The Greatest Stories

The greatest stories by Anthony Knight

I was recently reminded of one of my favourite industry stories. Two shaggy-haired Americans living in London were fed up with the fact they couldn’t find US-style burgers in the capital so they started a small burger joint in a Rolls-Royce dealership. In 1973 they hosted their first live gig, with the singer none other than Paul McCartney. The cafe is still there in Old Park Lane and has hosted live music since. In 1974 the friends stamped their logo on some T-shirts to sponsor a local football team, not knowing those T-shirts would start a worldwide craze. You may have heard of them, their restaurant was called Hard Rock Cafe.

Today, Hard Rock Cafe is one of the most recognised restaurant brands in the world, with 186 sites in 74 countries, but is its offering as unique as it was in 1973? There’s certainly no lack of great restaurants, fantastic burgers and brands offering fabulous experiences out there so what keeps the Hard Rock Cafe brand successful? A good story certainly helps.

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is listening to the stories behind restaurateurs and entrepreneurs, old and new alike. There are highs and lows and you can always learn something. I’d like to share some of those lessons learned and look at what makes a great story.

Write what people want to know

It’s your story but it must illustrate how you serve a consumer need. How did you spot a gap in the market? What did you have to overcome to get the brand where it is today? Why do people love it? Wrap up by explaining how your offer leads to a superior experience for customers.

Make it personal

The best brands engage customers on an emotional level. People want to connect and interact with a concept and be acknowledged as unique individuals. If a story is going to have an impact, it should not only be interesting but also relatable to the people you’re trying to reach. Relevance is important not only to attract interest in the story but also to draw the listener in.

Be clear and concise

In my experience there should be no more than two specific points of brand differentiation that engage customers emotionally. These can include anything from the story behind the food, style of service, signature dish or locations.

Remember, your team are your best storytellers. Have systems in place to make sure stories lived by staff at all levels are easily shareable. In a true storytelling culture, everyone participates. Perhaps you like to blog? How about including guest contributors from across your team to make the website a must-read for food fans? Perhaps the brand suits stories on display around the restaurant – on the menu or noticeboard, for example. Make sure everyone is included and knows how to get their word out.

Make it last

You need to live with the story you tell – and live up to it. Consumers like to know what they’re going to get and value stability and consistency of a story over time. If the story evolves, say so. Take the customer on your journey. When they love a brand, most will willingly get on board.

Be unique

A lot of operators serve great food but they’ll only discover something unique in your restaurant and in your story. Your story should reflect this. What’s your USP?

Don’t fake it

Authenticity and transparency have become paramount for consumers – and they can sniff out insincerity in a heartbeat. Be honest, be real and don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you start a Cuban concept from a kitchen in Kettering, say so – and say why. You’ll have your reasons and you’ve done your research so it’s bound to be a great story.

Sharing a strong and genuine story is one key to successfully marketing your restaurant so take the time to tell it well and ask for help if you need it. Your unique experience will give you an authentic connection to your customers, creating a loyal base to drive success and keep them coming, hungry for the next chapter.