The restaurant industry is in the midst of a culture crisis.

The competitive sector continues to grapple with a labor shortage and growing need to attract customers after years of leaning heavily on carryout and delivery amid the height of the pandemic. And, while customers are slowly getting back into the routine of dining out, one major brand pillar is emerging as mission critical for restaurants as they look to attract quality staff and engaged customers: purpose.

Brand purpose is where culture, experience, and values all intersect to create a greater sense of connection, resulting in an almost magnetic pull that unites a community. Fortunately, it’s never too late to infuse purpose into your business—even if it’s established.

So, whether your restaurant brand is considering a refresh—or perhaps you’re in the middle of one—below is a roadmap to building out an authentic restaurant brand via purpose-driven marketing.

Discover (or rediscover) the “why”

Identifying a purpose that aligns with your mission is an essential first step. In fact, a crystal clear mission and purpose is felt throughout the rest of the business, resulting in sound strategy, increased productivity and more satisfied workforces to grow three times faster than their competitors.

In practice, purpose can look like a charitable pledge at every POS, a commitment to your team, a promise of loyalty or dedicating your mission to making an impact in the world (i.e. Patagonia). You find your purpose by drilling down into the mission and core values—this will help you connect with the right audience. Some example questions to help you dig deep: 

  • How are you serving your people, so they can serve others?
  • How does your team deliver above and beyond service?
  • Identify your core customers. What does their current experience look/feel like?
    • What are some ways you can deepen your relationship with these customers?
  • What does the team member experience look like, and why would they choose your restaurant over a competitor?
    • How can we nurture a tight-knit team that’s empowered and enthusiastic about their work?
  • If our brand had a voice, what would it sound like, and what would it say?


Then, take it a step further to determine how you want that mission and core values to positively impact your community (or the world). Treating this like a team exercise will help other leaders weigh in and rally behind the purpose because they were instrumental in its creation. 

Determine how purpose shows up

Purpose is powerful, connecting your brand to a story that’s bigger than itself; and when done right, customers will tell the story for you. In fact, 63 percent of consumers prefer to purchase from purpose-driven brands. Communicating purpose will not only go a long way with brand consistency and authenticity, but it will build a network of loyal customers, continually reminding them why they choose your restaurant over others.

It’s important that your purpose regularly shows up in brand assets (website, brand images, videos), brand operations (hiring, training and general ops) and is woven into marketing material. It’s not enough to host a purpose-driven campaign once every few years, purpose must be infused into the fabric of your restaurant brand. 

It’s never too late to incorporate purpose

Even if this purpose-driven strategy resonates, it may be the case that a major brand refresh isn’t an option at the moment for some restaurants—and, that’s okay. Without overhauling brand pillars, evaluate opportunities to shift messaging slowly to incorporate a newfound purpose. 

If you’re looking to drill down and find your purpose without a major shakeup, encourage feedback from customers on why they choose your brand to see what’s resonating and start to seed a story without changing the entire fabric of a system. Then, start sharing this story via marketing (website content, social media, ads, etc.). Once you refine the story, slowly incorporate it throughout business operations and more. This can all be done in phases. Soon, you will have reshaped your brand to fit the purpose-driven model you’ve been looking for.

As consumer trends continue to shift in favor of value-based businesses, purpose will quickly become a necessity for restaurant brands as well. For centuries, people have gathered around meals. Now, restaurants have an exciting opportunity to take that element of unity a step further to create change and help others. 

Meg Prejzner is the CEO and Founder of Hackett Brand Consulting, a brand marketing consultancy. Her team helps build purpose-driven brands and grow brands with strategic marketing support. Hackett Brand Consulting has led marketing for Fortune 50 enterprises, international organizations, national franchise brands, and emerging concepts alike. 

Marketing & Promotions, Outside Insights, Story