Restaurant Development & Design

MAR-APR 2018.

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 6 7 brand, including both the in-store and the digital experience. "We now use that as a roadmap anytime we develop anything new," says Marketing Director Kim Jensen-Pitts. To delve deeply into the brand, the Cowboy Chicken team looked at its pillars. These were fire and flame, hon- est food that's not "fancy" but is good, affordability, and a scratch kitchen. "All these things have to be reflected in everything we do," says Jensen-Pitts. "One of our taglines is 'food as honest as a handshake,' and that says it all." What Cowboy Chicken calls pillars, Szala calls silos. "Ask yourself what makes you different, and create silos," he says. These may be community, fun or mastery. "Once you have those, you can think of how your brand deliv- ers them so you can decide how you capture that." The first step, he says, is finding adjectives that describe your brand that you can work from. Once it had refined its brand, Cowboy Chicken came out with a brand book, detailing certain colors, fonts, and even materials like burlap, "and those are things we use consistently in everything," says Jensen-Pitts. "We're also very careful with tone of voice, even in social media." For example, important to Cowboy Chicken is wit and wisdom, so the social media pages for the brand feature lots of proverbs, poems and stories of the Old West. Tone of voice is also critical online and off, Jensen-Pitts says. "We are warm and welcoming, down-to-earth and also somewhat charming. We want people to feel we are a trusted and reli- able friend but that we have some grit since the western folks had some grit about them to be able to survive." Cowboy Chicken has a mood board featuring its brand architecture — inspirational photos, tone of voice refer- ences, etc. — "that sets the mood for the creative," says Jensen-Pitts. "We refer to it when it comes to any materi- als — online or in the stores — that we design to make sure they all fit, are cohesive and mirror the brand strategy." Restaurants like Cowboy Chicken that really examine their brand, then portray it in every single thing they do, have a very strong sense of self. Far too many restaurant brands instead emulate their competition, says Szala. "You've got to have a mission state- ment and know what your brand stands for. It's your brand essence, passionate purpose or your true north. Understand what that is." Brands, he says, need to ask: What makes us different? What do we want people to feel? And, most important: Why should customers care about what we do? Szala points to some examples of brands that have done a great job with seamlessly blending their digital and off-line experiences. Domino's Pizza, he says, doesn't have a place for people to sit. Customers want to pick up their food and leave. So, Domino's website is geared around facilitating orders with no fuss and no fanfare. And at Panera Bread, on- line ordering is fast, and in-store pickup is likewise speedy with an entire section devoted to pickup orders, which diners find via their name on a bag. "If you streamline so much online, you have to take it back to your stores," he explains. "Brands need to ask themselves how they fit into people's lives," Szala says. "Your digital experience needs to be an extension of everything people get when they're in your four walls. You've got to have content, and you've got to cultivate that content — some- one has to generate and personalize it to your brand." + Two years ago Dallas-based Cowboy Chicken went through an extensive rebranding process, looking at every single aspect of the brand, including both the in-store and digital experience. Image courtesy of Cowboy Chicken

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