Every day, hospitality business owners spend time and money promoting their brands. They do this through a variety of means such as advertising, press releases, newsletters, creating promotions, etc. If done properly they make sure all the graphics and visuals are in sync and tell a consistent story. If successful, you create an identity that is distinct, stands out, and serves as a magnet to bring in more customers.
All great stuff! But most employers often forget to leverage and unleash their most powerful weapon in building their brand: their employees! When you fire up your employees and bring them on board, they are by far the best brand ambassadors. It is like unleashing a herd of wildebeest, pounding out your message as they stampede across the Serengeti!
Your employees are your front line, the face, and voice of your restaurant’s brand; quite simply they play one of the key roles in your business and should be central to your brand strategy. They are delivering the customer experience, and you must empower this force. Restaurants must invest in brand engagement, communications, and employee training right from the start.
The benefit of having your employees buying into your brand and being more than just the Gophers is two-fold. It not only helps to build your restaurant brand, but studies have also shown that employees who are proud of the company, brand, and employer they work for are also more loyal.
As your customers go on a customer journey, you have to guide them along a path with various marketing touch points along the way towards your business. To establish from the start a very clear focused message of your brand values and expectations, you must consider the journey that an employee makes to become a part of your business. The following are systems you can put in place to support your employee journey and enable you to have a business with a team that buys into your brand, its values, and message.
1. On-brand recruitment
It is fair to say that many restaurant operators seem to be constantly searching for staff to add to their team. The staff turnover rate in some restaurants is staggering; maybe you should ask yourself why if this is the case with your restaurant. Why is your staff turnover so high? Many operators will argue that they employ a lot of casual, part-time staff, such as students; therefore it’s not their main vocation or long-term career path. The problem with high staff turnover is it creates inconsistency, and this will damage your brand and reputation, so it needs fixing.
When you advertise for new recruits, instead of posting a generic ad, you should include copy that is on-brand and represents your brand’s personality and essence. Similarly, when you start the interview process, make sure your brand and values are clear to the potential employee. It serves two purposes. One, it can make your restaurant more appealing to the prospective employee and two, it can help weed out people who would not be a good fit with your business.
2. Brand education training and communicating your brand message
All your new employees should undergo as part of their induction training education about your brand, its meaning, ethos, values, and objectives. It should form a part of your company policy and customer service training, devote time and energy to explaining what your brand stands for and how employees are a part of it and contribute to its success. Performance reviews provide opportunities to test employees’ knowledge of your brand, its uniqueness, and even the tools that support it. Your employees are one of your most valuable brand representatives.
Develop ways to explain how your brand is reflected in the overall restaurant experience and essentially how each role throughout the business impacts this. Don’t hide away your brand values and message. Have reminders within staff areas of the business so that the brand message is always on show, as this demonstrates that you believe in it and are proud of it. Create accountability for all members of the team to ensure that everyone speaks for your brand at all times. The key is to communicate your brand message on a daily basis and into everything you do.
3. Brand planning
Whether you are a new restaurant or an existing one, by including your team into the branding process and communications you are creating a win-win. Some of the best ideas can come from unexpected sources. Plus this interaction with your employees makes them feel like they are part of the business. You will also find that as they have been a part of the process, implementing new changes is more supported.
4. Involve employees in marketing
Involving your employees in your marketing strategy reaps great rewards. You can create many ways to do this including; posting on social media platforms, visiting competitors, sending them to networking events, signing up customers to your loyalty schemes and distributing flyers or creating PR such as videos or media copy.
Why not send out employees to compile mystery shops, this could be used as an incentive as well as a marketing tool. But also it’s a training tool, your employees see another business from a customer’s perspective, but you are specifically asking them to look and take notice of the journey they go through and the experience they have. You may be surprised at how much this empowers your employees when they return to your business.
Even have them experience their work-place as a customer. It amazes me how many employees have never experienced the restaurant or business they work in as a customer. I completed some work for a hotel a few months ago and was staggered that none of the receptionists had ever stayed overnight in any of the rooms. How can you expect them to sell or confidently talk to guests about the hotel if they hadn’t experienced it? This is why whenever you introduce a new menu or dish onto your menu all your employees should see and taste a sample.
5. Show recognition and appreciation.
We all love to be recognised and appreciated as it makes us feel good. If you recognise your employees and show them your appreciation, even with just a simple thank you, you will see a vast improvement. We are always quick to judge and pick up on failings and weaknesses; you need to change this if you want your employees to work harder and smarter for you. Celebrate success and achievement within your team, even if it is outside of your business as this shows you take a wider interest in your employees.
You should also include in your customer feedback channels ways they can recognise your employees and highlight the ones who provided the best service to them.
I have also seen ‘long service bonuses’ used very successfully in many businesses. In hospitality, it can provide recognition for members of the team that are generally overlooked by the public, as they may work in a more ‘out of view’ role.
The key to turning employees into brand ambassadors is to keep them engaged, informed and contributing to your business. Building your brand from the inside out takes some effort, time and resources. If you get it right, it will make all of your other marketing and branding activities much more worthwhile and efficient.
Good luck and please share your business successes or views on my Facebook page OutSauced Consultancy
Jonathan Butler is the Author of Business Recipes for Success: Four Steps to Building a Successful Restaurant and Hospitality Business available now on Amazon
More About Jon
An award-winning chef, hotelier, restaurateur, and author Jon has over 26 years experience in the hospitality industry. Having successfully operated his own businesses as well as helped many others to grow theirs. He launched OutSauced Consultancy in 2010, and since then, has helped a number of start-ups, entrepreneurs and SME’s within the hospitality sector, become more efficient, customer-oriented and profitable.
Contact me now to arrange a Business Discovery meeting or Skype call
JON BUTLER - OutSauced Consultancy