Building a strong brand takes years, and becoming a household name is no easy feat.
Having worked with restaurants like Capriotti’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, David Barr understands the power that comes with immediate brand recognition. Not only is he an expert in the restaurant space, but he’s also a recognized leader in the franchising industry. David sits on the board of franchise brands, including TITLE Boxing Club and Capriotti’s, providing guidance to leading franchisors in various verticals. He was also named 2019 IFA Chairman.
David spoke with us about the importance of branding in restaurant franchise systems, answering some of the most frequently-asked questions he encounters as an industry leader.
Throughout our discussion, he gave us many different insights into the nuances that separate restaurant brands and catapult some to national success:
Q: What Makes a Great Franchise Brand?
A: I have had the opportunity to work with many great brands in my career, including Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Domino’s Pizza China and Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group. In doing so, I’ve reflected on what makes those great brands.
First and foremost, especially for emerging franchisors, it’s important to establish a purpose-driven brand promise. In order to find your brand promise, you have to look at what specifically differentiates your product or service, and develop your mission around your unique value proposition.
Once you’ve identified your differentiators and clearly defined a strong brand identity and mission, that unique identity needs to be communicated to consumers. And, third, you need to execute that mission in everyday operations and establish a trusted relationship with consumers who believe in your brand.
When your business is completely aligned in its identity and mission, you’re able to grow and scale that business sustainably – expanding your client base without alienating the loyal fans who have been with you from the start.
Q: What Brings Certain Brands to National Popularity?
A: Brands can achieve national popularity by being unique. If you go back to great brands in the restaurant space, many of them were incredibly unique at the time they started.
National restaurant brands inevitably hit a scale where copycats come along, but when first established, these restaurants garnered such a vast following because they disrupted an industry.
Pizza Hut is a good example. That brand was the first large sit-down pizza chain in the country, and they were a completely innovative concept in the space. Pizza Hut was then challenged by Domino’s, which became the first large-scale delivery system in the pizza space. Domino’s is now being challenged by fast-casual pizza chains. As the consumer evolves, so does the industry – and new brands come onto the scene.
Even so, longstanding mainstay brands are still relevant today because they were pioneers in the industry at one time. That put them at the forefront of the industry and helped them garner unparalleled attention and popularity.
Even if they evolve to compete with new disruptors, successful national brands’ unique value proposition and brand identity remain constant. They’re able to draw from the powerful national name and brand following they’ve built over the years, although they may not be the newest or most cutting-edge brand anymore.
Q: Which Factors Inspire Consumers to Be Loyal to Certain Brands?
A: Capriotti’s has some incredible raving fans. When he was fresh out of school, our Capriotti’s CEO broke his apartment lease, just so he could move closer to a Capriotti’s sandwich shop.
We have some fans that have gotten tattoos of their favorite Capriotti’s sandwich, and we’ve had others who have inquired about getting married in a Capriotti’s shop.
You can’t force that kind of brand advocacy, but by staying authentic and delivering on our brand promise, we’ve amassed a loyal base of raving fans from coast to coast. That’s because consumers are loyal to the restaurants that fulfill their brand promise.
At Capriotti’s, we’ve fulfilled our brand promise by capitalizing on the authentic goodness in our product – sandwiches, salads, soups and everything that comes out of our kitchen. We’ve also created a system that allows for the delivery of our brand promise on a consistent basis.
We will continue to evolve to satisfy consumer needs, but we’ve never strayed from our mission or tried to cut corners when it comes to food preparation and quality. That’s been our main point of differentiation, as well as our brand promise.
It’s so straightforward, but quality, delicious food transcends time, never goes out of style and appeals to every demographic.
Q: How Can Brands Withstand Fads and Trends?
A: A company can withstand fads and trends by focusing on their point of differentiation and making sure that it stays relevant to the consumer on an ongoing basis.
Consumer tastes will obviously change over time. Technology will change, and people’s lifestyles will change. But, if a brand has a clearly-defined point of differentiation, then within that framework, it should be able to evolve and address consumers’ current needs and desires.
In other words, brands should alter their concept to accommodate changing consumer priorities – but not so much that the concept becomes unrecognizable.
It’s a fine line, but brands need to find the right balance to stay relevant, without straying from their core values. The most successful, timeless brands are able to evolve with the trends, but they never lose sight of their unique differentiators or brand identity.
Q: How Can Brands Withstand the Test of Time?
A: For sustainable growth that withstands the test of time, franchisors need to first consider and define the point of differentiation for their products and services. Then, they need to consider the financial statements of their franchisees to promote sustainable growth.
Once those areas are covered, franchisors need to focus on putting together an air-tight, tested and proven business management structure for franchisees. That business model needs to provide for the scalability of the entire system, as well as the individual success of each franchisee. From operations and technology to marketing, the structure must be scalable, replicable and easy to implement across units.
Aside from financial stability, competitive differentiation and a strong business model, franchise brands also need to consistently deliver on their brand promise, while adapting to changing consumer needs.
That means franchisors need to regularly invest in consumer research, in order to understand what’s happening at the counter. Armed with that knowledge, they can then continuously modify or improve restaurant operations and products to accommodate consumers’ changing priorities.
Franchisees should absolutely expect a strong business model and unwavering, industry-leading support from franchisors. Not only does this include best practices in business management, but also consistent dedication to the brand’s improvement and evolution.