What’s in a Name? Considerations for Food & Beverage Brand Success

Everything is in a name! Choosing a name for your restaurant or food-based concept is a critical step in the branding process, as it immediately sets an image of the concept, what your target demographic, customer or guest might expect to find, and the type of guest you may attract.

A strong, successful business name defines your concept for the media, for attracting new business, and for potential investors down the road if a capital raise is necessary.

In counseling clients regularly on the development of restaurant concepts and for all types and varieties of questions, from launching a concept, to menus, to design, and to operational systems, we know that deciding upon a moniker for a restaurant is one of (it not the) toughest tasks to tackle in opening a food service or hospitality concept.

But trust us, it can be done successfully, and painlessly. The naming process should be fun and enjoyable while accomplishing a big step.

VSAG’s Director of Conceptual Projects Valerie Zweig, says that the process welcomes creativity. List as many ideas, words, concepts, and phrases as possible to have a wide range of starting points to whittle down from, combine, and rework. Think about words that play to or represent the most definitive elements of your brand and concept (i.e. the history, nostalgic elements, language, menu focus, setting, location, and similar characteristics). Once these elements are assembled, its time to get to work on a name.

Here are some of our top guidelines to help with choosing a restaurant name that will be appropriate, memorable, and designed to entice guests to come in and give you a try (and hopefully return again and again):

MAKE IT CLEAR. Yes, it may seem daunting at first to have to encapsulate your overall vision in one succinct word or phrase, but if you go into the process with the goal to make the name and the meaning really clear for patrons, it should help simplify the creative process. Bottom Line: don’t step too far outside the creative box – focused thinking yields focused results!

IT SHOULD BE DIRECTIONAL. Focus on language that is easily identifiable and conveys direction to guests. Then weave those elements throughout the restaurant. For example, if you chose a name that:

  1. Plays upon the history/location of your building, feature nostalgic photo(s) of the building/location site in its previous form and any other pertinent artifacts/information you can find (the local library or building office should be able to assist you). Create visual representation of the name.
  2. Focuses on your food specialty/region of expertise, set the tone and ambiance of the space to match the name by finding artwork or local featured artists, collectibles, colors, wines, and other elements associated with that region.
  3. Is a tribute to someone affiliated with the restaurant, place a portrait and biography of the person in your entryway and incorporate some of their favorite dishes/beverages on menus that mention the name. This creates a real story that guests may find intriguing.

EASY PRONOUNCIATION. Toss any top contenders that are difficult to pronounce or people find intimidating once you begin your reveal/focus groups. Made up words are generally not the best options.

SPELL CHECK. Make sure a name choice is uncomplicated enough for people to easily spell when searching Google, OpenTable, Yelp, etc. The last thing you want is for a guest to get frustrated when looking for your restaurant, as they’ll move on quickly.

STEER CLEAR OF TRENDS. Using a trendy name will get old fast. We promise. Aim for timeless appeal, not a fad – and, again, make it unique and more timeless in meaning.

AVAILABILITY.  Make sure the name and website domain are available. Doing your research (i.e. legalzoom.com/trademarks-restaurants) and then consulting an area lawyer is part of the process to ensuring that your name ownership won’t be in question, or worse taken from you, as you open your business and subsequently grows.

Some of the most notable, popular, successful or otherwise recognized food or beverage concept names are simple, one word formats that pack a lot into them. You never know – one day the name may just pop into your head and you’ll hit on a great one, but until then, it never hurts to have a strategic and well-thought out process to work through.