What’s in a name?

In my recent post about hotel restaurants and their unexpected competitors, I talked about the importance of recognizing and understanding how a restaurant’s role has changed over the last decade. Now it’s time to reevaluate, and possibly rethink, your restaurant’s name. There is no better way to refresh your image than by changing the name of your restaurant to something that is more consistent with what people will actually experience while there. A name change — along with a light refresh of the FF&A, a menu update and even a uniform change — can give your restaurant a whole new life. When it comes to building a memorable brand, continuity is of the utmost importance. Creating a brand identity that resonates with customers and in some way starts to describe either the offering or the experience so that it appeals to their emotions can be achieved through something as simple as choosing the right name for your hotel’s restaurant space.

Pique your guests’ interest

As much as you might feel the urge to give your restaurant a “safe” name, such as the hotel’s street address or a name with no history or story, don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Where’s the drama in a street address? When restaurant goers think about dining with you, they’ll probably experience little in terms of curiosity or that beckoning call to spend their hours at your restaurant if the name is unattractive. Spend the extra time to create a name that not only captures your guests’ attention, but also gives you and the hotel staff a meaningful name that holds true to your brand’s overall story.

Remember too that although we think of language as the alphabet, the reality is that language is all around us in graphics, colors and styles. The graphic depiction of a name is as important as the name itself. Take, for example, logos for two restaurants, Trademark Tavern and Trademark.

While these restaurants have the same name, very different messages about the restaurants’ cultures, atmospheres and menus are sent through the logo designs. Trademark Tavern’s logo says fun and sporty, while Trademark’s logo talks of sophistication and refinement through its graphic and text style. These subtle differences will most likely attract guests looking for very specific dining experiences.

In developing the restaurant concept for Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyoming, we made sure we chose a name that accomplishes the following:

  • It tells a story.
  • It gives a sense of inspiration.
  • It provides an emotional connection.
  • It offers marketing and public relations opportunities.

By adhering to these criteria, we came up with Haydens Post. Named for the Hayden Surveys of 1871 and 1872, Haydens Post captures the essence of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. These geological surveys, responsible for naming many of the important area landmarks as well as for capturing the first photos of the Teton Mountains and Yellowstone, eventually led to the U.S. government’s protection of Yellowstone as the first national park in the country. We tied the restaurant to the history of the surrounding area and in doing so, we were able to hit all criteria.

We then designed the restaurant’s logo to work in line with the name. In the logo, the text style — simple and, at the same time, playful — supports the concept of Haydens Post as a beacon and a relaxed and inviting base camp for diners.

Cohesion is key

One trend I’ve seen with hotel properties is the tendency to treat the restaurant’s bar as its own, separate space with its own name. In the customer’s eye, this creates an illusion of two separate and unconnected brands. You wouldn’t see this in a standalone restaurant, so why do this in a hotel? It’s confusing to the guest, and it will only set you back in terms of brand recognition. Instead, connect the bar to the restaurant with one name. In doing so, you will create a feeling of connectivity within your restaurant space, and your guests will be more inclined to give both spaces a try. 

The takeaway

Remember this! Restaurants in lodging spaces are losing out in overall U.S. dining sales, and losing significantly. You’ve got a long way to go. Creating an attractive and financially successful food and beverage space can be achieved through the consideration of continuity and name recognition. Share a compelling story, market it to your community and see to it that its message is reiterated throughout your various food and beverage spaces.