11 Insights on globalising a restaurant brand

2016 TRS Tuesday Panel Session

Last week, OpenTable attended The Restaurant Show and hosted the business insight session ‘Globalising a Restaurant Brand’ on Centre Stage. Adrian Valeriano, Vice President, Europe, OpenTable, facilitated the discussion amongst influential restaurant operators to share how to build a strong brand and be borderless in your marketing.

Our guests included; Matt Ford – Marketing Director, Gaucho and Sam Sédécias – COO, Restaurant Ours and former Nobu restaurant manager. Whether you’re expanding your business overseas or looking for creative ways to attract new [global] diners, here’s how leading restaurants are marketing their brands cross borders with technology to not only attract local, but national and international diners.

Do your research.

Matt shares, “Market research is key. We’re opening a new site in Birmingham and we’ve conducted research for a year and a half to see if the brand would fit. We spent a lot of time visiting the new market and speaking to local people. As a business it was also important to investigate, visit and experience competitors that have a similar price point.”

He adds, “Our bread and butter is Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but we also needed to know if there was a good lunch trade. There was, so then we needed to know how much, where customers are spending and if they are coming back. If they’re loyal customers then it means the lunch trade will return on Thursday, Friday, Saturday when they’re looking to go out on a date or a special occasion. Ultimately, we do our research to determine if there’s a market opportunity and if it’s right for the brand to open in that market.”

Choose a location.

Sam shares, “Whether you choose the financial district, theatre district or a residential area, it just depends on your brand, the audience you want to attract, and the experience you want to deliver.”

He adds, “For Nobu, we needed to save time and resources. We researched a space that would work for us the first day we opened. Therefore we approached premium hotels so they could provide us operational support like HR and staffing, but also marketing exposure to their guests, which was an international community. Once we selected the location, then it was about the restaurant set up; how many metres of windows? Where would we put the sushi bar? Can we have an open space over here? On the other hand, for Restaurant Ours, we are looking at residential locations, so you feel like you’re part of a safe community.”

Listen, communicate and understand local culture.

“Communication is key when entering a new market. In 2001, I worked for Nobu and we took the brand to Paris. Back then you could still smoke in public space, so we had to educate French consumers that you couldn’t smoke any where near the sushi bar. They weren’t having it. Plus, we didn’t offer bread because there’s no bread in Japanese culture. We had to explain to guests that white rice is equivalent to bread. You really need to listen to customers and educate them about your brand.” says Sam.

Send in the ‘A-Team’.

“We send in our ‘A-Team’ to a new location. They are experienced staff that have worked in the restaurant and understand the brand. We create training manuals and service guidelines, so we’re setting the same expectation regardless of location. Then trusted management will frequently visit the new location to ensure it meets quality standards and aligns to the company and brand culture.” says Sam.

Source local ‘heros’.

Matt shares, “We also send a core team that includes a General Manager and various trainers to go on site for a month prior to opening. They’ll learn about the local culture and then they will source local ‘heros’, so once they leave they can carry on the good work.”

He adds, “We’ve been successful for 22 years in the UK, but we don’t want to go into a new market and impose ourselves on the locals so we will adapt if we have to. Ultimately, you have to understand the culture of where you’re going and what you’re doing.”

Train, train, and train again.

“The Gaucho academy was set up ten years ago. The idea is that you take a person with the right attitude and enthusiasm for hospitality and give them the right training and career opportunities to move within the business. The academy provides new staff an understanding of the brand so when they come out of training they can then learn site specific information whether that’s Piccadilly or Broadgate. Plus, we provide new training opportunities all the time. At the moment we have technology and social media training to stay up-to-date with market trends.” says Matt.

Know your demographics.

Matt shares, “We don’t have a favourite site, but if we did, it would be Gaucho Piccadilly. All the marketing and PR is operated out of here because of the location and the size. Our visitor demographics is probably 40% regulars, 40% walk-ins, and 20% referrals from PAs or concierges.”

He adds, “Gaucho Broadgate is a completely different demographic; 60% regulars and 40% regulars being taken out by clients. Compared to Gaucho Richmond, who knows! It’s on the towpath, so on a nice day, people walk-in.”

Create a targeted marketing strategy.

“Gaucho is perceived as a chain, which isn’t a bad thing, it means that we’re successful. However, people assume that you lose your originality and individuality. My responsibility is to work with each manager to make sure that each site has its own personality within the brand.” says Matt.

“For example, we hosted an interactive film club at Charlotte Street. We played the movie ‘Chef’ and recreated all of the dishes from the film. Completely off-brand, but you’re looking at a media market where it’s worth doing on a Saturday afternoon and it drove 50 covers.”

“Gaucho Richmond is all about rugby with Twickenham right across the road, so we host Q&As with England and Argentine players. That fits the location and works with the brand.”

He adds, “We’re very targeted based on the location. There’s the odd newsletter that goes out for the whole brand, but our strategy is to push individual restaurant newsletters.”

Use tools to tell your story.

Sam shares, ‘We try to create experiences and moments at the restaurant that our guests want to share and amplify for us. We focus on utilising organic content. There’s nothing better than your customers sharing their experience and influencing others to visit your restaurant. We also use OpenTable and encourage guests to leave positive [or constructive] reviews – we take all feedback on board.”

“Our strategy is to outsource our key brand marketing and then have the individual restaurants share site specific content. This type of content is important because all restaurants are different and it showcases their individual character. We also use a tool called Revinate, which collates our social media and third party feedback, and it provides a score. We then provide bonuses to managers based on that score.” says Matt.

Acquire guests with creative tactics.

“We find reasons to share updates with existing and new guests. Anything that can add-value to the customer experience is worth sharing. Whether we’re launching a new item on the menu or we have created a new seasonal menu.” says Sam.

Matt shares, “I work with my PR company to know what’s happening in six months and identify trends. Recently the Tube went 24 hours, so six months prior we were able to build a plan and create a ‘late night dining’ menu that offers a bunch of nibbles and cocktails for £25. That’s probably all you want before you go out clubbing for the night.”

Competitor benchmark.

Matt shares, “We judge ourselves against our competitors. We look at their feedback on third party sites. I’ll visit their restaurants as well once a month. You need to constantly know what’s happening in the market and what people are doing. Otherwise you will get left behind.”

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