More so than in any other industry, most food & beverage start-up businesses are created out of pure passion (a love of food in general, a famous family dish that deserves wider recognition, a vision to change peoples eating habits etc.), and most F&B entrepreneurs – whether consciously or not – have an intrinsic set of values and a purpose to how they plan on executing their business plan. However, again perhaps more so than in any other industry, it’s surprising how many F&B entrepreneurs have failed to see the potential of this passion (why they get out of bed in the morning) as a set of decision making principles. Principles that not only drive them, but can help develop their brand’s internal culture, enabling the business to scale, and ultimately allowing their team to deliver a consistent brand experience that will pave the way to consumer brand loyalty.

Feeling vs formalizing

Many entrepreneurs rely on their passion to be automatically understood and replicated in their staff, and understood by their customers. Of course passion in itself can be infectious, however, let’s be honest, staff are most likely there to earn a wage (at least in the beginning), so there is huge missed potential by keeping this passion locked up inside one person. ‘Why F&B entrepreneurs get out of bed in the morning’ can become a force for change in the organization when it is formalized (i.e. written down) into a set of decision making principles, in other words, what starts off as an individual’s purpose becomes a ‘brand purpose’.

What is a brand purpose?

A Brand Purpose isn’t a fancy marketing term reserved only for large corporations. It applies to start-ups perhaps even more – we all know how easy it is to chase any and all opportunities when cashflow is tight – and this lack of focus can be devastating to smaller businesses. A Brand Purpose helps with this focus.

Why ‘Why’ matters

One of the most important building blocks of a clear Brand Purpose is the Why (or passion). It was Simon Sinek, in his now famous TED talk, that first proposed the importance of Why. His premise: You need to know why you’re in business, and talk about it. Customers buy into this motivation. In other words no one cares about your “Authentic coffee, made with the freshest organic ingredients” (The ‘What’ and the ‘How’), they can find fresh ingredients and authenticity next door, or in the cheaper product next to yours on the shelf. But they do care why these things are important to you. By formalizing the passion of the business founder, it brings the brand purpose out of founder’s head and makes it clear to the team. Once it’s clear to the team, and when they can bring it to life, it can be easily understood and felt by the customer. What started as passion therefore becomes a set of decision making principles that effect brand culture and customer experience.

Your customer experience is your brand

In the food business – especially for start-ups with little to no brand value – logos and graphics are not ‘branding’, F&B products and restaurants are experience products, simply put, it is difficult for a consumer to judge the quality, or whether or not they will like an F&B product, until they have tasted and ‘experienced’ it. Of course, don’t underestimate the power of an attractive logo and cool graphics, or some instagrammable coffee art to provide an initial attraction, but these consist only a small part of the overall brand experience, and it is the experience that will keep customers coming back for more, enabling you to obtain the holy grail for any brand, loyalty.

Brand experience is built on culture

Brand experience is a complex thing to understand, let alone manage effectively and consistently. As the brand grows, the experience is delivered through a growing number of consumer touch points, it can be an exhausting proposition for a founder to manage personally. Leaders of any business simply cannot be there all the time to deliver the experience with their style and enthusiasm. If the business is to scale, you need to rely on others to deliver it consistently, and in order for the team to deliver the brand experience with the same zeal, they need to feel part of the brand’s culture. Brands should aim to hire people that are aligned to this culture through shared values. During the hiring process, by formalizing the brand’s purpose as a set of decision making principles, you are ensuring that potential team members are aligned to that purpose too, therefore they believe in, and become ambassadors of the brand (Apple, Nike and Starbucks are all great examples of this). Without taking the time to grow this culture through the application of the founders passion, the rest of the team – from marketing managers to front of house staff – are still focused on selling the What and the How of the business, in other words they are are unsure Why they are doing what they are doing (or what they are told to do), and of course, this is then translated directly to the consumer. And remember, the consumer buys the Why. In Shanghai on September 13th, Thread is holding workshop to help F&B start ups uncover and formalize their purpose, if you would like to get involved scan the QR code below, or get in touch to see how Thread can help make your passion tangible.