Let’s face it, names are important. Imagine someone with a name composed entirely of consonants (Hey, Bkmmmptz! What’s up?). Awkward. This truth is no different for restaurants. A name needs to be catchy, reflect your restaurant’s theme or location, and stand the test of time. Most of all, you want a name that leaves a positive first impression on customers and passers-by.
We suggest brainstorming a list of potential names, and then asking yourself the following questions for each option to help you find a winner:
1. Is it memorable?
The last thing you want is a name that’s notorious for all the wrong reasons. Avoid ruffling any feathers. Being cheeky is okay, but being offensive isn’t good for business.
2. Can people pronounce it?
Take into consideration the predominant language where your restaurant will be operating, and focus on making pronunciation a priority. Of course, if your restaurant has a cultural theme, be sure to let that shine through—just don’t make it so complicated that your direct and organic online traffic suffers.
3. Does it reflect the restaurant’s theme?
A restaurant’s theme isn’t just the cultural inspiration of food that you’re serving, it includes the type of food you want to be known for. Are you going to be serving light, tapas-style portions, or heavy, hearty dishes? Once you answer that question, the science of sound can help you create a psychologically pleasing name.
Let’s talk about vowels. Front vowels are those made by holding the tongue high in the front part of your mouth (think of how you pronounce cheese, tiny, or light, for example). Back vowels are made with the tongue in the lower part of the mouth (like when you say bold, coarse, or large). Coincidentally, words with front vowels are often perceived as thin, light, and petite, whereas back vowel words are interpreted as big and heavy.
Is your restaurant a tapas bar or a steakhouse? Consider using the power of pronunciation to give potential customers a verbal cue on what type of dining experience they can expect.
4. Does the name have any personal meaning?
When Dave Thomas named his restaurant Wendy’s, he was paying homage to his fourth child, Melinda Lou “Wendy” Thomas. Anyone can get behind the importance of family or loved ones; drawing inspiration from your loved ones is a great way of creating a familial, welcoming vibe for your restaurant.
5. Is it a play on words?
Most people appreciate a good pun here and there, and humor is a powerful tool to leave a positive, memorable impression with potential customers. Try letting your sense of humor shine through with a few of your options (just remember point #1 on this list!)
6. Is it marketable?
An interesting study from Eater grouped the names of restaurants that qualified as semifinalists for the James Beard Award, and they found some pretty interesting patterns. As it turns out, critically acclaimed restaurants fall into relatively pretty clear cut lexical constructions, with the predominant one being “The [Insert word here]”.
Of course, you don’t need to check all of these criteria for the name to be successful, but asking yourself these questions can help guide your creative process in the right direction. For example, take Big in Japan, a popular foodie hotspot in central Montreal. The menu is casual Japanese-inspired cuisine, which is contextually perfect because the restaurant is within walking distance of Montreal’s nightlife scene. Directly reflecting the restaurant’s theme, the name also tells passers-by some key details about the type of food they serve. To top it all off, the creative restaurant name also pays homage to the popular 80’s song by Alphaville.
All of these components make for a memorable name that helps captivate attention and bring customers in. Of course, you’ll need more than a catchy name to attract customers (have you thought of stepping up your social media marketing game or how you’re going to create an amazing menu?), but great names can go a long way in helping your restaurant gain notoriety and capitalize on word-of-mouth.
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