A branding workshop totaling four hours over two days might have felt a bit like going back to school for Springfield Diner owner Omer Onder.
His classroom for the sessions was at Longitude’s office at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Walnut Street. With pen in hand, Onder was guided by Longitude owners Dustin Myers and Jeremy Wells to discuss branding and fill out worksheets to help him hone in on his diner’s identity.
Leading principles, identifying the competitive landscape and brand positioning were among elements covered during the workshop, which was split from its typical one-day structure to accommodate Onder’s work schedule.
Part of the guiding principles discussion centered on the diner’s menu, which currently offers breakfast options, such as skillets and omelets, along with lunch fare of burgers, sandwiches and salads. Since October, the diner also has offered a small selection of Mediterranean breakfast options. Onder said he’s open to changing the menu but likes the idea of keeping some American classics, such as burgers, while adding in more Mediterranean items.
“We have to mix them,” he said.
Wells agreed that best sellers should remain on the menu, but to not be afraid of removing some items.
“You want to make sure everything on your menu is a really great item – great tasting, great presentation,” he said. “When you have a huge menu, it’s really difficult to do that. There’s probably going to be a narrowing down. Eventually, maybe offer some unique twists on some best sellers.”
When it comes to brand values, they should be demonstrated in operations and marketing, Myers said. He noted examples of Chick-fil-A, which is customer focused, and Cracker Barrel, which centers on comfort food.
After Onder filled out a worksheet, Myers took to a dry erase board to write down guiding principles for the diner. Treating everyone like family, quality ingredients and creativity were identified.
Finding a position
Brand positioning, Myers said, is vital to determine what’s special to set them apart from the competition. He used Kentucky Fried Chicken as an example, as the restaurant chain has long maintained a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices for its chicken. For Onder, he said customers would be hard-pressed to find anyplace combining diner food and Turkish cuisine in the area.
Both he and Wells suggested Turkish food rather than Mediterranean food is better for positioning. Riad and Greek Belly are just a couple of other nearby options selling Mediterranean food, Wells added.
The trio landed on “Turkish-inspired classic diner” as a brand position. Wells suggested adding it under the restaurant name on signage.
“I think that sums up your concept really well,” Myers said. Onder agreed.
Noting restaurant competition includes Scramblers, Village Inn, Aviary Cafe and Creperie, and Waffle House, Wells and Myers had Onder list strengths of them all, as well as any areas he believes he does or can beat them. Scramblers is a classic diner with a good environment, and Village Inn is an established brand known for its pies, he said. In addition, Aviary has a specialty menu with outdoor seating, while Waffle House is known nationwide for its 24-hour service.
However, Onder listed his food quality and variety, particularly his Turkish items, as ways he can beat the competition.
Delivering an experience
Beyond a brand position, the workshop also set out to establish a brand promise and brand experience that includes pre-, during and post-visit elements. The brand promise is setting and delivering on an expectation that Myers said could be put on the restaurant’s wall, its website, or both.
“We have to show them they’re important,” Onder said of the customers.
The pre-visit experience includes signage, window graphics, social media, website and referrals from family and friends. During the visit are actions staff can control, Myers said, such as the environment, a verbal greeting upon entering and server introductions. He said a new menu design and comment card also would fit into the dining experience.
As part of the post-visit, Longitude suggested a take-home menu with discounts for those ordering direct instead of with delivery services. Gathering emails and phone numbers of customers and a take-home card to fill out a survey also was part of the homework process for Onder to consider.
After the workshop, Onder had a homework sheet to determining the tasks need to get done, who’s responsible for them and by what date.
“It’s kind of like setting goals for 30, 60, 90 days,” Wells said, noting the accountability aspect. “We’ll follow up with him periodically and see how those things are being implemented, if he’s staying on task with it.”
Post-workshop, Onder said he feels good about the branding process and its direction. Before starting on rebranding, he had a lot of things in his mind about ways to improve the restaurant, but wasn’t clear what he should focus on.
“Everything is clearer now,” he said. “I can see where we are going, how we are going.”
That doesn’t mean Onder’s fully confident on the road ahead, as he knows a naming workshop is coming – most likely in July, Myers said. The thought of changing the name makes the diner owner a little worried.
“It’s a big process, changing a name. That’s how people know us,” Onder said. The change could confuse some customers, he added.
“Oh, the name’s changed? Why? What happened? Did they sell the restaurant, did it just close?” Onder questioned. “Lots of things, it’s complicated, changing the name.”
Pappy’s Place came under new ownership; Napleton Autowerks/Missouri Inc. moved; and St. Louis barbecue chain Sugarfire Smokehouse made its Springfield debut.
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