We sit down with Steves&Co. to chat all things brand experience and capture a glimpse inside their approach and recipe for restaurant success
How did Steves&Co become a specialist in creating brand experiences for restaurants? How did you get started in the field and evolve into the leading agency?
The restaurant industry is a very special arena to create brand experiences which connects with multitudes of people on a daily basis. There are so many elements and therefore limitless potential for creativity and innovation. The challenge that comes with this of course, is standout and consistency – creating standout in a market that can be implemented across all touchpoints with longevity, in a landscape often saturated with similar offerings and positioning.
Our ability to identify our client’s USPs and existing equity, and transform it into an original, robust and compelling brand, is really what drove our evolution into a leading agency in this field.
In terms of how we got started, it happened very organically. The set of early clients that engaged with the agency happened to be a restaurant and supermarket group, and then it was a domino effect; with one client referral to another, we kept growing year on year.
How does Steves&Co. approach creating a brand from scratch? What are the key considerations you take into account?
Our approach is quite distinctive. For us it’s paramount to first develop an in-depth understanding of our client’s objectives and vision for the concept – the offering, the personality, tone of voice and desired positioning in the market to be achieved. We then establish a clear definition of these characteristics and use them to guide and inform each subsequent phase of the process.
This includes how the brand is represented in every touchpoint, from the menus and interiors down to the website design, communication elements and channels. How does the brand speak to its audiences correctly and apply its tone to different scenarios?
These are all key parts and considerations in our process that allow us to create an authentic concept and brand experience that is captivating for all stakeholders and importantly, the intended target audiences.
Branding Design for Barbajean
You have a noteworthy number of popular restaurants in your portfolio now. Are there any that stand out, and what made their launch successful?
Each project, no matter the scope, genuinely excites us from the outset which is precisely why we undertake the projects that we do.
There is a common denominator with the brands we’ve worked with that enjoy long term success during and beyond the launch phase: The courage and open mindset of their stakeholders in implementing the bold strategies we advised.
Caffe Cordina is certainly one of these. As the oldest Maltese F&B business in operation since 1837, it is an institution, resonating across generations. The family took a bold step forward in taking our recommendation to rebrand, also reinventing their logo (family’s coat of arms) into a crest specifically for the historic cafeteria. The research undertaken by our team to execute this was both sensitive and significant. We sculpted our approach to ensure we got this project right as we did not want to disturb the giant’s success.
This was not dissimilar to the delicate approach we applied to the rebranding and repositioning of The Avenue, another iconic Maltese favourite. Challenge to protect authenticity and success whilst reflecting the new look and experience
Among our recent notable projects, we were commissioned to create a distinctive brand identity and name for a new world-cuisine restaurant located at The Quad, which we named Mondo. Our innovative communication strategy was designed to effectively appeal to diverse audiences, catering to a wide range of patrons with varying tastes and preferences.
Another centrepiece in our portfolio is Barbajean, who engaged us following the success we had in Dingli for Diar il-Bniet in 2014. We set out to again create a concept with the pulling power to attract foot traffic to a location that is not typically frequented by passers-by. The name we crafted for Barbajean for example, was the first building block of this project.
Finally, one must also mention our achievement in drawing in the ideal premium target audience for Beefbar, the lifestyle concept that originated in Monaco and which turned out to be such a success, that a second location was established at The Phoenicia Malta.
If you had to write a recipe for a successful restaurant, what would be the ingredients?
Dream question! Let’s start with the exterior and interior design of a restaurant. They give the customer tangible clues about the vibe, ambiance and service they can expect to receive. The design has to be aligned with the offering.
During service, the restaurant is like a theatre stage. The staff are actors and they need to know the script and understand the objective of the plot. From their uniforms and body language (formal/informal) to menus, music and lighting. This must all emulate the brand personality, and this can be established through brand guidelines.
A mix of great dishes is of course vital. We could go on forever! Our final tip would be to pay special consideration to the layout. Don’t underestimate the impact this has on the customer’s comfortability. How close are the tables, how are the sections defined? A welcoming pod and space is non-negotiable as it controls the first interaction and sets the tone for the rest of the experience.
The New Avenue Logo
Caffe Cordina's Crest
Food Packaging Design for Healthy Leaf
What are some of the biggest challenges facing new and current players in the hospitality and catering industry today, and how do you take these into account when creating brand experiences?
One of the biggest challenges facing operators is standing out in a crowded market. With numerous restaurants and concepts opening each year, it can be difficult for new brands to make an impact and attract customers. This is where having a strong brand identity becomes crucial.
As brand creators, we understand that a compelling brand story and a memorable name can help new restaurants differentiate themselves from the competition and create a lasting impression on potential customers.
Our approach to brand experience creation is therefore centred around developing a unique identity for each new concept, helping our clients to establish a strong and memorable brand that resonates with their target audience. By taking these challenges into account and developing a brand experience that truly stands out, we help our clients achieve success in this highly competitive space.
Steves&Co is an independent, full service branding and marketing agency with over a decade of experience in Malta and Europe, across strategy, branding, design, technology and web development.