How to Open a Restaurant: Essential Elements

How To Choose a Restaurant Name Made Easy

Management 22 minute read 9th August 2021

If you’re a prospective restauranteur, one of the biggest questions on your mind is how to choose a restaurant name. Get the name right, and your venue will stand out from the crowd and attract customers. Get it wrong, and you risk losing any new business because of a bad first impression.

That’s why we’ve put together this handbook on naming your eatery. We’ve thought of all the dos and don’ts of the name game by researching restaurant marketing ideas and trends.

If you already have a list of restaurant name ideas, use this guide as a rubric to evaluate your options. Or if you’re at square one, this is the perfect step-by-step guide to take you to the finish line.

Why Are Restaurant Names So Important?

Restaurant names are important because they’re the first things people know about your establishment. The name you pick must create an impactful, positive impression that accurately reflects your brand values. On top of that, it also has to be memorable enough to roll off the tongue.

You could have the most mouth-watering dessert menu or your city’s most killer pizza. But if no one remembers your venue’s name (or likes it), what’s the point?

The right restaurant name should catch people’s attention, whether they’re walking by your storefront or searching on Google. You want it (and every part of your branding) to help you build a profitable business.

How To Choose a Restaurant Name Legal Concerns

Before we dive into our 9 top tips for choosing a restaurant name, let’s cover a few legal concerns. When you start any business, be it in hospitality or otherwise, you must obey the law. That way, you save your time, money and resources.

Are Restaurant Names Trademarked?

The first query on our legal docket: are restaurant names trademarked? Yes and no. You can trademark your eatery’s name, but it’s not required. However, it’s generally beneficial to do so.

Trademarks prevent anyone from stealing or copying someone’s intellectual property or trying to pass it off as their own. Trademarking the name also proves that you have legal ownership over your restaurant.

Wondering how to copyright a restaurant name? You do this in the United States by submitting an initial application form to the US Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO currently has two different filing options depending on the requirements you meet.

Once you submit your application, you’ll need to monitor your status and possibly speak with a Trademark Examiner. If you meet all the requirements of the Federal Trademark Statute, you’ve got yourself a copyright.

How to Register a Restaurant Name

Let’s say you’re not interested in going through the trademarking process. Does that mean you can just use a random restaurant name generator and call your business whatever you want? No. For one, you still want to avoid infringing on someone’s copyright.

For another, the US requires all businesses to register their name with their state. This goes for restaurants too. The process of how to register a restaurant name varies by state. So be sure to check with your local government agency.

How To Check if a Restaurant Name Is Taken

One of the essential qualities that your spot’s name should have is uniqueness. Additionally, as mentioned before, you don’t want to infringe on someone else’s trademark. Therefore, you need to know how to check if the restaurant name is taken.

First, check the USPTO’s trademark database. If the name of your restaurant shows up there, you know to pick something else. Continuing to use that name for your business could result in legal consequences. If the name doesn’t appear, you might be in the clear from a law standpoint. Someone may still be using that name for their own restaurant; they just haven’t bothered to trademark it.

Next, search your state’s DBAs. DBAs refer to a “fictitious” name database for businesses in your state that may be doing business under a different name. It also includes names that are very close to what you’re searching. Checking this database is an excellent way to avoid naming your establishment the same thing as a locally registered business.

What Are Good Restaurant Names?

Good restaurant names are ones that:

  • Accurately reflect your culinary offerings
  • Create positive brand recognition
  • Are catchy and easy to remember
  • Don’t create more questions than they answer

The Worst Restaurant Names

What Are the Worst Restaurant Names?

While we don’t have a definitive list of the worst restaurant names, here are a few qualities they might have:

  • They’re too long or confusing
  • They’re offensive
  • They don’t have anything to do with the cuisine you serve
  • They’re already taken
  • They go against your business’s mission statement

How to Name a Restaurant: 9 Top Tips

What do you think of when you think about your favorite restaurants? Whether it’s a food truck or a Michelin-star dining room, all great restaurants should have one thing in common. The mere mention of their name reminds you of delicious food, superb customer service and the desire to go back.

With that in mind, here are nine strategies for how to name a restaurant.

Pick creative restaurant names

1. Pick Creative Restaurant Names

Your best bet for avoiding the headache of copyrighting issues is selecting creative restaurant names. The more creative and out-of-the-box you are, the more likely you will run into a truly unique restaurant name.

Do this, and you’ll:

  • Avoid trademarking issues. If you pick a name used by at least one other restaurant, you can’t trademark it.
  • Maintain control of your brand. No worrying about someone suing you to steal away your business.
  • Sidestep any confusion or potentially negative connotations. Imagine if there’s another restaurant with the same name in your area. Every time someone Googles your place’s name, they’ll see someone else’s business too. Plus, if that competitor has bad reviews or a bad reputation, you won’t want that passed on to you.

It is better to opt for something unique if you can. Avoid overly vague or generic names like “The Burger Spot” or “Mainstreet Cafe.” Dig into the specific details about your business and use a thesaurus to help you brainstorm unique phrasing.

How to Name a Restaurant: Think About Your Restaurant's Personality

2. Finding the Best Restaurant Names: Think About Your Restaurant’s Personality

The global food market is massive. It represents $3.5 trillion, meaning an unfathomable number of businesses are vying for diners’ attention.

This is why many people will tell you it needs a distinct personality when you start a new restaurant business.

  • With the right personality, your restaurant will:
  • Attract your ideal customers;
  • Be memorable enough to encourage lots of return visits
  • Be instantly recognizable online
  • Gain an enviable lead for the business in your local area.

But imagine if you invest all that time in devising the perfect brand and ruin it with a dull name. This is why your restaurant’s name must accurately reflect your restaurant’s character.

We recommend first selecting a theme for your restaurant. Then brainstorm all the terms you associate with your business and your restaurant’s mission. Create a vision board or a notepad filled with these ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Then, return to your notes and identify what makes your business unique. The best restaurant name should only fit your restaurant. It shouldn’t be something that you could slap on the front of other restaurants.

How to Name a Restaurant: Don't get too smart

3. Don’t Get Too Smart

On the other hand, you don’t want to go overboard. Some of the worst names result from too much brainstorming and a desire to be overly creative or clever. Don’t fixate on finding cool restaurant names for the sake of being cool.

For instance, are you sure that all of your customers will know how to pronounce ‘Rioja’? If you know your wines, you’ll see it’s a drop of red or white, but it’s easy to mispronounce.

The rule here is simple. If you come up with a name that’s so complicated, you have to google it; it’s a bad name. Or, think to yourself, could you explain why you named your restaurant this to a customer in under a minute?

It’s pretty easy to come up with overthought names. But while it might appear clever on paper, you’re in for a rough ride if people can’t spell it.

How to Name a Restaurant: Don't go too abstract

4. Don’t Go Too Abstract

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

Unpronounceable foreign names are, as noted, less than ideal. But so are obscure pop culture references and the use of Latin words that you have to Google to understand.

Overly abstract restaurant names usually result from 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 directly linked to the restaurant industry and consider synonyms that can work well as a name.

  • 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 the synonyms above: they’re simple, memorable and familiar to most customers. Keep these parameters in mind when creating your restaurant name ideas list.

How to Name a Restaurant: Avoid Inappropriate Names

5. Avoid Inappropriate Restaurant Names

The worst thing you can do when naming your restaurant is to pick offensive or inappropriate restaurant names. For one thing, it’s never a good idea to alienate potential customers. No matter how clever you think, the name is, if it’s insensitive or rude, it’s not worth it. For another, you’re taking a significant risk on your reputation.

If you’re unsure about the suitability of a potential restaurant name, conduct market research. First, do an Internet search of the name and see if any red flags come up. Then, ask friends and family for their opinion. If anyone raises concerns, you’ll know this isn’t a great restaurant name if anyone raises concerns. Go back to the drawing board and dream up new ideas.

How to Name a Restaurant: Keep it Positive

6. Keep It Positive

The perfect name for your cafe, restaurant, a fleet of food trucks, etc., should make your customers feel happy, excited and good about eating there. The moniker you choose sets the tone for their entire experience. With that in mind, it’s a clever marketing strategy to go with something positive.

Take brunch restaurant names, for example. People go to brunch spots for yummy cuisine, good conversation and a positive start to their day. Naming your business something like “The Sunshine Cafe” or “The Good Egg” fits that vibe.

How to Name a Restaurant: Appeal to Your Audience

7. Appeal to Your Audience

When thinking of how to choose a restaurant name, remember who you’re trying to appeal to. If you ever feel yourself going too far off into zany, off-beat name ideas, ground yourself in your customer. Remind yourself of what sort of person you expect to serve. Don’t give your family diner the name you would give to a trendy, upscale wine bar. Consider your restaurant’s location, your dream customer and what brand fits in with that.

How to Name a Restaurant: Mind Your Puns

8. Mind Your Puns

A lot of folks think the best marketing strategy is humor. It’s a great option—when done right. However, you can lose your audience if you lean too heavily on puns. They might find your name annoying, inauthentic or kitschy. Puns work best when used sparingly and (again) for the right audience. You shouldn’t call a 5-star restaurant with a pristine dining room and classical music “What the Fork.”

How to Name a Restaurant: Think About Marketing

9. Think About Marketing

The perfect restaurant name ties seamlessly into your other branding and marketing efforts. Any name should fit with the names of your dishes and drinks, the logo, and your slogan. It should feel right when adding it to your restaurant press release template. Or when coming up with restaurant social media post ideas. Ensure you’re consistent across the board and that everything you pick feels intentional.

So there you have it: our nine tips for how to choose a name for your restaurant. Next, we’re sharing a few suggested names for popular restaurant categories.

Fancy Restaurant Names

Here are some examples of fancy restaurant names:

  • Julius
  • The Chef
  • La Demi Lune
  • The Spanish Kitchen
  • Grand Island Restaurant

Fast Food Restaurant Names

  • For Better or For Wurst
  • The Kickin’ Chicken
  • Tell No Fries
  • Boston’s Best Burgers
  • Slurpee Heaven

Italian Restaurant Names

  • Nonna’s Tavola
  • La Trattoria
  • Oregano
  • Pomodoro Old World Pizzeria
  • Slice of Italy

Chinese Restaurant Names

Here are a few examples Chinese restaurant names:

  • Walk the Wok
  • Beijing Bistro
  • The Dumpling Mansion
  • Dynasty
  • Miso Grill

Location-based Restaurant Names

  • West Hartford Chop House
  • Huger Street Cafe
  • Eton’s Eatery
  • Capitol Mall Sandwich Shop
  • Asbury Park Pizza

Trendy Restaurant Names

  • Earth + Sky
  • Attitude Cafe
  • Canon and Crow
  • The Blue Bison
  • Matcha Madness

Closing Thoughts

So, in summary, your restaurant name should be:

  • Memorable
  • Authentic
  • Not too clever
  • Easily spelled
  • Unique (where possible)
  • Not capable of inadvertently offending or alienating.

It’s not an easy task, is it? But it shouldn’t be. Like balancing your average restaurant profit margins, it’s hard to know how to choose a restaurant name. Why? Because it is vital to the business’s success.

Take your time, heed our advice, and ensure you run any potential names past friends before picking a winner.

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