It’s dinnertime and you walk down the street looking for a new place to grab a bite to eat. The street in your neighborhood is lined with options, each with a sign outside showing the restaurant’s name and logo. Which stands out? Which draws you in? When you enter, does the restaurant align with your expectations based on the brand image portrayed in the sign?

When it comes to starting a new restaurant, there are various things to consider from a branding perspective. Some of the key questions to answer up front are: What cuisine are you focusing on? Who is your clientele (mass market or upscale)? And what do you want to be known for (e.g. being organic, farm fresh, fast, casual, etc.)?

These questions will inform what name you select and how you design your logo. When designing a new logo, there are various elements to consider.

  1. Color: Picking colors is important because, subconsciously, different colors trigger different

reactions in the brain. Green for example connotes earthiness and provokes a soothing feeling. Restaurants, like the salad chain Sweetgreen, use the color green to tie into their image as an organic, healthy choice. Meanwhile, read is bright, bold, and can inspire action, sometimes agitation. Several fast food chains, like Pizza Hut and Jack in the Box, use red because it stands out.

2. Contrast: As with all graphic design projects, be sure that there is sufficient contrast

between colors, so that the typeface stands out. It’s no use having a beautifully ornate logo if the shapes and words are not distinctive enough to read. Think about legibility from both close up and faraway.

3. Alignment: Another key design consideration is the sense of symmetry in the logo. This doesn’t mean that both sides of the logo need to look the same, just that the logo looks balanced.

4. Less is more: We often feel a pressure to over-communicate. Of course, your restaurant

has a lot to offer, but you cannot communicate all of that in one logo. Focus on one distinctive graphic design element. Simple designs can create clarity, which drive memorability. Think of some of the most powerful brands in the world today, like Apple or McDonalds. These brands are simple, focusing on one element: an apple or an “M.”

5. Symbols: Many restaurants use very literal symbols to personify the name of their

restaurant. For example, the Buffalo Wild Wings logo has a black buffalo with white wings. Or the Dominos Pizza logo has a red and white domino piece. Aligning your restaurant name with your logo can add valuable coherence, which can create better memorability and recall. 6.

Characters: Other restaurants prefer to use characters in their logos instead of a distinctive

shape or symbol. Think of Starbucks, KFC, or Wendy’s. Using characters can help personify the brand or link to the brand’s history. Einstein Bros Bagels is an example of a logo that includes both symbols and characters, both directly tied to the name of the chain. The logo is in a yellow circle (representing a bagel). Inside are two men in suits (presumably the Einstein brothers) holding up bagels and using them as monocles. This is an interesting example of combining various elements of symbol and character to make the design more interesting. However, beware not to make the logo feel too busy or confusing when doing this.

7. History: Some restaurants lean into their history to help make them stand out and add to a feeling of legitimacy and experience. They do this by adding the year that the restaurant was founded or, in the case of KFC, leaning into the founder, Colonel Sanders. This is only a successful strategy if legacy is an important part of your brand identity. It feels trite to write “Founded in 2020.” This just makes the brand seem immature. So, if you’re going to

lean into the history angle, think critically about what is important. Was your restaurant inspired by your grandma’s lasagna recipe? If so, it makes sense for this feeling of tradition to appear in your logo and other messaging.

8. Distinctiveness: Everyday people are faced with a barrage of brands. It’s hard to cut

through the noise and differentiate yourself; however, this is critical for memorability. Make sure you do a thorough job researching how your name and logo compare to others on the market. Is there another restaurant in your area with a similar sounding name or logo with similar colors?

Once you have created a logo that you feel excited about, remember to create some rules about how and when the logo is used. What does it look like in a square (if used on social channels) versus in a horizontal format? Will it be printed on white or black backgrounds? Will the logo always be printed next to the name of the restaurant? Having some brand rules is helpful so that the logo doesn’t get misused and take on a life of its own.

While it is important to create a distinctive logo, it is also important to remember that name and logo are not the only two elements of a successful brand. Through the interior decor of the restaurant, the customer service, and the way you portray your brand in marketing, you can create a brand personality. This is when your brand is infused with meaning; it stands for something in the eyes of the consumer. For example, the Google brand is quirky and innovative. The Disney brand is fun and family-oriented.

The FedEx brand is fast and reliable. In the food and beverage space, think about Coca Cola, which inspires an American ethos of freedom and tradition. Or think about the Italian restaurant down the street. When you walk in, do you feel cozy and at home? Or do you feel modern and sophisticated?

Different feelings can be inspired when you think about the cohesive brand experience. The logo is often the gateway; the first point of reference. But it is important to think about the entire customer experience and about how your restaurant can be unique, memorable, and add value every step of the way.

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