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The People are the Brand

The People are the Brand

While on the road delivering seminars, I stopped at a large restaurant chain for breakfast.

Some of their employees were on break eating the competitor’s food at a very centrally

located table. EVERY guest that was entering, leaving, refilling a soda, or placing an order

saw an employee of this restaurant eating out of a bag adorned with a competitor’s logo.

What kind of message does that send?

Having worked 18 years for a chain restaurant, I understand how people can grow tired of

their company’s food and need a change of pace–no argument there. The startling

revelation was the fact that the manager was oblivious to the message his employees were

sending to the arriving guests–nothing like advertising for the competitor within your

own restaurant! At the very least, the employees should have eaten their meals in the back

of the restaurant after discarding the competitor’s bags.

Marketing is focused on brand impressions–how many people see your message. While

restaurants work long and hard creating a brand, all that work can easily be undone by the

actions of employees. Imagine how many brand impressions are created by thousands of

guests interacting with your people, product, and facilities every day in every unit!

Managers need to understand how their actions and the way they operate a restaurant

support or devalue the brand. When guests hear a flashy marketing message and see a

sparkling clean restaurant with happy, smiling employees on TV but experience

indifference or “blah” service in a run-down, dirty facility, many thousands of marketing

dollars have been wasted. The numerous brand impressions created to attract them have

been undone by one or two (free) impressions within the restaurant.

I personally disagree with the statement “under-promise and over-deliver” because people

simply set low goals just to say they hit them. Perhaps the marketing message might need

to be toned down until the restaurant and the people actually represent what the guest sees

on TV or in an ad. The glitz and glamour of the ad may bring in some guests short term,

but if operations and the facility aren’t outstanding, the message sent to guests is that your

restaurant is average or below average. Does your marketing effort really want to attract

more people to see how “average” the restaurant is?

Spend time and money teaching your restaurant leaders to focus on how their actions build

or destruct the brand. Invest in facility maintenance and deliver “wow” with every

employee interaction–then advertise. You’ll find you’re likely to spend less dollars

advertising as the positive word of mouth spreads. Employees leverage the marketing

dollars you spend building the brand–they can provide a greater return, or help pour

money down the drain even quicker.


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