Although choosing a name for your restaurant may seem like a simple decision, it deserves some thought and care. The restaurant name can impact how customers perceive your restaurant, from first impression to lasting memory. Selecting a restaurant name can also be a fun part of the restaurant start-up process. Choose a name that reflects your concept—something you are comfortable speaking, that is also easily pronounced and easy to write. Although there is no formula for choosing a good restaurant name, there are some common guidelines for deciding on a memorable moniker.
Take Cues from Your Location
Many restaurant owners name their establishments based on their location. Often the place will have some historical importance, or the building may have been used for another purpose. For instance, if you are opening a restaurant in a building that used to be a toothpaste factory, you may name your restaurant “The Sweet Tooth,” or the “Buffalo Tooth Grill.” This pulls an element of history into your concept.
You may also name your restaurant directly after a city or neighborhood location. For instance, a restaurant in Washington Park named Washington Park Grille works well, since it draws the locals and suggests an experience unique to that location.
Many owners use a term like grill, café or pub after the main restaurant name. However, it may help set the name apart from competition by varying the noun. One example is the Denver restaurant, Sushi Den. The word “den” connotes a warm, intimate, dimly lit atmosphere. The place is arguably more unique and memorable because of the name.
Consider Your Cuisine
Naming a restaurant after the type of cuisine you offer is another viable naming option. The name can give guests an idea of the type of food the restaurant actually offers and is a straightforward method of communicating your menu items to your customers. For instance, establishments such as Egg Roll King, Noodles & Company and Smashburger demonstrate major themes in menu items, including Asian egg rolls, pasta and hamburgers, respectively. This lets potential guests know exactly what to expect from the restaurant. Conversely, do not confuse your guests by naming your restaurant something that connotes an entirely different cuisine. For example, do not name your Italian restaurant José’s, or people may believe that your restaurant serves Mexican food.
Recall the Region of Origin
You may consider naming your restaurant after the place where your cuisine originated. For instance, the Denver restaurant, Barolo Grill, recalls the name of a village in northern Italy. A name like Saigon Palace indicates a Chinese food restaurant. Similarly, the name Indian Village fits a restaurant serving traditional Indian fare. These restaurants are not located in Italy, Saigon or India, but the names usually communicate the type of cuisine customers can expect.
Another way to name a restaurant is by choosing a name based on an object or icon associated with the regional cuisine. One example is Panda Express, a fast-casual Chinese food restaurant concept. The term “panda” brings to mind the native Chinese animal, effectively associating the name with the cuisine. A second example is Chili’s restaurant. The term “chili” recalls the chili pepper, a signature item in several of the restaurant’s southwestern-inspired entrées.
Restaurant Name Trademarks
When choosing a name for your restaurant, make sure that you do not violate any trademark laws in the process. This may be a concern if a restaurant name has already been claimed. Learn more about trademark laws to be sure your restaurant name is not going to cause any trouble down the road.
Promote a Special Meaning
One way to set your restaurant apart is by choosing a restaurant name that has meaning to you, your restaurant concept or your cuisine. For example, Jamba Juice uses the term “jamba,” a derivation jama, which is an African word for “celebration.” This is a fitting name for a restaurant concept that encourages customers to celebrate natural fruits and juices. Alto is another example. This restaurant boasts live piano music as part of the ambience. Naming the restaurant after a musical term communicates the importance of nightly music, an significant part of Alto’s concept. However, many operators do just the opposite. Sometimes restaurant names that are strange, creative or altogether made-up are just as memorable. Restaurant names like Shazz and Bang! may be unforgettable to many guests because they are so out of the ordinary.
A restaurant name may have obvious significance to the location or cuisine, or it may just be a creative name with no clear meaning. Once you have some ideas, try them out by repeating them aloud. Make sure the name is easy to pronounce. Consider spelling as well. You might even design mock menus with the name on the cover. Your restaurant name may give guests that extra push they need to check out the atmosphere, try the food and even tell their friends. Choose a name that will make an impression so your guests remember it when they think of the great experience they had there.