Ever since Datz’s opening in 2009, it has been a revolving door of invention and reinvention. In its current state, Datz is comfort food with flair. A craft beer oasis, a bourbon lover’s paradise, a foodie wonderland filled with bacon, cheese, and house-made bread. Frequently featured on Good Morning America and previously appeared on Travel Channel, Food Network, Cooking Channel and FYI. With over 23K followers on Instagram alone, it seems as though Datz has the secret to branding down pat.

We linked up with the Datz Restaurant Group to get the scoop on all things branding – the do’s and don’t’s, how to maintain consistency and social media.

How has your branding changed since Datz initially opened?

When we first opened back in 2009, Datz was a deli concept loosely based on the Zingerman’s model in Ann Arbor, MI. Think fast casual, counter service; quirky, hand-drawn illustrations; rhymes and alliteration. I think the only thing we kept was the color palette, marquee, and attitude.

Currently, high-quality photography anchors our brand, but we layer in playful type treatments, pop culture references, and of-the-moment trends. Our marquee is almost legendary, but it’s a labor of love. The ideas and sayings come from all of our staff. It’s almost always a nod to some trending topic, whether that’s Reddit, Twitter or memes.

The truth is, we never take ourselves too seriously. And we never get so married to an idea that we can’t leave it behind. The only constant around here is change.

Will your second location have a similar style?

Of course! In fact, as we get closer, we are going to take some time to revamp the overall branding. With one restaurant, we were able to take liberties with the brand message because it was so malleable. But we recognize that we need to get have a cohesive brand package. You’ll still see the orange-white Datz logo, playful font packages, and of-the-moment trends – part of what people love about Datz is that its 10 years old, but it always feels new. That said, St. Pete, Florida has its own vibe. It’s very different than South Tampa, so we want to address that. That will organically show up in the staff, as we pull from the local community, but it could show up in uniforms, decor and, of course, another marquee.

Where do you think some restaurants go wrong with branding?

In my personal opinion, I think that corporate offices can be too slow to respond. They get married to their brand and aren’t willing to change – even when the market demands it.

For example, when Datz first opened, we were counter service. Within two weeks, we knew for a fact that wasn’t going to work, so we literally shut the doors and reconfigured the restaurant to be full service. I don’t think we would have survived if we didn’t listen to what the community was saying.

I also think that many restaurants don’t tackle trends quickly enough, and by that, I mean social media trends. How we reach guests today is totally different than how we found customers in 2009. But there are hundreds of restaurants out there using a Y2K playbook. It just doesn’t work.

You have to go where your customers are, even if it’s uncomfortable for you.

How do you maintain consistency with your branding?

We anchor our brand with high-quality photography and then layer in playfulness. But the visual always carries the story. That’s true in print and online. Even though social media is shifting from static images to moving images, we are investing heavily in the quality of our visual message. And the fact that we are always staying on trend, reacting to pop culture in real time. Hello, Amazon Warrior “Wonder Woman” inspired burger. And our own riff on Game of Thrones. It’s become a game to see what Datz is going to say about the newest trend, and that allows us to stay in the moment. It’s consistently inconsistent.

How much of a role does social media play in your branding?

We consider social media our voice. It’s the place where we develop ideas, let our personalities shine and communicate with our tribe. With 100K followers, it’s safe to say that social media is really our primary branding initiative. However, we never say no to media inquiries.

Television, radio, print; bloggers, YouTubers, story artists. If there’s a platform that people are paying attention to, we want to be on it.

When is Datz 2 opening and what can we expect?

We’re shooting for Spring 2018. We don’t want to give too much away from you can expect it to be big and buzz-worthy.


About the Author

Jenna Rimensnyder is a staff writer and content specialist for Entrepreneurial Chef, having studied Journalism, Media, Food Writing & Photography from the University of South Florida. She combines her love of writing and passion for food to capture stories of inspirational food entrepreneurs and spread across the web. Follow along at JennaRimensnyder.Com.


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