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The name game: How to find the right name for your restaurant

By Emma Eversham+ , 10-Mar-2016
Last updated on 14-Mar-2016 at 11:36 GMT2016-03-14T11:36:57Z

Drawing a blank when it comes to naming your restaurant or new concept? Follow our five-step guide for inspiration
Drawing a blank when it comes to naming your restaurant or new concept? Follow our five-step guide for inspiration

You have secured a business loan, found the perfect site and decided on the style of food you’ll serve. Now comes the tricky part: what do you call your restaurant?   

The growth of the restaurant market has led to the creation of more concepts than ever, so the need to find a brand name that will not only describe what you’re about but will stand out in a competitive market has become an essential part of the business plan.  

As Zara Weller, business development manager at branding agency Design Clarity says your business name is the first point of contact for customers so it is important to take the time to find the right one.

But how do you go about it? If you’re struggling to come up with a name for your new concept, or spin-off, follow our top tips and see how existing restaurant operators chose their miraculous monikers.

Five tips to finding the right name for your restaurant: 

What makes you so special?

When Weller, whose company regularly helps restaurateurs create branding, is asked to come up with a name, she asks her client to tell her what is unique or special about their concept to help define what they are about “We gather as much insight as possible, understanding what their motivations are and why they have a niche,” she says. “We then research the sector intensely and put ourselves in the mind-set of their target audience and brand.” 

Take inspiration from your surroundings

Often the location chosen for a business can help guide the name. Think Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 in Padstow, the number of the townhouse it is situated within or Richard Bainbridge’s restaurant Benedict’s, named after the Norwich street it stands on. If the building has a strong historical link, use it as inspiration, although be aware it may confuse customers if they aren't aware of the link and if expansion is part of your long-term plan, question whether the name will travel and still make sense. 

"As long as the interiors complement the brand and the customer ‘gets it’ then they are on the right track. Sometimes a name wouldn’t suit the location so it’s very important to have a good grasp of who their locals and passersby are and if it makes sense to them," advises Weller. 

Keep it short and easy to understand

The trouble with coming up with a name that underlines your uniqueness is that you can end up with a full sentence.  Shorter, snappier names of three words or less tend to work best and will be most memorable, so whittle it down if you can.

“The name needs to be honest to the reason they are setting up the business and it needs to be easy for everyone to understand. It also needs to be easy to say and not too long,” says Weller 

Single word names sound confident like ‘Dishoom’ and ‘Murano’,” she adds “More than three words turns it into a rambling sentence that can’t make a point. Clear, simple and honest are my tips for a good name.” 

Check it isn’t in use already

Last year South London-based pub group Three Cheers Pub Company changed its name from its original – Renaissance Pubs – following a trademark dispute with another company in the sector.

The company was forced to change its name, which co-founder Nick Fox said was used as opportunity to review the entire business, but nevertheless a name change had cost implications. 

You can check if a business name has already been trademarked through the Intellectual Property Office. If it hasn’t you can trademark your own business name there too for a small fee and ensure it doesn’t get used by someone else at a later stage. 

Find out more about trademarking a name here .

Test it out

As Weller says, a name needs to be easy to say, so get a few people to say it out loud and give their thoughts. Operators who use branding agencies will have had the chosen name seen by numerous individuals, but if you’re doing it alone you won’t.

A name with multiple pronunciations can sometimes work in your favour as it can stir up debate among your customers. Indeed, Mexican grill restaurant Chipotle and Vietnamese restaurant group Pho both ran fun marketing campaigns around the correct pronunciation of their names, but only after they had been in the business for some time. 

Is it scaleable? 

If expansion is part of your business plan, particularly into markets outside the UK, check the meaning in those countries you may want to take your concept to. Bear in mind 

“A business needs to think about how it translates in other languages and cultures and make sure it’s a name for everyone everywhere,” adds Weller. 

How we chose our names

BigHospitality spoke to three restaurant operators to find out how they came up with their business names: 

Giggling Squid

Thai restaurant chain Giggling Squid has 14 sites across the UK. Co-founder and owner Andy Laurillard said choosing the name for their restaurant brand came naturally. 

"Our first restaurant originally had a generic Thai name but we knew we wanted something that was more accessible," he says. 

"One evening, we were up later than usual with one of our children. Our son, Henry, was two years old and whimpering and crying on my wife’s lap - wriggling around like a squid/fish. My wife joked to me that our son looked like a crying squid, and started teasing Henry: “can you giggle you little squid?” Suddenly we both looked at each other and both thought at exactly the same time that ‘Giggling Squid’ would be a great restaurant name. It was decided that that would be it!"

So confident were Laurillard and wife Pranee that Giggling Squid would work, they rebranded their first restaurant when launching their second in 2009 and haven't looked back. 

"It turned out to be a great choice," says Andy. "We saw sales double at our second site. The menus at the two restaurants were identical so the uplift was down to the transition from a generic Thai to a branded proposition. The name proved to be worth an awful lot, so we rebranded the original one. Giggling Squid started spreading its tentacles across the country." 

"Giggling Squid doesn’t mean anything but there’s a light-heartedness to it that is synonymous with us and our brand. Not fun or childish (that would be too much) but we have a good sense of humour and that wittiness translates through to a quirky playfulness that is apparent in the name and logo. Giggling Squid doesn’t take itself too seriously." 

Hungry Donkey

Markos Tsimikalis and wife Ariel came up with the idea for the name Hungry Donkey for their Greek street-food restaurant in East London while on holiday on the island of Santorini.

“We wouldn’t have started our concept if we hadn’t found the right name," says Markos.

"We wanted one that would take you away from the cliché Greek restaurant, but wanted it to have some relationship to Greek food. We had been thinking about names on and off for about three to four months before we decided. My wife and I were in Santorini and saw donkeys going up and down the hill – my grandmother in Greece kept donkeys and I used to feed them when I was growing up - I find them quite sweet and they’re Greek, so we talked about using the word donkey for our restaurant name. We needed to associate it to food, our mantra was ‘come and eat well and leave happy’ so we came up with ‘Hungry Donkey’.

“We bounced the name off a few people and thought about how it would look. We had other names that were more serious, but we’re a casual eatery for everyone so we felt this worked the best. People like the name. We’re already looking at adding our logo to more things, like T Shirts."

Kojawan

Kojawan, the new restaurant concept which chefs Bjorn van der Horst and Omar Romero are planning to open in London next month, is fortunate in that its co-owner Henry Chebaane is also the principal of Blue Sky Hospitality a specialist branding & design studio based in London.

"Henry has a long track record of creating innovative brand names and identity concepts inspired by thorough market research and cultural narratives," says van der Horst.

Chebaane spent five weeks carrying out research and creating a name and branding before presenting to van der Horst and Romero. 

"We discussed the proposed name, its potential applications and opportunities and unanimously agreed to adopt it," says van der Horst. 

The name Kojawan is an 'imaginary name from an imaginary place' but essentially inspired by the food the restaurant will serve - a mixture of 'soul food dishes' from Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei.  

"It's a fantasy realm inspired by the far eastern side of Asia - each syllable is taken from each of the names: Ko(rea) - Ja(pan) - (Tai) wan. The three countries and their respective capital are the inspiration for the food, drinks, arts and overall styling of the business," explains van der Horst. 

"From the outset we all agreed that the name really did not matter all that much and that 'the name' would eventually appear organically through the creative process of design and concept. We were not fixated on the name but are happy with it and are all slowly falling in love with 'Kojawan'."

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