New Restaurant? What’s Your Value Proposition?
In the culinary marketing world, your food is your content. The quality of your product becomes fodder for online conversations, whether initiated by you or not. Consider this: David Cheng is nearly universally recognized as a high-quality, innovative chef, and one of his restaurants specializes in fried chicken sandwiches. Point is, you don’t need to have a French fine dining restaurant in midtown Manhattan to stun people with your food, and to get the conversations moving in your direction.
You should, however, know exactly what your value proposition is. Like any business, you should answer the fundamental question of “why does this business exist? What problem or paint point am I solving?” When you know the answer to that question, it should be the theme that flows through your entire brand – meaning it should influence every conceivable touch point you can have with your customers (eating at your restaurant, reading about you on Yelp, visiting your website, etc.).
In-N-Out is where you get fresh California burgers and fries. That’s a simple enough selling point, and probably enough to gain some initial traction with customers. But what keeps people coming back to In-N-Out time and time again?
Scarcity is one. For a long time, only residents of California got to enjoy these gorgeous multi-layered burgers and fries peeled daily from real potatoes. It has become quite a tourism draw, actually – the line outside of the store by LAX is consistently out of the parking lot.
Experience is two. In-N-Out employees are trained notoriously well, and get paid more than their counterparts at other quick service establishments. They greet you clearly and cheerily, nearly 100 percent of the time. It leaves a real impression.
Number three is the granddaddy of reasons. In-N-Out has a secret menu, that only locals and a select few friends knew about (until it was posted all over the internet). The normal menu consists of a hamburger, cheeseburger, and Double Double, their associated meals, some milkshakes. But you can walk up and order a “four by four animal style, protein style” and walk away with a gigantic lettuce wrapped burger with grilled onions and “spread.” The secret menu generates exclusivity, and makes people feel in the know. It’s a genius tactic to play it up, and people reward the burger joint with loyalty.
Own It (and Promote It)
Once you land on a unique value proposition that resonates with customers, own it. Grant Achatz of Alinea is known to be somewhat of a crazy person, melting chocolate over helium balloons and lighting things on fire on your plate so their smell can enhance the meal’s taste. But he doesn’t care. He owns that persona, whether intentional or not, and lets it color the fantasy of his restaurants (and also, keep the price sky high because of the theater of the experience).
If you don’t know your value proposition, start digging deeper and asking the “why” questions. Why do people come here? Why don’t they come here? What are you doing right and wrong? Your value proposition should inform everything you do, from your recipes to your content. It is the crux of your brand, and should be solidified early on.
Once you understand your unique spin, inject it into all of your material.
Brian lives in New York City with his wife, infant son, and pit bull / beagle mix. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, works in the beer industry, and can’t stop writing. In addition to numerous published blog posts, he also penned the quick-reading ebook Mindfulness at Work: A Book About Zen and Sometimes John Wooden.