Deciding to start a restaurant and the decision to actually become a restaurant owner are two entirely different things, right?

On one hand, you have restaurant menu ideas that will wow future guests and the perfect table arrangement in mind, but on the other hand, you may feel in over your head when it comes to restaurant licenses and oh yeah, are there good restaurant names that haven’t been used?

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but folks are going to judge your restaurant by its name.

Restaurant names are incredibly important. They are part of your identity. A good restaurant name should reflect your concept, your food, your restaurant mission statement, your values.

Here’s how to choose a restaurant name before you open the doors.

restaurant owner turning open sign

Step 1: Think About Your Restaurant Mission Statement

Your restaurant mission statement is an expression of who you are and what values you hold. If your restaurant name doesn’t extend to those beliefs, it might be lacking the right ingredients. A good place to start when coming up with a restaurant name is with your mission statement.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but folks are going to judge your restaurant by its name.

Step 2: Think About Your Location

Restaurant locations are a treasure trove for potential restaurant names. You might want to base your name on a street name or landmark, or perhaps you’ll size up your competitors and be inspired easily. Pay close attention to the decor, color, and even typography of the restaurant names and logos in your area, it’ll give you more information than you realize!

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Step 3: Understand Your Future Guests

Whether your restaurant is going to be Italian or a diner, you’ll want to think about the type of guest you plan to attract. What will your loyal regular look like? When will you be the busiest? Will you offer online ordering and take out? This will give you a good indication of the type of concept you have and help you build a solid foundation for your restaurant name.

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Step 4: Make A List

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to make a restaurant names idea list. Once you’re at this step, nothing is off the table. You’re going to want to dump everything in your head out on a piece of paper, whiteboard, Word Doc. Whatever your brainstorm method is, get it all out. Then, walk away and come back later.

owner making restaurant names list

Restaurant Name Ideas To Consider

While you may want to lock yourself away and come up with the most clever name you can think of, there are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a restaurant name.

  • Keep it simple: if your name is too complicated to remember, you’re going to lose out on word-of-mouth marketing
  • Evoke emotion: the best restaurant names evoke some kind of emotion in their guests, it could be nostalgia or love, or even history
  • Consider references: some of the best restaurant names are a reference to something – it starts a conversation between you and your customers and it’s easy to remember (Alice’s Tea Room in NYC is a great example!)
  • Wordplay works (sometimes): puns aren’t always unpopular, sometimes they are quite memorable (The Malted Barley in Providence – craft beer and gourmet pretzels!)

Restaurant Name Ideas To Avoid

Just like there are good names for a restaurant, there are also bad names for a restaurant. We’ve all seen them. Here are some things to avoid when coming up with your restaurant name ideas list.

  • Avoid restaurant names that are hard to spell
  • Avoid restaurant names that are hard to pronounce
  • Avoid trademarked restaurant names (McDowels, anyone?). Pro Tip: you can register your business’s name in your area easily by contacting the Secretary of State and filling out some paperwork.

Choosing a restaurant name is no easy task. You’ll want a trusted group to give you feedback, and an open mind. At the end of the day, choosing a restaurant name is about creating a restaurant experience. After all, you didn’t decide to start a restaurant for any other reason than that.

Check out Upserve’s guide to starting a restaurant!

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In a perfect world, Theresa would spend her days reading good books and writing all the time... and she'd own all the shoes her heart desired. When she's not on the hunt for shoes, you can find this Rhode Island transplant on the hunt for food that comes close to "Long Island". Her favorite? Caffe Dolce Vita in Providence's historic Federal Hill.