You’ve readied your space, hired your staff and now the only thing standing between you and opening night is thinking of a great restaurant name. It’s almost like naming your baby… with a few big differences. Name your kid Apple, and you get a few eye-rolls from the adults in the playground. Name your restaurant Rat’s Nest Kitchen, and you just lost whatever money you invested. So how do you go about choosing the right name for your restaurant?

Good characteristics for names

A good name for a business has a couple of traits. Remember that it is all about branding and you want to choose a name that will be easy for your guests to remember. No one wants to be known as “That one place with the sandwiches”. Make it is easy to spell too, so that people can write about you. Keep it simple and choose a name that can possibly be utilized effectively as you potentially grow someday.

The most important part of a good name is that it targets the audience you want to draw. You’ll need to research your potential clientele to find out what will make a good impression on them before thinking up names.

Your restaurant, like your baby, needs a good name.

Location is a great starting place

People who love your town will appreciate a place named after it or some piece of their history. Visitors will like the historic appeal and may even come to conclusions about the historical importance of your establishment, even if there isn’t much past the use of the name. In other words, choose a timeless name.

You can take the location inspiration in many directions. For example, The French Laundry got its name from the French Steam laundry that was housed in the same building in the 19th century. Go ahead and dig deep in local color. It’ll do your name good.

Keep the theme in mind

Have you ever seen a Chinese Restaurant named Joe’s? No, and you won’t because a restaurant serving ethnic food wants potential customers to know what they are in for. Your restaurant’s name should reflect the theme of your business. The name is the first impression people get, and you want it to be accurate.

Keep it simple and choose a name that can possibly be utilized effectively as you potentially grow someday.

… And the cuisine

While naming your pizzeria Pepperoni Pizza With A Soda may be a bit restrictive, calling it Just Pizzas is pretty effective. It may even help in marketing your brand, as it tells the customer exactly what to expect from the menu. A vegetarian will know to avoid something with ‘steakhouse’ in the name, and people in the mood for tacos will gravitate toward a restaurant named ‘taqueria.’

Use personal inspiration

A common naming trope is to use the name of the person who inspired the owner. For instance, Wendy’s was named after the owner’s daughter. Naming your restaurant after a loved one makes for a great advertising hook, and people will eat up the story along with the food.

You can also name it after a time or place that holds personal meaning or your favorite play on words. Everybody loves a joke, and puns work on many levels. It conveys a relaxed attitude, and it puts people In a sunny mood. It also gives you a chance to get creative.

What to avoid

For both legal and branding reasons, you will want to avoid trademarked names. You’ll confuse customers and get yourself sued.

As a general rule, run potential names past other people and look to their reactions.

As a general rule, you should run potential names past other people and see their reactions. They will think of associations that you might have missed. Plenty of people have come up with what they thought were lovely names, only to have everybody assume they were insulting someone or referencing something off-color. Getting input from peers or local industry leaders keeps you from getting embarrassed later.

Your restaurant, like your baby, needs a good name. Your restaurant needs a name it can stick with for life. Take the time to research the market, brainstorm ideas, and test it on people. Getting the right name will be worth every minute. 

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