Being in the restaurant business has a lot to do with creating an experience you want your customers to have.

“Brand is the perception of your business to customers, so when it comes to branding, it’s about how you control that perception,” says Leslie Pave, BusinessBlocks coach and consumer marketing expert with more than 20 years of experience helping restaurant, food & beverage and lifestyle brands. “The restaurant owner should start by asking him or herself – How do I want my customers to see my business and what can I do to create that for them?”

For example, if you’re looking to open up a French restaurant in your neighborhood, you’ll want to set the stage for your customers in several ways. One way can be by serving authentic French cuisine prepared by a classically trained chef, and another by creating a unique atmosphere with the interior and exterior design to prompt customers to feel like they’re having lunch at a Parisian cafe in France.

Customers also experience your restaurant long before they walk in the door through your website and social media presence.

What’s the look and feel you’re trying to convey about your restaurant through your website? Photography plays a huge part in making your restaurant look inviting online and helps you achieve the perception you want customers to have about the dining experience.

Look for other things to capture to show your customers. You can’t always rely on the food to do the work. People are looking for the entire experience.

Create areas around your restaurant where people can take photos with an attractive background and ambiance as they celebrate their special occasions.

Be intentional about clearly highlighting the special attributes on your homepage to give customers the quick information they’re looking for. For example, you can do this by specifically calling out that you’re a farm-to-table or healthy Italian restaurant. Or does your restaurant have an extensive American Bourbon collection at fireside bar, maybe you even have the best happy hour in town? Some things you can show with images, other you need to say quickly, clearly and repeatedly.

Next, consider ways the customer can take their experience home with them, and thus be reminded of your restaurant after they leave.

You could publish and sell a cookbook of your best selling recipes; sell hard-to-find ingredients that you use at your restaurant; sell grab-and-go items, like signature desserts, to be enjoyed days later; or even your own secret sauce or spice blend.

As a restaurant owner and marketer, are you portraying what you want to show your customers? If they’re expecting an experience but they’re not getting it when they walk in the door, they probably won’t come back.

Continuously clarify who you are as a business and continuously project that image through your marketing and branding efforts.