February 18, 2015 |

6 Steps to Building a Chef or “Pizzapreneur” Brand

By Denise Greer


Post, Karen photo copy

Karen Post is the author of “Brand Turnaround” and “Brain Tattoos (brandingdiva.com).

By Karen Post

Today, having a strong and distinct brand can be the difference in any category. A strong brand makes the buying choice easy for the customer, because consumers will know what your business stands for and what to expect when they decide to spend money with you.

Companies, service providers and product makers in all industries know this and invest a lot of resources and time into their brand-building programs. A personal brand for a chef, wine expert, hospitality manager or for yourself, the “pizzapreneur,” can have the same positive impact and can be an important business asset.

A well-branded professional, with a persona that reflects an expert status in something related to your core business, can add more visibility and credibility as well as provide a unique distinction for your business that opens up other exciting opportunities.

Think about any high-profile food rock stars, chefs or restaurateur brands. Most enjoy some very nice benefits, such as invitations to sit on prestigious boards, make appearances in the media and onstage, or judge culinary events. They get recognized with industry awards, are cast for TV shows, score book and merchandize deals, and get exposed to many other lucrative business offers.

Coals, artisan pizza, Louisville, ky, wood stone, oven, coal-burning, coal fired, anthracite, pizzaiolo, pizza makerHere’s the cool part: Being a strong professional foodie, chef or restaurateur brand is not limited to people who were trained at a top culinary school or earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry, like famed Houston chef Robert Del Grande.You can be an expert and be self-taught, or have gotten your finest epicurean skills from your mother’s kitchen.

Rather, being a strong personal brand takes some discipline, creativity and being comfortable with a little self-promotion.

A chef, pizzapreneur or any kind of hospitality leadership brand is no different than any product or company brand. All earn their status by being visible, earning endorsements from other tastemakers, and doing interesting things that the public cares about or wants to associate with. In the process, they stand out from their pack of competitors.

Here’s what happens when a strong personal brand is established:

  • Customers, co-branding partners and great employees gravitate to the star power and persona of professional experts. A strong personal brand acts like a magnet for all kinds of good things.
  • The well-branded person becomes a worthy reason the media will talk about them, feature their restaurants and give them ongoing publicity opportunities to help a business’ visibility.
  • Beyond your established restaurant brand and online footprint, a strong personal brand presents you with new social media channels to reach and engage customers and prospects.

Cane Rosso, Dallas, TX

Here are simple 6 steps to cook up a strong personal brand.

Whether this personal brand plan is for your chef, your sommelier or you, the pizzapreneur, each step below applies.

1) Get clear on professional goals.
Where do you want to be in five years? Do you want a local, regional, national or international presence?

2) Define who you need to connect with and impress.
Identify and prioritize your key influencers. Are they journalists, industry leaders, socialites, bloggers or other foodie personal brands.

3) Define the chef’s or owner’s brand essence.

  • What are they an expert in?
    Food/pizza/wine/cocktails, service or business?
  • How are they unique?
    Is it their name, look, background or style unique or interesting?
  • What’s their personality?
    Select 3 – 4 strong personality traits like: stylish, proper, fun, sexy or creative.
  • What’s their story?
    Passions beyond food, their professional timeline, and milestones they’ve achieved?

The answers to these questions should be reflected in their communications and touch points with the target audiences.

4) Next, identify the strongest channels to reach the most people in your target audience and create a working plan to connect with them.

  • Is this through public appearances at high-profile charity or culinary events?
  • Is it getting involved with industry or community boards or committees?
  • Is it doing media interviews?
  • Is it through social media platforms?
  • Is it by being a speaker on topics related to your expertise?
  • Is it by partnering or co-branding with vendors or a supplier in some fashion?
  • Is it by writing a book or creating an online collection of recipes as part of your strategy?
  • Is it by doing a reality TV show
  • Is it by authoring a blog or doing podcast?

2012 May: Il Pizzaiolo: Pizza Rock5) Now assemble and use “on-brand” tools.

  • Get a professional photo.
  • Write a short and long bio.
  • Establish the best social media accounts with branded visuals and content.
  • Make a list of topics you can speak or write on.
  • Have a business card for the chef or professional being branded.
  • Wear a consistent and unique uniform or styled look that the public remembers.

6) Protect the brands you invest in.
If you are going to invest heavily in branding someone other than you, I recommend you address public communications policies just in case they decide to leave. Also, make sure your chef or other “star” has the right communications skills to be a public figure. If you doubt this, get professional training on media appearances and speaking before you start showcasing them.

Leverage the star power in your business.
Whether it’s you or a team member, personal brands can be worth extra money in the bank.

If it’s brand YOU, think about what being a pizzapreneur means to you. And don’t forget why you were passionate about pizza or entrepreneurship in the first place. Take those ideas, aspirations and goals and turn them into a strong brand!

Hear Karen Post speak about personal branding at the Pizza Expo on Tuesday, March 24, at 2:30 p.m. She will give seminars on other branding topics as well on Monday and Tuesday morning. Karen is the author of “Brand Turnaround” and “Brain Tattoos. Find her at brandingdiva.com.

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