Food as Culture: Building a Brand Experience in the F&B Industry

Branding & Culture

Your brand is your culture, your culture is your brand.”

– Bill Taylor, founder of Fast Company


  • What makes your restaurant special?

  • How can your wine brand stand out in a crowded market?

  • Why is your bar different from its competitors?


Branding a food business has nothing to do with logos and graphics – it’s all about building a unique culture that caters to a distinctive community by appealing to their desires and lifestyle.

F&B branding comes down to the customer’s experience, from the moment they look you up online to the review they leave on TripAdvisor. As a food business owner, your job is to deliver a memorable customer experience so people talk about you and end up coming back.

But how do you get people to engage with your brand? To begin, you need to build a strong and unique brand culture. From small local restaurants to multinational franchises, a remarkable culture will attract not only more people but the right people, whether they are customers or employees.


Brand = Culture

Cultures are built organically by communities mainly to distinguish one group from another. A brand tends to function like a micro-community, where like-minded people are connected by its culture. Think of Harley Davidson, a brand with such a distinctive subculture it inspires deep lifelong loyalty from its riders because it resonates with their ‘tough guy’ identity.

No matter who is a part of your brand, the customers or your staff, they all associate themselves with you because they like the brand. Period. Define your audience and understand their lifestyle so you could give them what they most desire and crave. For instance, Whole Foods changed the supermarket game by giving their customers what they truly wanted. The audience did not need to know what the products are but how to use them. WF mixed lifestyle with tips on how food can be paired with certain wines or quick meals. This catapulted Whole Foods into global fame. Give the audience what they want – its that simple.

Speaking of audience, your employees are a part of that segment. Their own personality and character would have an impact on your company’s culture. They must understand your missions and values to continuously build a thriving brand culture. Employees are more likely to connect to your workplace culture if they understand why it matters to them – so make sure you take the time to explain why your brand culture is important and how it affects them.


Culture = Community

Brand culture is what HR magazine calls that “unique blend of psychology, ideas, attitudes and beliefs informing brand behaviour, influencing brand experience, and ultimately shaping brand reputation” – basically, the story of your company and how your team members engage with and live it out in their daily work life. It ensures that employees share the company’s vision – an authenticity which will in turn draw customers and secure buy-in.

Once you start seeing your community as a micro-nation, you can begin to build a culture that manifests itself in specific behaviors, attitudes and rituals. The best way to do this is to gain a deep understanding of your people.

For example, Nespresso understood that Nescafe customers didn’t necessarily appreciate fine coffee, seeing instant coffee as a dose of caffeine rather than an enjoyable beverage. They decided to create a new product line that offered higher quality coffee to people who enjoyed fine coffee and were attracted to great design, which was where the Nespresso era began. This is just one example of how your audience can not only define your business culture, values and attitude but also drive you to create new profitable product lines.


Community = Equity

Brand equity means money. And equity is mainly gained through strong brand recognition that is built upon consistency. To elevate your brand’s social status and market value, your brand needs to be aligned from your graphics and photography to your packaging, interiors and customer service. Whether or not your organization has deliberately defined and shaped its internal culture, it is influencing your organisation’s success right now. Your values, how you do things, and your beliefs define your organization and must be implemented in every part of your company.

McDonalds, for example, reflects a happy, colorful and upbeat atmosphere in their brand – from the outlet’s designs to the staff’s behavior to the food packaging, their identity is seen and felt across all platforms to provide a consistent experience for all. No matter which McDonalds you go to, the experience is the same in every single branch. That’s what makes it one of the most powerful brands in the world.

Find what makes your organization unique, cultivate it and celebrate it. People can usually tell whether you are putting on an act or being genuine. Help your employees understand your business’s unique story and make it their own.



We at Blackink focus on building strong brand cultures through a highly strategic process.

To learn more about how we can help you develop your unique brand voice, drop us a call at +961 1 426701.