How to rebrand your operation

Published in FSD Update

brand construction illustration

The University of Michigan’s dining program is caught up in a culinary arms race with nearby restaurants in booming Ann Arbor, Mich.—mentioned among Bon Appetit’s Foodiest Small Towns in America. As part of meeting its guests’ increasingly sophisticated palates and competing with the town’s culinary offerings, Michigan Dining refreshed its brand. Here are some of the lessons they learned along the way.

1. Make sure you have backup

Before spending the resources and energy rolling out a sleek new brand, it’s important to install a structure that can make good on that brand’s mission and promises. “You can’t decide you are going to be a new company with the same players and attitude,” says Steve Mangan, Michigan Dining director. Building in the capability and capacity with the right team and processes is essential, Mangan says.

2. Find yourself

Michigan dining spent at least six months determining its mission, principles and the type of organization it wanted to be. Mangan’s team conducted internal interviews with all levels of the dining team to uncover their motivations, frustrations and opportunities for the brand. “You need to talk to your own people,” says Dan Henne, director of marketing for the school’s Student Life Auxiliaries and a central member of the rebranding team. But don’t just toss these insights after the rebrand. Mangan says the input will fuel how the program will evolve in the future.

3. Scout the competition

It’s not enough just to know your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. Take a look at what your competition is missing, says Henne. “Then, look at what you can leverage given your resources,” he says. Michigan Dining has size on its side, feeding around 25,000 meals a day. It can influence local suppliers to acquire certifications to suit their sustainable mission and help mold the regional market.

4. Know your audience

While it's important to think about the demographic you're trying to engage, be authentic in the interactive aspects of your branding, such as social media. "We can't try to pretend like we're them," says Kate Glahn, the marketing communications specialist for Student Life Auxiliaries heading up dining's social presence. "We look to make fun of our own voice. Say, 'Yeah, we're the gooofy grown ups.' Otherwise, it doesn't ring true."

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
k-12

The School Nutrition Foundation —the School Nutrition Association’s philanthropic sibling—and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign have partnered to launch an initiative called Schools as Nutrition Hubs.

“No Kid Hungry really sees schools as a critical place in the fight against childhood hunger,” says Laura Hatch, director of national partnerships for No Kid Hungry. “Schools are really a no-brainer because they have the infrastructure, they have the experience, it’s a trusted place for families. And being able to maximize their programs and maximize the federal...

Ideas and Innovation
walk-in cooler

The walk-in cooler can serve as a gathering place for more than just produce. When temperatures rise, staff at Empire State South restaurant in Atlanta host meetings in the walk-in and make occasional trips to hang out throughout the day to beat the back-of-house heat.

Managing Your Business
student shame
Let students charge meals

“We allow students to charge meals at all levels; even in high school, they can charge a certain number of meals. [After that is met,] they are given an alternate meal,” says Sharon Glosson, executive director of school nutrition services for North East Independent School District. Elementary students can charge up to $15 of meals; middle schoolers can charge $10; and high schoolers can charge $5. “Ultimately, [food services is] carrying out the policy; but we’re not necessarily the creators of the policy, [nor do we] have the final say ... because that budget...

Menu Development
college students eating

Taste may reign supreme when college students choose their next snack, but operators should also pay attention to factors such as price and portion size. Here are the most important attributes students consider when choosing snacks, according to Technomic’s 2017 College and University Consumer Trend Report .

Taste: 78%

Ability to satisfy my appetite between meals: 67%

Price: 64%

Portion size: 54%

Familiarity: 46%

Overall nutrition value: 40%

Protein content: 36%

All-natural ingredients: 29%

Fiber content: 27%

...

FSD Resources