In the dynamic and fiercely competitive restaurant industry, building a brand that withstands the test of time requires a unique blend of vision, passion and innovation that extends beyond menu and the dining experience.
Concepts are constantly being created, seeking to capture share from existing brands, or to meet the evolving wants and needs of younger guests. Established brands need to stay relevant, marketing where guests are discovering brands in addition to meeting guest expectations for product and delivery.
Restaurant franchise organizations that endure and thrive constantly challenge themselves. For example, Slim Chickens and Walk-On ‘s (two brands in 10 Point Capital’s portfolio) both celebrate 20 years in business this year. While both brands hold true to their roots and have a deep understanding of what they stand for, they have also evolved substantially over the years, whether in terms of menu mix, sales channels, or how they engage with current and future guests.
Adapting to Evolving Consumer Preferences
In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, established brands must adapt to evolving consumer preferences to remain relevant, competitive and to effectively connect with a wide fanbase. Brands that fail to adjust their strategies risk being left behind and losing market share to more agile and guest-centric competitors.
For example, off-premise has emerged as a transformative force within the restaurant industry, and represents a substantial revenue stream. In response to the growing demand for convenience, flexibility and seamless transactions, restaurants have adapted their offerings to accommodate a variety of off-premise options, such as online ordering, mobile apps and third-party delivery services.
Even full-service restaurant concepts traditionally chosen for their sit-down guest experience need to meet this guest need. Walk-On’s has recently upgraded their online ordering system, allowing guests to order via the website, via an app, or through third-party channels. For the guest, the result is a more tailored and streamlined experience.
While some brands resist participating in third-party online ordering, we believe it is a critical part of the equation. Brands need to be where guests are, and guests have embraced online ordering platforms. If the brands deliver and build preference, they are often able to transition their most regular and valuable guests to their own platforms given the distinctive, customized experience they can deliver.
Capitalizing on New Technology and Innovations
Capitalizing on new technology and innovations is critical to maintaining relevance and competitiveness in an ever-evolving market. Cutting-edge technology not only enhances operational efficiency but also fosters seamless customer experiences, which is crucial to establishing the strong brand identity that can build loyalty. From adopting advanced point-of-sale systems to automation, forward-thinking restaurant brands can streamline their operations, provide more efficient customer service and enhance the overall dining experience for guests. By staying ahead of the curve and leveraging technology to its fullest potential, brands can differentiate themselves from the competition and ensure they thrive for years to come.
Walk-On’s recently made its largest technological investment in brand history, partnering with Lunchbox to upgrade its online ordering platform and guest loyalty program, as well as introducing a partnership with Toast to level up its POS management system. Similarly, Slim Chickens was an early adopter of the learning technology platform OnTrack to eliminate paper checklists in favor of digital, helping to optimize operational efficiency.
Keeping Guests at the Forefront
Enduring brands understand the importance of prioritizing their guests and work diligently to keep them top-of-mind. They recognize that their long-standing success is rooted in cultivating strong relationships with loyal guests and providing the exceptional experiences that will have guests return.
Brands like Walk-On’s and Slims Chickens are committed to finding innovative ways to exceed guest expectations in terms of quality and value and achieve this by utilizing strategies such as LTOs and loyalty programs. Keeping menus fresh, exciting and up to speed with trending tastes and consumer preferences ensures happy guests that are likely to return. Likewise, loyalty programs foster strong customer relationships, incentivize repeat business and encourage new customers to engage with the brand and be recognized for their loyalty. Walk-On’s, for example, recently implemented an enhanced loyalty program, allowing them to reward new and returning customers both online and in-restaurant.
Setting Your Concept Apart Through Distinctive Branding
While it may seem obvious, distinctive branding is critical. In a crowded marketplace, where numerous brands compete for consumer attention, what sets a brand apart from its competition needs to be clear.
A strong distinctive brand identity sets the stage for creating a legacy. Smalls Sliders, a quick service cheeseburger slider brand established in 2019 and a recent addition to 10 Point Capital’s portfolio, has already created a concept with a fanatical following. With unique brand lingo, like ‘slide-thru’ and ‘can drop’, plus its innovative restaurant design structure that features bright orange recycled shipping containers, Smalls Sliders is rapidly making inroads into the competitive burger segment.
Brands that create a legacy understand that they need to stay relevant and appeal to new generations of consumers by adapting their strategies to meet changing demands. Embracing technological advancements, engaging guests through innovations and establishing a brand identity that resonates with consumers are all key factors that contribute to multi-decade success in the restaurant industry.
Morven Groves has spent over 15 years investing and advising in travel and hospitality businesses, with 10 years focused on franchising. She is passionate about growing brands, in the right markets, with the right partners. She works closely with the management teams of 10 Point Capital’s portfolio companies, to help them set strategy, and execute on growth goals.