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When to Rebrand in Foodservice

When to Rebrand in Foodservice

As the foodservice business continues to face disruption, brands may need to reposition themselves to fight for relevance. Here are five factors to consider.

As a foodservice brand manager or marketing executive, you have a keen sense for the enhanced sales power a rebrand can wield. A forward vision – looking beyond what is to what could be – propels your decisions. Yet any seasoned marketer needs clear signs that a change is warranted before embarking on a rebrand and rallying internal teams.

Fortunately, there are key factors you can evaluate to make that decision clearer.

Be the change.

Why rebrand at all? Simply put – to keep up and set the stage to attract customers.

Transformation is a constant in foodservice. It rises at the restaurant level from ingredient- and culture-savvy customers and sends ripples to the chef-operator, foodservice distributor, and manufacturer. Players at every level are constantly deciding whether to get washed away, rise to new challenges, or create new waves of their own.

Subway’s recent “Eat Fresh Refresh” is the brand’s largest menu update in history. It is closely tied to a multi-year brand refresh with massive supply chain ramifications.

Even Sweetgreen, a trendy newcomer by comparison, has unveiled a fresh brand identity and marketing overhaul with the mission to “re-imagine what the fast-food industry looks like in the years to come.” Details like custom typefaces – named SweetSans and Grenette – and a “kale” green brandmark background are points that comprise a “flexible, sustainable design system that both reflects the culture of local communities and works at scale.”

NK Blog Rebrand Sweetgreens

The scale and impact of a rebrand can be highly customized. At the most basic level, rebranding involves creating a new visual and/or verbal identity with the intention of communicating a different message to key audiences. At its best, a rebranding allows foodservice brands to reach new audiences and leverage deeper operator trust to dramatically increase sales.

Time for a rebrand? Consider this.

If any of the following five factors ring true, it could be time to reimagine your brand image and messaging.


1. Your brand blends into the crowd.

When industries change and evolve, brands may start to adopt each other’s traits subconsciously at times. This results in brands with little to no differentiation – and little room to stand out.

On the flip side, it’s important to resist the urge to rebrand simply because your main competitor or the industry leader has rebranded. This may come across as inauthentic and cause the brand to lose credibility. Instead, dive deeper into the following considerations 2 through 5.

2. Your current identity lacks cohesion or equity.

Every legacy brand comes with an origin story. Often you find interwoven threads of emotion from those involved with its creation at the first sign of a tug. Yet, even if well-loved internally, a legacy brand may not have been built with the level of intention that holds up in market.

For example, a logo may lack a true visual identity. This creates opportunity to not only reframe the visual identity, but to build a deeper story and messaging strategy that can rally an entire organization and its target audiences.

Or perhaps as a result of turnover or other organizational change, a brand presence has become disjointed or poorly documented. It happens. In this situation, a reset rather than a rebrand may do the trick. A reset is an opportunity to solidify key messages, clean up logo files, document brand standards, build atomized design systems for flawless execution, and streamline other key brand elements.

3. Internal alignment could use tightening.

From a corporate or distributor perspective, rebranding is often the perfect opportunity to rally the internal team around the core values and vision inherent in the brand and provide key talking points for sales connections in the field.

A well-run rebranding process also provides invaluable opportunity to hear directly from sales reps and customers to gain buy-in early on. The refreshed identity and messaging platform can serve as a direct reflection of what company leadership and key internal and external stakeholders believe to be true about the organization and how it serves its customers.

4. Your brand may be emitting unintended meaning.

Pursuing a new market on an international scale is clearly time to evaluate how audiences in those geographic regions perceive your brand. A rebranding effort can help ensure you are sending the right message without inadvertently causing offense. Similarly, it pays for any brand to look closer to home as well. Any brand that causes cultural offense when viewed with a lens of inclusivity is a green light for a rebrand, as in the high-profile cases of the brands formerly known as Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima.

NK Blog Rebrand Ben

5. There are greener pastures beyond your door.

Another key reason for considering a rebrand is when you seek to attract a new audience. Like we said earlier, the foodservice landscape is constantly evolving – as are the operators running it and the pain points they’re looking to solve. Operators themselves may need to adapt their brands to better connect with a younger audience that has higher ingredient scrutiny and higher sustainability standards.

The balance here is to execute a rebrand that still resonates with the existing customer base and grows the brand in a direction that will meet future demand.


Every brand carries myriad meaning and warrants abundant consideration before rebranding. Evaluating the five factors outlined here can help foodservice marketers clarify their vision and rally around future-oriented growth.

Posted in: Thoughts
Tags: design
July 21, 2021

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