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

Managing Your Business
management team

Last week’s NACUFS National Conference proved to be a treasure trove of management and staffing takeaways. Here are a few we noted at the annual event , held this year in Providence, R.I.

1. Make it scalable

When explaining something new to staff, instead of asking, “You got it?” or “You with me?” have employees rate how well they understand the new material on a scale of 1 to 10, said Ron Paul, a senior consulting partner for Partners in Leadership, during a session on building accountability in the workplace. People are likely to say yes even when they don’t fully grasp what you’...

Ideas and Innovation
song break

Once per month in a daily huddle, we dedicate a few minutes for the staff to sing a short song. The staff has responded so positively to this. They now bring costumes and other props. It's a few short minutes, but the payoff has been tremendous.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Ideas and Innovation
plastic straws

An item about the size of a pencil has become the latest target in foodservice operators’ sustainability plans. Though small, plastic straws are said to have a large impact on the environment, with Americans using approximately 500 million straws each day, according to a release from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which temporarily ditched plastic straws as part of an Earth Day promotion this year.

In recent months, a growing number of eateries and cities across the United States have scrapped plastic straws. In July, Seattle enacted a ban on plastic straws and utensils, requiring...

Industry News & Opinion

Medford High School in Medford, Mass., is looking to add an orchard to its campus, Wicked Local reports.

The idea for the orchard was brought forth by students looking to help combat food insecurity. They are working with the school’s nutritionist to make the orchard a reality.

If planted, the orchard would be located inside the school’s courtyard and would grow fruits such as apples, paw paws, blueberries, peaches and plums. It would also include an outdoor classroom space.

The school committee signed off on the project last year; however, some administrators are...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code