every beck and call? Yes, restaurants, especially successful ones, are great places to experience and learn, first hand, a very simple yet powerful lesson in branding.

So, channel your inner Jane Goodall and let’s “go” to a great restaurant, let’s engage and, most importantly – observe, as Yogi Berra supposedly once said, “by watching.”

A restaurant that gets it right is a branding thing of beauty. Consistency and constancy over time builds brands and great restaurants know it. They also know what many brands appear to forget – it’s all about delivering a great customer experience every time.

So, let’s begin with the style of restaurant itself. Mexican. French. Upscale Italian. Seafood. Fine dining. Great restaurant brands are clear about it. Immediately you know what the category is, no confusion, no ambiguity. And you can begin to set your expectations with this one valuable piece of information. The question for you becomes: is your brand this immediately clear about who and what it is?

Great restaurants (and brands) empower the customer from the start – a crucial part of a great customer experience. You get to choose (if you plan ahead) the time you want to arrive and eat. You get to choose the drinks you want, the food you want. You can even make alterations to the recipes, you can customize and personalize. You are accommodated, you are heard. You are happy. So, a second question: how do you empower your customers?

Now, the consistency part. With a great restaurant brand, the look and functionality of the website, the way they greet you on the phone, the way you are greeted at the door, the look of the interior of the restaurant, the way the table is set, the way the staff is dressed, the look of the menu, the way you are waited on and presented with your food, every little detail – like all great brands, all of it comes from exactly the same place. It all comes to you in a consistent fashion, with a consistent voice, consistent with the style of the restaurant itself.

How does this happen? Every employee understands the brand, what their role is in delivering the brand experience to the customer – and they collaborate. The Hostess talks to the servers, the servers talk to kitchen and the bar, the kitchen talks to the chef, the chef talks to the dishwashers. They work together beautifully like the parts of an engine to deliver the brand promise to each customer every night. They have to. If one piece fails, the brand fails. Question number three: how well do the different parts of your brand collaborate?

And if the brand fails what happens? At great restaurants, employees are empowered to make it right, right there without having to take it up the ladder for approval. It could be a complimentary bottle of wine, a comped meal, a free dessert – anything to make the customer happy. Happy customers, after all, are loyal customers. CRM programs aside, is a customer loyalty program worth its weight in Kobe Beef, or even hamburger, if your customer is not all that impressed or happy with your brand in the first place?

Now that we’ve taken our imaginary trip to a great restaurant and learned a thing or two about branding, you might want to take your team to a real one in your neighborhood. Find a great table, sit back, order a couple of drinks or a bottle a wine, an hors d’ oeuvres or two, maybe dinner and a little dessert. A nice tawny port to top it off, or perhaps a rich, creamy espresso instead. Make sure to take it all in, study every move, how it all came together as a brand to deliver your experience.

Then ask yourselves: how long would your brand survive in their world?