The Story Behind the Ray’s Re-Brand and Bold New Positioning

Ken Grant is a big voice in the branding community

Ken Grant is a big voice in the branding community

by Ken Grant, Motivated Branding

Rays serves the world’s best seafood, passionately prepared with extreme attention to detail, served with genuine love, and inspired by a deep connection to the water.

Imagine, through an amazing set of circumstances, you get a call from Ray’s. To many, including us, that’s like being called up to the big leagues. My team had recently completed the rebrand of some very significant Puget Sound icons and that could have helped – but when Ray’s calls, you listen.

At first, you ask yourself, what could we possibly do to help a restaurant as popular and as successful as Ray’s? With three segments to their business: Café, Boathouse and in-house & offsite Catering, Ray’s was doing well as the largest locally-owned, locally-operated, freestanding restaurant in the Northwest – impressive.

However, our research team showed us that most locals had either not been to Ray’s for three to seven years, or never at all! And yes, 50% of their business came from tourists and yes, most of their business comes in the warm, summer months. Nothing to sneeze at, but it wasn’t the best business scenario.

So the optimist looks at this and says “yes, great news, we can only go up from here” and that is just where we started.

We studied the restaurant from the inside out, asked hundreds of locals why they weren’t visiting anymore, and took a very close look at things like food, guest service and the history of (at the time) 38 years, that led to the Ray’s of today.

After studying, poking, vacillating, pondering, chatting, and more studying, we started to formulate a plan that would go far beyond ‘capturing Ray’s heyday’ or bringing back an icon. We set our sights on developing a world class restaurant that locals would line up to visit, where they would be so proud of ‘our Ray’s’ that they would be reinvigorated to visit again, and again, and again.

So what would that take? It takes focus and total commitment from owners, management and the entire team. It takes never looking back (ever), but taking a relentless, no holds barred approach to every point of the brand, never taking your past for granted and setting your sights higher than ever before! It takes courage and a total commitment to believe that something amazing can happen to your future. A commitment to the guest, to the staff, to the details, to your food and to everything in between.

Then we built a new Ray’s future around these five core brand pillars:

1: Deeply connected to the water

We believe that water is a natural starting point for the aesthetic in food, décor, and even service, which should be fluid and flowing.

2: Make Rayʼs number one: building a culture of achievement

We respect our past, however, we know we are only as good as our last 10 minutes. We are committed to doing what ever it takes to make Ray’s great!

3: Transcendent seafood experience

At the center of the dining experience is sustainable global seafood with a Northwest spin, prepared with a distinct and unified style inspired by the connection to the water.

4: Gold-standard service

We look at everything through a lens of precision—taking care of little details before customers even think of them. Youʼll know we are the best because we demonstrate that we are the best each and every minute of the day.

5: Forward-looking

We have loosened our grip on the idea that we are simply a Seattle icon. An icon tends to be something that never changes and is stuck in the past. Locals don’t want to visit an icon, they want to visit an amazing restaurant.

With the new brand in place and training complete, we needed to bring our strategy and findings to life. We chose a great architectural firm in Mallet Inc. As you will see when you visit the Boathouse, Mallet has developed the look and feel of excitement, energy, creativity and elegance – they have developed a beautiful setting that puts Ray’s back on the map like never before.

This was a team effort and we have never seen people work so hard to build a future while honoring the past, while not dragging the past into the future. Hats off to the Ray’s team – all 175 of them for believing. Believing in a future that had not yet been written, until now.

Ken Grant is the founder of MotivatedBranding and successfully helps companies and/or employees better connect to their brands, while motivating them to truly achieve their goals and aspirations.

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