Rebuilding Brand, Key Ingredient for Restaurants
Longtime restaurant executive Kelly C. Baltes has a three-step recipe for all types of businesses looking to recover from the impact of COVID-19:
• Review your pre-pandemic brand attributes/formula
• Have a detailed understanding of impact to brand during the pandemic
• Create a go-forward plan to win with brand adjustments in the new environment
Baltes, who began his career bussing tables in Marion, Iowa, worked his way to the top in positions including chairman and CEO, most recently as president at Maggiano’s. The Southlake, Texas, resident earned an MBA from the Harbert College in 2005.
“The restaurant business has many similarities to most other businesses,” said Baltes. “It starts with a product and an experience which is its brand. Typically, the product is either going to solve a problem or it’s going to provide something competitively superior. Knowing your core product and brand is paramount, and the more differentiated the key attributes of your product and brand are, the more you can defend them from your competition set.”
But when a global pandemic strikes your brand, how should key managers think about recovery and finding stride in a changed environment?
“When we think about brands in recovery mode, we have to acknowledge the desperate impact this pandemic has had across the marketplace,” he said.
“First, I suggest going back to your pre-pandemic brand attributes and formula—on paper, not just a discussion. Walk through your brand propositions and the key attributes detailed in a review that outlines strengths and weaknesses within that evolving, yet more stable pre-pandemic environment.”
Next, Baltes encourages key managers to review these brand strengths and weaknesses within the context of the stages of the pandemic. Some strengths might have strengthened, or flipped, to be a brand weakness. Understanding and capturing the “why” behind these changes will help brand adjustments moving forward.
“That final step is building a strategic recovery plan for your specific brand given what the consumer might look like in a likely complex recovery,” Baltes said. “By leveraging the work from the first two steps, it gets a little easier to anticipate what the recovery and future will look like for your brand. This will drive what specific adjustments are needed to meet new needs of the consumer and work to improve the brand proposition in the marketplace.”
What might recovery look like?
“The most significant winners will be the owners/leaders that best understand their brand, know what has worked, what has not worked, and those who best anticipated what the changed consumer looks like specific to their brand. Regardless of the level of success that had been achieved previously, this is a golden opportunity to make adjustments and change the future for your brand.”