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If your restaurant is feeling tired or stagnant, it might be time to revisit your brand. The restaurant industry can change quickly; restaurant rebranding can help you meet current customer expectations and keep pace with competitors. To start, take time to understand the basics of rebranding and discover how it can inject some energy into your business.

What is restaurant rebranding?

Rebranding is the process of creating a new brand identity for an established restaurant. You might develop a new logo, update your website, signage, and graphic design, and change elements, including fonts, colors, and image style. Depending on the situation, your restaurant rebrand could also involve revamping your brand’s values, voice, and messaging.

The goal of a rebrand is to change your restaurant’s image to reinvigorate the company and improve its public perception. After all, a brand can go stale; over time, it might start to feel dated or out of alignment. By revisiting your positioning strategy and restaurant branding, you can adjust the brand to better suit the current business model, customer needs, and state of the market.

Done effectively, a rebrand can realign your business, capture public attention, and build a sense of excitement around the restaurant. The rebranding process can:

  • Improve word-of-mouth marketing
  • Distinguish your business from competitors
  • Expose you to new customers
  • Increase customer engagement
  • Boost sales
  • Attract experienced employees

How do you know when it’s time to rebrand?

Rebranding takes time and money; it’s not a decision for restaurant owners to make lightly. As you consider the possibility, keep an eye out for the telltale signs that it’s time to change course.

Declining sales

When sales start dropping even if your food quality and service stay the same, it could indicate that customers aren’t responding to your current restaurant brand. If it’s been the same for decades, you might retain loyal customers, but it will be harder to bring in new business.

Shifting operations

When your branding doesn’t keep up with the evolution of the company, it can create a disconnect. Rebranding realigns the brand with the business, creating a more cohesive restaurant experience for customers and employees.

Changing demographics

The demographics of a city can shift dramatically over time. If that’s true in your area and you’re also seeing a drop in sales, your branding may be out of step with the new customer base. For example, research shows that Gen X tends to prefer brands that emphasize status and luxury; Gen Z prioritizes ethics and uniqueness.

Outdated imagery

If you’ve been in business for a while, your visual identity may be outdated. That can put you at a disadvantage when customers compare your business to updated restaurants. This is especially true in the era of social media marketing — a beautiful brand makes for better posts.

Low engagement

Do your customers seem uninterested in or disconnected from your restaurant? Have your social media interactions dropped? Your brand could be to blame. Customers like to interact with companies that feel dynamic and up to date.

High turnover

In 2022, 30.2% of the restaurant workforce was between the ages of 18 and 24. If your brand isn’t meeting the desires of those Gen Z workers — sustainability and social responsibility chief among them — you might see higher employee turnover rates. Assuming your pay scale and management practices aren’t to blame, a brand refresh can help you attract and retain top talent.

Bad customer reviews

Bad reviews can have a negative impact on sales. If you’re struggling to recover from an onslaught of bad press or poor social media reviews, a rebrand may help rehabilitate your image. For the biggest impact, make sure your new brand addresses the root cause of your bad PR.

Rebranding success stories

Whether you’re trying to reinvigorate a dated brand or recover from a PR nightmare, rebranding can help. These restaurants adjusted their identities for different reasons, but each one experienced a successful rebrand.

  • Olive Garden: In 2014, the brand introduced a new version of its famously outdated logo. The process replaced the overworked, vintage-looking sign logo with a cleaner font and a line-art graphic. Although critics panned it at the time, the restaurant experienced steady growth over the ensuing years.
  • Subway: After the face of the Subway brand, Jared Fogle, landed in jail in 2015, the company underwent a significant brand overhaul. In 2017, Subway started rolling out a new logo, updated decor, and a health-focused concept. It seems to be working; sales rose by 7.8% in 2022 for branches that have been in business for a year or more.
  • Dunkin’: After decades operating as Dunkin’ Donuts, the coffee chain dropped the “Donuts” in 2019. At the same time, it introduced a new logo and ditched its dated graphics in favor of a more streamlined, modern brand. This brand strategy was to support growth as the company added updated technology.

How to craft new brand identity

Once you determine that your restaurant is ready for a new brand, the real work begins. Don’t be afraid to take your time — a successful rebranding strategy is deliberate and data-driven.

1. Listen to your customers

Survey your guests to find which elements of your brand are working and which are best left behind. Ask questions such as:

  • How does our brand make you feel?
  • What improvements could we make to improve your experience?
  • What do you like about our restaurant?

Your goal is to find out where your restaurant is out of alignment with existing customers’ needs and expectations.

2. Research competitors

Research successful restaurants in your area; visit each one for a meal to get a sense of the customer experience. Then, compare their branding to your own. What are they doing well? Do they have anything in common that you’re lacking? Consider elements including font choice, graphic style, colors, messaging, and interior design.

3. Cook up a new logo

Most rebranding efforts start with a new restaurant logo — after all, it sets the tone for the whole brand. An updated logo also signals to patrons that something new is happening with the brand, which can pique their interest.

Approach this process with caution; your goal is to create a logo that feels fresh but still familiar. That way, you can attract new people without sacrificing the customer loyalty of your existing base.

4. Update your menu

A restaurant rebranding is the perfect time to try new menu ideas that cater to evolving customer preferences. You might introduce foods with bold, new flavor profiles, for example, or add sustainable options that cater to health-conscious diners.

This is also a good time to revisit menu prices to ensure your profit margins are satisfactory. Then, update your menu design to align with the new brand.

5. Revamp your brand messaging

Your brand voice should reflect the style and values of your refreshed brand. Examine your current messaging carefully to identify how and where you interact with customers online, how you use social media, and the tone you adopt with customers in recent posts. Then, determine what you need to change with the rebrand. If you’re going modern, for example, you might want to ramp up your social media presence and change the wording of your restaurant advertising and marketing.

6. Spread the word on social media

When you’re ready to launch your new brand, use social media. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook enable you to reach a significant portion of your target audience in one fell swoop. To get diners excited about the new look and feel, offer discounts and promotions.

Managing operational changes

Rebranding should extend to every part of your restaurant operation. You’ll likely need to make operational changes, such as:

  • Staff training to explain how the rebrand affects employees
  • Updating interior decor
  • Improving the tone and channels for customer service
  • Introducing newer, faster payment options
  • Optimizing workflows and processes to improve the customer experience

How to measure rebranding success

To determine whether your rebrand is a success, you’ll need to start tracking key performance indicators (KPIs). Common KPIs include:

  • Revenue
  • Profits
  • Social media followers
  • Social media engagement
  • Website traffic

Some rebranding results are harder to quantify; for example, you can’t necessarily put a number on customer opinions. To gauge perception, you can gather and analyze customer feedback through online surveys, in-house comment cards, in-person discussions, and online reviews.

Be prepared to make changes as needed to ensure long-term success. If you find potential customers aren’t aware of the rebrand, for example, you might need to amplify your messaging or ramp up your advertising strategy.

Uplift your brand on Grubhub

To get your new brand in front of more customers, consider partnering with Grubhub. It’s an easy way to showcase your new identity and boost exposure among local diners. Plus, with Grubhub’s built-in promotions and loyalty tools, you can drum up additional excitement for the new brand. Ready to get started? Try Grubhub free for 30 days.