How to Open a Restaurant: Essential Elements

How to Choose a Restaurant Name in 5 Steps

Management 9 minute read 9th August 2021

We know that naming your restaurant is a big decision.

Get the name right, and your venue will stand out a mile for just the right reasons. Get it wrong and you might have a hard time attracting the customers that you thought you would.

Inspiration may have already struck, and if so you can check through our list below to confirm that your idea matches your restaurant idea. Or, you may be at square one, which is fine too. Take your time, let each of the sections below spark your imagination and help settle on a name that really represents your business.

Some people say that there are no bad ideas, but when it comes to restaurant naming and branding, we’re not so sure…

Why are restaurant names so important?

A restaurant’s name has a number of vitally important tasks. It needs to create the best possible first impression, accurately reflect the brand values and be memorable enough to roll off the tongue.

The right restaurant name will catch the attention of passing trade and help you build a brand that is capable of growing fast and profitably.

What do you think of when you think about your favourite restaurants? The mere mention of their name will remind you of the wonderful food, awesome customer service and desire to go back again and again.

With that in mind, here are five strategies for picking the best restaurant name for your business and its customers.

1. Pick one no one else has

This is, arguably, the hardest task when devising the name for a restaurant.

Firstly, a caveat. You don’t have to pick a completely unique name if you can’t think of one. It’s why there are hundreds, if not thousands of pubs in the UK called ‘The Crown Inn’. But the more unique your restaurant name is in your area, the better chance you’ll stand of success.

Just keep in mind these points if you decide to go for something a little more common:

  • You’ll need to avoid trademarking issues. If you pick a name that’s used by at least one other restaurant, you can’t trademark it.

  • You’ll potentially lose control of your brand if you have the same name as other restaurants - particularly when it comes to mentions and reviews online.

  • If there are any negative connotations associated with the name that don’t relate to your use of it, that could reflect unfairly on your business.

So, it really is better to opt for something unique if you can. Which is why it’s worth reading this entire guide!

2. Think about your restaurant’s personality

The global food market is massive. Collectively, it represents $3.5 trillion, which means there are an unfathomable number of businesses out there vying for diners’ attention.

This is why, whenever you start a new restaurant business, lots of people will tell you that it needs its own distinct personality.

With the right personality, your restaurant will:

  • attract your ideal customers;
  • be memorable enough to encourage lots of return visits;
  • be instantly recognisable online; and
  • gain an enviable lead for the business in your local area.

But imagine if you invest all that time in devising the perfect brand personality and ruin it with a deeply boring name. This is why your restaurant’s name needs to accurately reflect your restaurant’s personality.

It can’t be rushed. So, go back to the notes you made about that personality and identify what makes it unique. The name itself might even be within those notes, but even if it isn’t, the clues will be there.

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3. Don’t get too smart

Some of the worst restaurant names are the result of too much brainstorming and a desire to be overly creative or clever. Avoid this at all costs.

For instance, are you sure that all of your customers are going to know how to pronounce ‘Rioja’? Sure, if you know your wines, you’ll be aware that it’s a lovely drop of red or white, but it can so easily be mis-pronounced.

The rule here is simple. If you come up with a name for your restaurant for which you need to head to Google in search of the correct pronunciation, it’s a bad name.

It’s actually pretty easy to come up with a name like this, but while it might appear funny, irreverent, or stupendously clever on paper, if people can’t spell your restaurant’s name (let alone say it), you’ll be in for a pretty rough ride.

Always go simple and choose a name that can’t be easily misspelled.

4. Don’t go too abstract

We talked earlier about the need to avoid smart-Alec names. The same goes for names which are abstract to the point of being entirely forgettable.

Unpronounceable foreign names are, as noted, less than ideal. But so too are ethic references that go too far and the use of Latin words which need Googling in order to understand their meaning.

Restaurant names that are too abstract are usually the result of searching for synonyms for more common words. That’s not a bad strategy, but it’s possible to go too far.

Let’s pick three words that are directly linked to the restaurant industry and consider a few synonyms that can work really well within restaurant names.

  • Luxury: comfort, bliss, delight, treat, enjoy
  • Fresh: natural, now, radical, young, green
  • Dining: eat out, feast, banquet, feed

You’ll spot one thing in common with all of the synonyms above: they’re simple, memorable and will be immediately familiar to most people.

5. Avoid inappropriate names

When the owners of the Fu King Chinese Restaurant devised their company name, they probably had a hearty laugh at their creation. And, for some customers, it might be a draw, but can you honestly say that something as edgy and risqué as that will work for your brand?

It takes an awful lot of courage (or stupidity) to pick a restaurant name that is on the borderline of being inappropriate. If you’re brave enough and you think there’s an audience out there for it, then it might be the best decision you make.

Unfortunately, it could also inadvertently offend people and alienate a significant number of potential customers who would otherwise love your food and service.

If you’re unsure about the suitability of a potential restaurant name, conduct some market research and see what the reaction is. Running a poll on Twitter or simply gathering a bunch of friends and family for their reaction will reveal pretty quickly if you’ve taken things a step too far.

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Wrapping up

So, in summary, your restaurant name should be:

  • memorable;
  • authentic;
  • not too clever;
  • easily spelt;
  • unique (where possible); and
  • not capable of inadvertently offending or alienating.

It’s not an easy task, is it? But it shouldn’t be. Just like your business plan, first day of opening or cash flow management, choosing a name for your restaurant is hard - because it is vital to the success of the business.

Take your time, heed our advice, and make sure you run any potential names past a bunch of people before picking a winner.

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