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

An agreement between Northwestern University’s new foodservice vendor and the union that represents many of the school’s service workers has put to rest some staff concerns over its upcoming vendor switch, reports The Daily Northwestern .

Unite Here Local 1 said that it met with representatives of Compass Group North America, which assumes control of the Evanston, Ill., school’s foodservice this fall, and reached a deal to ensure that staff who previously worked under Sodexo and Aramark would have job security with Compass. In addition, the agreement continues many benefits that...

Ideas and Innovation
scratch card

Two days a week, we do scratch card purchases of $6 or more to get a free item on the next visit. Patients and staff look forward to the Monday and Friday scratch card days. It increases sales on slow days as well as guest satisfaction.

Ideas and Innovation
ramen noodles

The Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock has unveiled a new, full-time food truck called Food from the Heart. It’s the first hospital-owned and operated food truck in the nation, according to KATV .

The truck, which will offer a limited menu that includes Chef Coby Smith ’s popular ramen, served its first meal on May 2 and will roll out service throughout the area beginning next month, the report said.

In addition, it will have pop-up locations, allowing the hospital to extend its reach to communities outside metro Little Rock. The truck can also be used in emergency...

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to boost sustainability, Dartmouth Dining Services recently replaced its paper straws with red-and-white paper versions that are biodegradable, The Dartmouth reports .

The move is “a small step but a very important one,” Associate Director of Dining Services Don Reed told The Dartmouth.

While paper straws are slightly more expensive for the department than plastic ones, the difference is slight enough to justify, Reed says.

Not all students at the Hanover, N.H., school are on board with the change, however, and some are reportedly hoarding straws from...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code