Brand Control Part II: The Linking Game


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Technological paradigm shift and decision making

Part II of Brand Control is about making sure the power of your brand’s “voice” is always strong and clear. The sudden exponential growth of technology over the last two decades has altered nearly every paradigm known to humanity. How we meet, how we shop, how we learn, how we give, and yes, how we eat.

Twenty years ago, a restaurant may have relied on a few publications, the  newspaper’s food critic, promotional activities, perhaps some local advertising, and most importantly, word of mouth to build it’s brand. This brand may have revolved around a style of cuisine, a beverage program, a price point, unique decor, or a personality. Tablecloths would box restaurants into one category and beer selections could put another into a different category.

But new technologies have challenged the influence of these fundamentals. Many restaurateurs who are striving to figure out the new paradigm often underestimate the factors that truly make a restaurant successful in hopes that the magic of technology will make success easy and permanent.

Myths of “Marketing Power”

What we see all too often, and the purpose behind this series, is that the promise of “marketing power” from these companies is misleading- often deliberately. They prey on the need to survive in a highly volatile business, offering great promises while providing a false sense of security. It leads many to believe they have their “marketing” taken care of, while in reality, there no such vested interest in the restaurant’s individual success exists. Because where one restaurant fails, another new hopeful will soon take it’s place to try the same recipe.

Restaurateurs frequently trust the power of these companies to drive the business they need to survive. Unfortunately we see this happen all too often.

The good news is, while so much has changed, the fundamentals that make great restaurants great – are timeless. We need to remember that technology will not, and can not, replace these fundamentals. A dating site can’t add or remove the chemistry that makes two people fall in love. Unfortunately, in their chest pounding, many restaurant technology companies would have many of us believe that they will in fact, deliver the chemistry. It’s nonsense.

Your Customers are Worth Billions

If we weren’t consistently seeing the struggles, myths, deception and forced numbers regarding what restaurants can do to succeed, we probably wouldn’t be so concerned, but it’s reached a point where we feel we have a responsibility to speak up.

Brand control to the big players in our industry is all about the big business of data. To them, it’s not about your business, your success, or the memorable experiences of your customers.  It’s about email addresses, phone numbers and website traffic. To these companies, your website is a dead end. It is, in fact a loss of their brand control over your brand. They use restaurants as a vehicle to power their brand, their apps, their websites and their strategic partnerships while getting their restaurants to pay all the bills.

The Imbalance is the Issue

In our society, we need companies of all sizes and power. Our series on brand control does not wish to diminish the value of services available to any restaurant that can help it succeed. The companies referred to in this series can have an important place in the ecosystem of your customer’s experience. The issue is that what should be a supporting role, has taken over the script for it’s own unrestricted gain.

Very clever tactics are being used to create and sustain the wealth of a few key billion dollar companies. When there’s an imbalance, when tactics are employed to deliberately manipulate outcomes that affect a restaurant’s ability to remain competitive, then a line has been crossed.

Due to the limitations of a young internet, dedicated restaurant booking or review portals may have been relevant ten years ago. But today, with the ubiquitous access to restaurant information through free sites like Google, Facebook and others, that’s no longer the case. With their size,  power and influence, they’ve become something else.

So, let’s clear all the smoke and mirrors and peel away some things. To each and every restaurateur out there: remember, it is you that your customers seek. Make them feel good, make them feel special, give them something unexpected, and make them know that you care about every minute and every dollar they give to you. That is the chemistry only you and your team have access to.

Your Customers are Yours

Let’s begin with the premise that it is you, the restaurateur, the owner, the chef, the maître d’, the bartender – pick a role, and you’ll find a guest that will look forward to that person’s presence upon their visit. It’s not the other way around. It is you that your customers seek.

Now let’s explore how virtually every modern-day restaurant search begins – through a general search portal like Google. And right here is where the trouble begins. What happens next is not by any means due to chance or random.

What happens next is the result of years of research, design, SEO manipulation, and subtle strategic adjustments to YOUR brand that when assembled together, costs restaurants thousands and thousands in unnecessary fees each year.

If you’re using a 3rd party reservation service, and if you haven’t performed some of the action steps outlined in Part I, you will most likely get a very distinctive set of results that look like the following (restaurant name removed):


Look carefully at the above search results. It was for a specific restaurant’s name, meaning “I want restaurant A”. There’s no ambiguity that requires the assistance of a specialized service. The companies showing up in the search results have no intention of sending the customer to the actual restaurant’s website. They are in business to collect information and will grab what’s freely available to stay in business and generate profit.

This example search result scenario is from a restaurant that uses the services of a popular booking website. If you were to browse the web and visit the other 20+ major restaurant listing websites that list this restaurant, you’d find that in this case they each point to the restaurant’s listing at the reservation booking website- NOT the restaurant’s own website, where the reservation can be made just the same. This is not an accident.

From the graphical image above, keep in mind the following:

  • These 3rd party sites did not send the above example any business. The customer was already searching for the restaurant. The big claim of course is that they send restaurants new business. Well, even a goat can send a restaurant new business if it’s on the street corner with the restaurant’s name spray painted on the side of it.
  • They will take credit for sending the business and provide clever reports to illustrate this.
  • Higher fees will be paid because of the “souce” (reservation didn’t “originate” from the restaurant’s own website).

Part II Continued – The Art of the Customer Hijack

For a free local market analysis report of your restaurant, call 512-354-1100.

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