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Tonight, I realized that no restaurant so far has really wowed me with a marketing brand of some sort when I left the restaurant. (You can check out a previous post to read about a restaurant that did leave me with a less than stellar impression.) Sure, I’ve gotten macaroons and jellies at the table after dinner, but I never received something creative to take home with me. Muffins might get points, but they’re uncreative–and usually stale a few days later. So I’ve begun to wonder how a restaurant business can emphasize their brand with a patron beyond the quality of the dining experience, which, I admit, leaves its own impression. If you’re a low end restaurant, this isn’t as important. I don’t mind the unbranded Chinese food container that’s sitting in my fridge. It only costs $20 for two people to eat there. But even Chinese take-out often leaves you with a menu you can tuck in a drawer next to the phone. If you’re a high end restaurant, though, I want to feel good about the $200 I just spent on dinner. China Millman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talks about small touches restaurants can use to create leftovers that make that sort of lasting impression. One such small touch, she notes, is a restaurant that places leftover boxes in “attractive brown paper shopping bags emblazed with the name of the restaurant.” She points out bags like this can be reused while providing free brand advertising. This makes them both creative and useful. Ideally, I believe these “small touches” should be just that: creative and useful. But if they aren’t creative and useful, they should at least be one or the other. Another food critic–S. Irene Virbila–for the Los Angeles Times writes about her most memorable meals. When describing one restaurant “in a greenhouse with a dirt floor . . . flowering plants and eccentric objets,” she would have loved to have left with a glass cloche for her garden. Now how could a restaurant use that sort of desire to further their brand? Have you been to a restaurant and walked away with a useful or creative favor that gave you a positive, lasting impression? What kind of useful or creative things can high end restaurant businesses do to establish their marketing brand with their patrons even after the last course?

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