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how to name a restaurant

When opening your new restaurant you have a lot of decisions to make: what beers will you serve on tap? What color will the walls be? Which restaurant POS should you choose? Another big decision, the name of your restaurant, is incredibly important to your brand.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the reality is that guests are going to judge your restaurant by its name. A good restaurant name should reflect your concept, your food, your restaurant mission statement, and your values.

Here are some tips on naming a restaurant, plus some examples to get your creative juices flowing.

How to Name A Restaurant

As you brainstorm potential restaurant names for your new business, don’t just arbitrarily pick something that sounds cool. Make sure it reflects your values, mission, location, and/or guests so that the name is memorable, descriptive, and reflective of your brand.

A few things to remember when choosing your restaurant name, beyond the meaning, are:

  • Keep it simple. If your restaurant name is too difficult to remember, say, or spell, you’re going to miss out on a lot of word-of-mouth marketing and it will be harder for folks to find you in online searches.
  • Evoke emotion. Some of the best restaurant names evoke some kind of emotion in their guests; it could be nostalgia, love, or even history.
  • Do your research before committing. Avoid restaurant names that have already been trademarked. Do a quick search of trademarked restaurant names in your area by searching your Secretary of State’s website. (This is also where you’ll register your own restaurant name’s trademark once you’ve chosen one.)

With those guidelines in mind, it’s time to get into the fun part – choosing what type of restaurant name you want. When you have an idea of what direction you want to go in, it will be easier to come up with the name itself.

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1. Name Your Restaurant Based on Your 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. 

Don’t have a mission statement for your restaurant yet? Get inspired by these ten examples or generate one with our mission statement generator tool.

  • Harmony Cafe: This pay-what-you-can cafe is on a mission to offer quality meals to everyone in their community, regardless of their ability to pay. This mission is reflected in how they named their restaurant.
  • Puzzles Bakery & Cafe: Owner Sara Pratt opened this cafe to create more job opportunities for folks on the Autism spectrum, like her sister. The name is based on a widely used symbol for Autism awareness, the puzzle piece.
  • Bayberry Beer Hall pays homage to a co-owner’s grandfather, who lived in a cottage surrounded by bayberry bushes, to help “keep his legacy alive,” as their website states.

Thinking about opening a restaurant? Download our free How to Start a Restaurant Guide now.

2. Incorporate Your Location Into Your Restaurant’s Name

Using part of your restaurant’s location in your name – either the street name or number, neighborhood, or another landmark –  is both easy to remember and it helps guests remember exactly where you’re located, like Nick’s on Broadway in Providence, RI.

3. Use Humor When Naming Your Restaurant

A funny (or punny) restaurant name can be risky – if you take the joke too far or it goes over peoples’ heads, you risk hurting your reputation. If you want to go this route, definitely test your idea out with a variety of different people to see how it lands. If it seems to flop with most people, head back to the drawing board.

Check out some examples of funny restaurant names done right: 22 Creative Restaurant Names You’ll Wish You Thought Of.

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4. Acknowledge Your Building’s History

If your restaurant is located in a historic building, consider tipping your hat to the previous tenants when naming your restaurant, like some of the examples below.

  • Post Office Cafe: Located in, you guessed it, a former post office building, this Babylon, NY restaurant goes all-in with their name and location, utilizing taglines like “the Post Office is sure to deliver every time.”
  • Alibi Lounge: The Liberty Hotel in Boston is in a former jailhouse and the hotel bar, Alibi Lounge, is fittingly located in the space that used to function as a “drunk tank.”
  • The Edison: This bar and nightclub in LA is located in a former power plant, so they landed on a name that gives tribute to the inventor of the lightbulb.

5. Evoke Emotion in Your Guests

Inviting guests into your restaurant is just like inviting them into your home – you want them to feel warm and welcomed. Jump on that feeling of home when choosing your restaurant name, like Tia Maria’s in New Bedford, MA which makes guests feel like they’re being personally cooked for by their (or someone else’s) Portuguese aunt.

Naming your restaurant is one of the more important creative branding decisions you will make. It is the center of your brand, how guests identify you, and part of what initially piques peoples’ interest in your restaurant. Choose your restaurant name carefully, and be sure to enlist a trusted group of people to workshop your options with – it’s an important decision that you will have to live with every day for a very long time.

Thinking about opening a new restaurant? Congratulations!

Download our How to Start a Restaurant Guide to learn everything you need to get up and running, from writing your business plan to training your staff for success.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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