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The Caterer

The power of brands

26 April 2007
The power of brands

According to Heinz Foodservice director Phil Jones, using well-known brands has a positive effect on your establishment's profit potential

When it comes to customer perception, brands have distinct personalities. They represent certain values and can evoke feelings of contentment, happiness and reassurance - or even mistrust and suspicion. There are three elements involved in the creation of such personalities: a customer's recognition of images and ideas or a symbol such as a name, logo, slogan or design scheme an accumulation of experiences of a specific product or service and the influence of advertising, design and media commentary.

Essentially, a brand embodies everything connected to a company, product or service, creating certain associations and expectations - and what could be more crucial to a catering outlet than ensuring the personalities of its chosen brands appeal to those of its customers?

We can trace the origins of brands as far back as Greek and Roman times, when shopkeepers displayed images or symbols outside their shops to enable illiterate people to recognise what was on offer.

Today, brands are linchpins for companies, demonstrating not only what they sell but their values and commitment to customers' needs and desires. Consumers habitually use products they know and trust and are therefore extremely brand-savvy. So why should food service outlets be any different?

Sometimes outlets can become so internally focused that they forget the public perception of a brand not only encourages consumers to come back but allows them the luxury of commanding a premium price for the guarantee of quality and better value.

Brand council

Outlets often miss a trick by not considering the use of organisations such as brand council Superbrands or top grocery brands, as per AC Nielsen research, in their offering to consumers.

Consumers want to see brands with heritage and stability. They provide quality cues and can improve consumer perception of an outlet and provide reassurance through endorsement. Stocking a well-known family brand, for example, ultimately says you care about the food you serve and about your customers.

Brands can take away uncertainty from a new eating experience, while inferior brands can prompt the question, "Why are they cutting corners?" Our research has shown that not serving a brand could lose you up to 20% of repeat business.

As Larry Light, former chief executive of McDonald's, once said: "A brand is more than a product brands are assets. They are more than trademarks they are trust-marks."

Suppliers

Outlets should be looking to suppliers to support them in this mission. Take high-street pub chains as an example. To drive up early morning trade and improve the perception of their outlets and what they offer, they have included in their breakfast menus a range of branded items, from cereals through to the traditional British breakfast and its accompaniments.

Outlets can work with suppliers to provide materials which, depending on the type of establishment, can be anything from simple posters to complete crockery or glassware solutions.

However, merchandise featuring iconic or well-known consumer brands is more likely to be well received. In recent research we found that customers at more than 88% of outlets with branded merchandisers front of house noticed a change in table-top presentation, with 46% of outlets receiving glowing comments from customers.

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