The Lowdown: name dropping

By Stefan Chomka contact

- Last updated on GMT

Casual dining brands are ditching parts of their names in a bid to breathe new life into their concepts.

Related tags: Fridays, Café rouge, Ask Italian, YO!, Frankie & Benny's, Casual dining

Casual dining brands are ditching parts of their names in a bid to breathe new life into their concepts.

How funny. I was talking about this very subject with Bono just the other day…
Very good. But we’re not talking about that kind of name-dropping but rather the current trend of established casual dining brands jettisoning part of their names in a bid to stay relevant.

So PizzaExpress is just ‘Pizza’ now?
Not yet, but give it time. More specifically we’re talking about brands such as TGI Fridays, Frankie & Benny’s, and Café Rouge, which have all shortened their names in recent times. TGIs, as it was affectionately known by some, is now called Fridays while Café Rouge recently announced that it was dropping the Café from its logo​ at its newly-renovated Haywards Heath restaurant – although it now sounds more like a lipstick colour than a restaurant. Perhaps the biggest name change has been that of Frankie & Benny’s​, which has erased any mention of Benny from its logo at its refurbished Basildon restaurant, with the brand now being called Frankie’s.

I bet Benny is none too happy with that
Had he been a real person this might have been the case, but history suggests otherwise. Restaurant folklore says that the brand takes its name from schoolfriends Frankie Giuliani and his friend Benny. In 1924, at the age of 10, Frankie’s family left Sicily and moved to Little Italy in New York to open a restaurant, which Frankie later took over in 1953 with his now best friend Benny. However, this is all just a fairy-tale of New York: the brand was actually founded in England in 1995.

I get it, I think. So why are brands doing this?
It’s all part of a marketing exercise where brands presumably think a name change will bring fresh vibrancy to a concept that is looking a little tired. “As part of our efforts to evolve the brand and deliver an excellent customer proposition, we are letting Frankie take centre stage and move the brand forward to a bright future,” says Jonathan Knight, managing director at Frankie's of its name change.

Sounds a bit far-fetched
Maybe. But don’t underestimate the impact that changing a name can have. Pepsi was originally known as Brad’s Drink, which doesn’t exactly have the gravitas of a brand looking to take on the might of Coca-Cola, and Nike was named Blue Ribbon Sports for seven years until one bright spark suggested it was renamed after the Greek goddess​ of victory. And then there’s your best mate Bono: would he have gone on to become the rock legend that he is under his less catchy birth name Paul David Hewson?

Point taken. So why are they doing it now?
With brands struggling from the fallout of Coronavirus what better time for a branding agency to come in with the promise of creating a ‘fresh new proposition for a new generation of customers’? But it’s not a new thing, even in the world of restaurants. YO! famously dropped it ‘Sushi’ moniker a few years back, but with sound reasoning in that it wanted its restaurants to be known for more than just one dish. It can also go the other way. Restaurant chain ASK, which took the initials of its founders Adam and Sam Kaye, became known as ASK Italian from 2010 onwards to give more clarity to the restaurant offer.

So less is more. But more can also be more?
As my good friend Morgan Freeman once said, that is correct.

Related topics: Trends & Reports

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