As the "squeezed middle" continues to feel under financial pressure, hospitality businesses have to work ever harder to differentiate their operation.
This week the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that falling incomes had led to the biggest drop for middle-income families since the 1970s, so attracting the attention and trust of those that can still afford to eat out is more important than ever.
Fine dining may be bucking the trend with spend up in the first half of 2011, but this is not representative of the restaurant trade as a whole.
Elsewhere operators must appeal to a health- and budget-conscious consumer with plenty of choice. This means having a brand image that promotes a positive impression and really spells out what you stand for.
Whether you operate one or multiple sites, it's vital to embrace the idea of a co-ordinated approach to every aspect of the business. In this week's issue we examine how simple branding can make a real statement about your business and reveal the do's and don'ts of branding. Meanwhile, we look at five brand success stories - along with those that struggled to survive the test of time.
Good food and good service clearly count, but in this branded world if you can't stand out from the crowd the public will pass you by.
By James Stagg
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