When choosing a name for your new restaurant, keep these tips in mind to help you find one that will work now — and in the future.
Hello, and welcome! I am Nico, the creator of forketers.com.
Today I have decided to talk to you about…drumroll please…restaurant names!
Now before you get too excited by the topic, I can tell you that I have no magic spell from Merlin’s book that will instantly give you the best name. It is a serious decision that requires both time and skill.
I can, however, reveal something critical – the starting point for your brainstorming of a quality name. I begin this by divulging the 3 massive mistakes that I see quite often as a restaurant marketing consultant.
People often reach out to me saying:
“Nico, my restaurant is right in the heart of the city but no one comes in.”
I can tell very quickly that while there might be other things wrong, the restaurant’s name has fallen victim to one of these three mistakes I’m going to share.
Let’s not waste any time and get right to them.
1. The Ego Effect
The first mistake I affectionately have dubbed “the ego effect”. This is when a restaurant owner falls prey to grand delusions and decides to name the restaurant after themselves.
To offer examples, we have all seen variations of names like “Peter’s Kitchen”, “Chez Chef Pauli”, or even “Johnny’s Restaurant”. This indicates in some way that they should be renowned for food that the public knows NOTHING about.
Who the hell is Johnny? And what does he cook?
While no one may know anything about Johnny, the bigger lesson is that they don’t care. Unless you are a well-known chef or someone famous like Johnny Depp, people aren’t going to flock in.
About being downtown in a city looking for a place to grab a healthy bite. Would you lean more towards something called “Johnny’s Restaurant” or would you be drawn in by another name like “Grandma’s Garden”?
Another upsetting truth is that because of this general lack of knowledge and care, people might choose a bad restaurant over a good one simply because of its name. Johnny might be the best chef using fresh ingredients in the entire area, but most patrons would choose “Grandma’s Garden” for its appealing name (even if it isn’t known for the best service).
If you choose to use your name with no local renown, you are missing the opportunity to express your concept to those passing by. You only get a moment of their time – not hours. You have to be able to grab their attention immediately.
Unless you are Scrooge McDuck with a steep promotion budget and startup capital, you have to make a smart choice with the name of your restaurant.
2. Dante’s Effect
Mistake number two is the one I call “Dante’s Effect”. If you do not know what I am referencing, then shame on you for not knowing your classic and world-renowned European writers.
In this error, owners get swept up in longer names like “Uncle Tobia’s Traditional Cuisine” that could be mistaken for verses of The Divine Comedy instead of the name of an eatery.
The Divine Comedy was written by Dante, by the way.
The name has to be short, simple to read and decipher, and memorable.
Plus, there are logistic aspects that you need to keep in mind, like your domain name. www.uncletobiastraditionalcuisine.it is a nightmare. Now, consider what your professional email address is going to look like: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your business card would be an A4 sheet.
Some wise person once suggested that “less is more” and that is a strong philosophy for naming your restaurant (or any business for that matter).
3. The “Looks Cool” Effect
The third mistake, and one that I deem among the most common is the one I call the “Looks Cool” effect.
For some unknown reason, people think that a difficult-to-pronounce name in a different language makes for a cool sounding restaurant.
In my country, Italy, many restauranteurs over the years have abused the “looks cool effect.” You can still see many unpronounceable names in Spanish, French, and English. Worse yet, they serve Italian dishes!
My clients around the world have been stricken by this same bug, however. In Dubai you have Italian names that people can’t say or spell or in London, where you have to walk with a quick reference guide for every language to find out what you can expect with the cuisine.
Now, there are times where you can use a foreign language word in your name, as long as the locals know and understand it. Terms like pasta, pizza, and spaghetti are known around the world, even though they are technically Italian terms.
If the word you want to use is not renowned, you should not use it. I can better explain this with an example.
There are seemingly billions of Indian, Chinese, Arab, and other restaurants with impossible names throughout Italy.
While the intention here is authenticity and not “being cool”, the result is the same.
For the average Italian eater, these signs are just gibberish that they cannot distinguish. Instead of the name, you end up with descriptions like the Chinese place on the corner, the Indian (but actually Arab) spot down the street, or the noodle restaurant across town.
If people cannot pronounce your name, you end up working doubly hard to promote and market the restaurant, especially without a steep budget for these campaigns.
Therefore, make sure the name you use is easy to pronounce and understandable.
These are 3 massive mistakes that rookie restaurant owners often make. While these three are common, the list is actually much longer than that.
I would invite all of the name experts to take a minute to weigh in with advice and comments down below. Suggestions would be appreciated, because we are all in this together.