Great names help keep restaurants top of mind, but coming up with the right one isn’t always easy. By Angela Tufvesson
Naming a restaurant is like naming a child. You agonise over options for months, disagree with your partner over whether a name sounds too fancy or too bogan, and try to avoid monikers that conjure awkward childhood memories. Why? Because the right choice will help your baby go places, while a wrong call could achieve the opposite. And, of course, once you’ve opened your eatery or signed the birth certificate, it’s virtually impossible to change your mind. Here’s how to choose a name for your restaurant that will go the distance.
Short and sweet
While it’s tempting to choose something cute, the best restaurant names are short, simple and easy to pronounce, says Michelle Mason, director at marketing consultancy Social Tap.
“One of the traps people fall into pretty regularly is trying to be too clever or too unique,” she says. “It’s really about being clear about who you are and what you offer. Trying to be too clever, especially with spelling, is a common mistake. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to do business with you, so if you come up with a funky way to spell your business name you’re probably going to get tripped up when people are searching for you online or telling their friends about you.”
Keeping in mind the Australian penchant for nicknames and abbreviations will help to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and can even endear your restaurant to regular patrons. “Think about how the name will be shortened, like how we call McDonalds ‘Maccas’ and quite a number of other restaurants where we’ve come up with our own shortcut version,” says Michael Tan, creative director at brand strategists Brandworks.
Most importantly, your restaurant name should speak to your brand: who you are, where you come from and what you offer. “Any brand that has a story behind it is part of something you can market moving forward,” says Mason. “Say you’re at 175 Smith Street and you want to call your restaurant ‘175’. That’s cool and it works, but it might not have to be a literal as that. It could be a story to do with where the business has come from, or a building or the produce that becomes part of
Simon Blacher says he knew right away that Hanoi Hannah—a Vietnamese radio personality best known for her broadcasts to American troops during the Vietnam War—was the perfect fit for his hawker-style Vietnamese eatery. The alliteration proved popular and inspired the names
of his next two restaurants: Saigon Sally and Tokyo Tina.
“When you’re naming something it’s good to look at the history of the product, where it comes from and where it’s going,” says Blacher. “People really like to associate with the history of different cuisines and that’s where the mindset should be heading.”
Likewise, Jess Ho, former brand manager at The Lucas Group and owner of Smalls wine bar, chose a name that references the small producers from whom she sources her food and wine. “Calling it ‘Small something’ wasn’t very effective and having a one-word, one-syllable name is a lot more memorable,” she says. Ho says there is an important distinction between names that are true to the concept and names that are unnecessarily sentimental. “Naming things after something that’s a bit too sentimental often gets lost in translation and people just don’t get it,” she says. “It doesn’t speak to what the restaurant is trying to achieve.”
When it comes to including your street, suburb or a literal description of what you offer in the name, Tan says it depends on the complexity of your offering. If you sell burgers or fried chicken in the local shopping district, having a name that tells customers what you offer and where can be an ideal strategy.
Choosing a name that allows you to tweak your dishes and decor will provide room to grow. “If you go with a name, say ‘Marco’s Pizza and Pasta’, you’re pretty limited to doing pizza and pasta and you’ve pretty much pigeon-holed yourself,” says Mason.
“If you want to expand into a more comprehensive Italian menu you’re probably losing an element of being able to promote that in the future. It’s important to think about expansion and making sure a name isn’t going to limit you by being too much of a niche.”
If you are eyeing expansion, consider whether your name will appeal in interstate and overseas markets. Does it sound like local slang for something less than desirable? Will customers be able to pronounce it? “We have a number of clients running national or international franchise brands and you have to consider not just how the name is perceived in Australia but overseas, especially with the growth of the Asian market and potentially going into China,” says Tan.
The next steps
Once you’ve settled on a name, check that you can use it. Confirm with ASIC to make sure the name isn’t already registered to another business.You’ll also need to check with IP Australia that it isn’t registered for trademark. Next, check with any of the domain name registrars that your name is available.
If all that checks out, search Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to make sure the handles and hashtags are available. “One of the challenges is the internet has been around for a long time now and a lot of brand names and ideas have already been snapped up in web and social channels, so it’s important to do your research on what’s available,” says Mason. “Maybe 15 years ago that wasn’t something that we needed to think about so much but it’s certainly a key consideration these days.”