A good restaurant name is many things, chief among them: memorable, simple, searchable and relevant.
Choose a name that stands apart
“Every business needs to consider a brand — name, logo, slogan, colors, etc. — that connects with the intended audience and stands out from the crowd,” said Kyle Golding, CEO and Chief Strategic Idealist at business consulting firm The Golding Group.
“The most important part of marketing a restaurant is drawing the right customer, someone who will appreciate what you do and how you do it, along with differentiating your product or service from the competition. A well-crafted name can be a big part of these efforts.”
Let customers know what to expect
“Restaurants do really well when part of their name lets you know what type of food they have or what type or style of restaurant is it,” said Golding. Think “Shake Shack” or “In-N-Out Burger.”“Any good branding needs to paint a picture of what it is before you arrive, not only the type and style of food but other expectations such as cost, service, speed, etc.”That doesn’t mean a name like “Speedy Pizza” is the ideal. There are, after all, plenty of quick-serve pizza places. The name should be “universally recognized but specific to you,” said Golding.Take the name “Chipotle” for example. “It doesn’t say ‘burrito,’ but it has the connotation that it’s Hispanic and a little different from Taco Bell, Taco Bueno, etc.,” said Golding.To arrive at that sweet spot, Golding advised, “Start at opposite ends of the spectrum and work toward the center as a compromise.”The name can also give clues about the overall vibe. When creating the name for a new restaurant and bar in downtown Oklahoma City, the Golding Group arrived at “The Manhattan,” after the drink of the same name. “It fits the style of establishment we’re trying to create — classic but comfortable, familiar but not old-fashioned.”
Adding a word such as “café” “or “restaurant” or the acronym for your city could also work, noted Golding. For example, since “TheManhattan.com” was taken, The Golding Group went with “TheManhattanOKC.com.”
“Now people are so comfortable with URLs that you can go with a little bit longer URL if you need to,” said Golding.
“Any business name should be able to stand the test of time, still be relevant and attractive 5, 10 and 25 years from now,” said Golding. If in the 1980s you named your restaurant “Miami Vice Sandwich Shop,” that name “wouldn’t make any sense today.”
Tempted to use an emoticon or emoji as part of the name? Don’t go there, said Golding.
Make sure it translates to merchandise
Consider that someday you may want your restaurant or café name on napkins or on brand extensions such as T-shirts, mugs, cookbooks or food products. How well will the name you have in mind work?
Names that are very long or rely on punctuation may not play out well on products, said Golding. If the name is based on a color, such as in “Red Café,” know that “there may be times you have to print that in black and white.”
Hire a lawyer to run a national trademark search. “When you apply for your business license with your city and state, that should be part of that process, but that will only cover your state,” said Golding. “If you want to do a national search you’ll want to consult an attorney that does that. The cost is going to be less than $2,000 for a total search and protection service from most reputable attorneys, and in the long run it’s probably worth it. You’ll spend more than that on the signs you’ll put out front, so you don’t want to take them down and start over.”