The Naming of Restaurants is a Serious Matter

My name is ______Much of our company’s work is for restaurant clients, mostly national chains that you all know; McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Carino’s etc… so they all had well known names long before we started working for them. But as our fair city is growing and new restaurants are opening up, there seems to be an epidemic of new eateries with truly awful names. Having started my own small business more than 12 years ago and since then helping others create names for their businesses, I feel that I have some expertise when it comes to creating a memorable name.

But this skill seems foreign to many new business owners. And it seems they are unwilling to seek help. With that in mind, this post is a plea to those who are thinking of opening a new business; please think twice before the signs are made!

The owner of Pappadox, a well known drinking establishment here in Sioux Falls recently opened a second establishment, calling it The Other Place. While Pappadox may get misspelled occasionally, it is at least memorable, which is more than I can say for The Other Place. And in an interview with the Argus Leader, the owner said of how he came up with the name, “People are always saying we should have went to the other place.” So the moniker is based on poor grammar. Nice.

Another team of budding restaurateurs opened “212° The Boiling Point” in Brandon a few years ago. Know what, I know the significance of 212 degrees without adding “the boiling point.” If they had stopped at “212°” it would have been a clever name, but like a joke, if you feel you have to explain it, you know it isn’t good. Now the same folks have opened kRav’N. Not just a mixed up spelling of a word (no, that would be too simple), they felt the need to throw in some odd caps, just to confuse the subject.

Poo Restaurant... yikes...Other examples; the venerable drinkery Smoe’s sold their liquor license to The Other Place and became Old Skoolz. Perfect for people who didn’t finish—and thus can’t spell—school. The Lie’brary was named after a bad old joke, while it’s sister pub The 18thAmendment was named after the legislation that banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol. If I didn’t know better I would think that was an alcohol-free establishment. Perhaps a better name would have been The 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition.

An old favorite downtown location on Phillips Avenue has seen many names on the door from Sanchez Taquitos to The Fat Duck to Café 334; all fine restaurants in their own way. Now the location holds Bros Brasserie Americano. It’s a nice restaurant, run by two really accomplished chefs, but in the short time it’s been open, I’ve heard it called Brother’s, Brassieres and “that place where Kristina’s used to be.” But most of those who get it right don’t know what a brasserie is or what kind of food to expect there. Sorry guys, I love your pork sandwich, but the name leaves something to be desired.

If someone would just ask before the menu is printed and the sign is on the building, there are a lot of really smart marketing minds in Sioux Falls who would help you come up with a good solid name. Who knows, we might even be willing to trade our services for food and drinks. What do you think?

-Jim

Photos by Poppy Thomas Hill and Benjamin Vander Steen. Thanks!

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