Anyone who doubts the power of brands is missing out on a great opportunity. In an era when differentiation is crucial and raising prices is all but out of the question, one solution is branding – using and promoting high-profile consumer brands on the tabletop and on the menu (often referred to as brand-listing).
Branding provides a “halo of quality” that customers can easily recognize and measure, enhancing value and, in many cases, allowing the operator to charge more for an item because it has a premium perception. In situations where discounting has become a competitive necessity, branded products can help stabilize margins and counter a “fire-sale” image. In addition, branding helps build solid relationships with manufacturers and suppliers, who are eager to encourage and reward the promotion of their marques with rebates, volume discounts, marketing allowances, and other forms of support.
“Branding represents a major window of opportunity and the most significant trend in menu development through the year 2000,” asserts Bill Main, an owner of the Shore Bird restaurant in Princeton-by-the-Sea, Calif., and a consultant specializing in menus. “Operators dealing with day-to-day price and cost concerns are looking to add items that give value, and name brands make an immediate association with the consumer. They give consumers an additional reason to choose your restaurant.”
The concept of brand-listing has been around since at least the 1970s, when operators began promoting beverages like Coke and Pepsi and Budweiser on their menus, and adorning tabletops with name-brand condiments such as Heinz ketchup, Grey Poupon mustard, and Sweet’N Low.
Today brands are a fact of consumer life. While no figures exist for the foodservice industry, Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers of America reports that 81 of the top 100 best-selling items in the supermarket are national brands, functioning as the store’s primary traffic builders, and that more than 70 percent of consumers tend to stick with a brand once they’ve found one they like. In short, consumers want brands.
In foodservice, the results speak for themselves. Manufacturers say that brand promotion typically results in sales spikes of from 10 percent to 400 percent, depending on the promotion; something as simple as displaying a table tent featuring a brand can increase item traffic by as much as one third.
Operators, for their part, attest that using brands and naming names can enable them to increase prices on those menu offerings anywhere from 25|cents to 50|cents to $1 or more, depending on whether the branded product is an ingredient or a key item. Perhaps more importantly, branding enhances the operation’s image and perceived value.