Dear Local Café,
I think you guys are really nice. Like, the other day, you didn’t even give me a single dirty look when my one-year-old kept crawling behind the counter. Or when the three-year-old who accompanied us left sticky strawberry ice cream handprints on the table. (Okay, maybe that last one was my fault.)
But here’s the thing: No one’s coming in to appreciate it. And in our busy neighborhood, where people love to spend gobs of money on food, you should be thriving.
The food and service are good, so what’s going on? Here’s my guess:
The window signage is not only confusing potential customers, but it’s grossing them out. I know, I feel bad for telling you this because I know your heart is in the right place — you don’t want to leave anyone out. “Everyone can have a great lunch here,” you’re trying to say, right?
But when I see lasagna and sushi on the same sign, I just think about raw fish sandwiched between sheets of pasta, and then I feel sick and go to Hi-Rise or Sarah’s Market instead.
By now you might be wondering if this just some crazy rant inspired by low blood sugar? What does a copywriting know about the restaurant business? Well, nothing, but we do know a lot about branding and this really what we’re talking about here. And right now, your brand is very confused: You are trying to be everything and that’s just not working.
So, adorable little corner café/ice cream parlor/pan-Asian-Jewish-deli, it’s time to make a decision: What’s your brand?
How do you decide? Branding is a mash-up of both tangible and intangible qualities and it starts by honestly asking these key questions: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What sets you apart? What can you give your audience (customers) that is different from what they get elsewhere? You should be able to answer this quickly and easily. And this is true whether you are running a lunch counter or Fortune 500 company.
Here, I’ll help you figure it out. Tangible: Your lasagna is just okay, but your sesame noodles are some of the best I’ve ever had. So let’s leave the Italian to the Italian place down the street, huh? Intangible: Unlike the sandwich place up the street, you don’t sneer at your customers. You seem genuinely happy they’re there. Even if you did have as many customers as that sneery place, I’ll bet you’d make every one of them feel right at home.
So here’s my rough stab: Maybe a trip to your establishment is like a lunch invitation to your friend’s Chinese grandmother’s kitchen? See, now I really want to go there. Please take care of this before lunchtime tomorrow.
Your Humble, Hungry Neighbor