Why Your Restaurant’s Take-Out Bag Is An Important Branding Tool
I spent the better part of my 20's working for a very successful restaurant, and learned a ton on how to grow a successful brand during my tenure (the company doubled in size during that time period and continues to grow to this day). There were so many great lessons to take from every aspect of the business, but one of the more interesting things is something that many restaurant owners may not think about, something so simple you might think it's silly.
[br][clear] I'm talking about the bag you use to put your take out food in!
[br][clear] Sounds crazy, but it's true. Whether you like it or not, the term "branding" is something that gets thrown around all the time in any business. If you're from a marketing background you may "get it" but not really understand how to take the concept and turn it into something that works for your business.
[br][clear] If you're a chef-turned-business-owner you might think that it's the food that hits the table that plays the most important role in the success of your restaurant. Understanding how branding works can be difficult to grasp, but one thing that everyone can take away is that your branding must relate to the "experience" you offer to your guests. Everything from the colors you use to paint the walls, the uniforms your staff wears, the fonts on your menu, and yes, the bags you use to hand your guests their take out food, are all components that make up your branding strategy.
[br][clear] The restaurant I worked in had these big sturdy brown paper bags with handles, with the restaurant's very original and easily recognizable logo printed on both sides. While we had smaller bags as well, we were told from day one that every guest, whether they ordered take out or needed a "doggy" bag to take left overs in, was to leave with one of these big awesome brown bags. I didn't think too much about it, other than why we'd waste an obviously expensive cost every time someone wanted to take home a small container of leftover food. In time though it all made sense to me.
[br][clear] A great real-world example is also used at another (sometimes much-hated) coffee chain: Starbucks.
[br][clear] Think about the bags they use to give you should you purchase a little more than your venti-mocha-whathaveyou; no doubt you're leaving there with a nice brown paper bag, with handles, printed with the company logo and artwork. It's not a cheap rolled up paper bag like Dunkin' Donuts gives you. When you're walking down the street, handles around your hands, swinging the bag too and fro, everyone on the street knows where you just made a purchase. It's like leaving a nice store in the mall. You feel good with that bag in your hand. It's an advertisement.
[br][clear] Our bags did the same thing, gave the guest the same feeling as they left the restaurant, bags in tow, letting the world know where they just had their wonderful meal, their wonderful experience. Even after the meal was over, the check was paid, and the hostess said goodbye on their way out (so important!), the guest continued their experience as they went home with that take out bag. It's almost like bragging to the world about where they spent a Friday night out.
[br][clear] Now obviously every restaurant has their own brand and idea of what they want to be. If you're a simple pizzeria and that's your product, perhaps the standard box or plastic "thank you" bag is all that you need. Of course maybe you lean more on the fine-dining side of things. Does your take-out bag reflect that? Does your customer continue their experience as they walk down the street with their leftovers? What does your take-out bag say about your restaurant?
[br][clear] It may sound silly, and isn't something you can correlate to increasing sales or customer retention, but many elements of branding seldom do.
[br][clear] However, it is something that I've seen play a role in successful branding, and could be a missing ingredient in your own long-term branding strategy. Next time you're out and need a doggy bag, pay attention to what you're given as you head out, and ask yourself if you feel a little extra special as you walk out the door.