A lot of PR and marketing firms throw the term “branding” around like an abused step-child who just asked for a second helping. The fact is, they barely know what it means to develop a brand or build one. Sorry, but it’s true. The same thing goes for most businesses out there. To them, branding is all about creating a new logo, then applying it to things like business cards, menus, signage, websites and other touch points. Not even close. That mentality gets you a look misaligned with your actual experience. When that happens, disappointment is primed for setting in.

Think about it. How many times have you gone to a restaurant because it looked so cool and fun, then when you got there, the service was crap and the food wasn’t much better? I’ve lost count. On the other hand, how many times have you gone to a run down dive and had the most excellent, authentic experience? The biggest thing missing from your restaurant’s brand is COHESIVENESS.

What does cohesiveness mean to you and your bottom line?

First, why don’t you accept these facts:

1. The food, interiors and logo come second to the overall experience. Case in point: Starbucks. Bad coffee, worse food, absolutely dominance.

2. You can’t tell someone they are wrong. It doesn’t stick. Case in point: McDonalds. No matter how hard they try, they will never be a beacon of health in the consumer mind.

3. Decide who to be and go be it. Case in point: Burger King. When everyone else was doing healthy, they stood their ground and created behemoth, calorie packed burger concoctions. They reinforced their brand instead of going against it.

(For more indelible rules of restaurant branding, check out my book Fire It Up: Building Restaurant Brands that Blaze)

If you want to be a successful restaurant, you need to recognize that you have a brand whether you’ve designed a logo or not. In order to succeed, you need to do some work.

1. Establish what that brand is in the consumer’s mind.

2. Pinpoint what you want think your brand is and should be.

3. Identify the gap between the two.

4. Start making changes towards the ideal.

These changes aren’t just visual and design changes. They’re operational changes, too. Maybe service needs kicked up. Maybe some menu items need changed. Maybe the interiors could use an upgrade. Identify the list and start integrating the change to bolster the experience that’s in line with where you need to be. Design anything and everything to support and reflect the brand’s position and experience promise.

Bridge the gap and start to see immediate positive change.