Restaurant Branding Studies

I’ve, once again, been wrestling with the concept of Gordon’s MPA Roses project, based on branding a restaurant that encourages people to try unusual foods. I took the idea of experimenting with food literally, and focused on a science lab theme to the branding and interior, touting the interesting methods of preparation of the food in the restaurant, inspired by similar interest currently trending with the popularity of the likes of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.

I spoke with my Advertising and Branding tutor Jonathan Baldwin over the main themes I’d developed so far. The restaurant was called Brain Food, it had the test tube cutlery logo, a 50s theme, would welcome people in for culinary classes and then give them the unusual ingredients in home chemistry sets. But whilst talking over the concepts we stumbled across a number of issues with the concept.

Firstly it’s not really established in the brief what kind of unusual food is on offer at this restaurant. They describe it as ‘bush tucker trial‘ influenced. If this means more exotically themed food I may already be on the wrong track, but if they mean more generally unusual food I might still be okay. Nevertheless after so much work on the science lab concept I don’t think scrapping the idea and  starting again would be the most productive thing I could really do, and it wouldn’t sit fantastically with the tutor either. So it’s maybe a matter of just hoping this restaurant focuses on unusual preparation methods or tweaking the concept to be less restrictive.

Additionally we looked at the logo. We came to the question of: “How many successful, large brands of restaurant currently use icons as their logos? How many show food?”  The answer is surprisingly not that many at all. Most depend on the typeface to exude a general atmosphere, rather than a specific concept, as themed restaurants tend to have incredibly limited lifetimes. They’re in vogue for a matter of weeks and are quickly forgotten about, once the novelty they depend on wears off. A local example might be Fast Eddies, an American diner-themed café, successful for a short time but unable to compete with competition in the long run. The key is perhaps not to box the whole thing into the rigid concept of science. Unlike the packaging project I did a short time ago every facet of this project should not scream science, but rather maybe imply the values of the restaurant in a far more subtle manner.

Currently this brand doesn’t promise an experience, and ultimately that’s what a restaurant should be. Who is this brand really aimed at? What does it say about those who run the restaurant? What does it say about the experience you’ll have when you go inside? These questions fail to be answered by a themed restaurant and are the potential reasons it fails to stand the test of time, as it has relatively flimsy brand values and aims, compared to competitors.

Instead I felt it may be best to maybe not ditch the entire scientific aesthetic but instead tone it down and focus instead on the ideals behind the theme. The theme was based on an interest in food and food knowledge, with an ambition to educate people about food, in the hope of converting them to food enthusiasts, with the further hope of this newfound enthusiasm helping them voluntarily experiment with food.

I started with renaming the brand. Brain Food in retrospect is perhaps witty but not entirely appetising, it conjures up unappealing images in the mind’s eye. So instead I’m thinking of changing the name of the restaurant to a more thematically open and relevant The Curious Cook. On first impression it feels more convincingly like a restaurant’s name and secondly instead of simply stating the fact that this is a food establishment and that it is science themed it instead implies craftsmanship, with curiosity implying an interest in food, and that within these doors something interesting is happening. It tones down the scientific theme nicely, whilst being able to retain some of its imagery.

Additionally the restaurant could be focused less on being a science lab but more of a classroom, to tie in with the fact that people would be welcomed into the restaurant to learn how to prepare these unusual dishes. The restaurant would still run in a Tapas-inspired system, but I may omit the periodic table idea if it comes across as too obviously scientific. Playing down the theme also allows for more brand flexibility. Sticking to a theme restricts the restaurant from stretching and bending to the current trends. This could lead onto the marketing campaign instead focusing on this interest and enthusiasm for culinary arts, but be interactive in some way.

I’ve decided to probably go for print media to advertise the restaurants, seeing a restaurant is a local entity then local papers seem like a logical place to promote. Additionally this is based on the principles of Heston Blumnthal’s mad food experiments frequent headlines even in major newspapers, added with the idea that scientific discoveries most certainly make headlines, so why should culinary discoveries be treated equally? I would focus on one of two campaign concepts for this medium.

The first of which would focus on the temptation to doodle on newspapers. Many people doodle over photographs of people and events whilst bored, so having an ad which encouraged such a thing and took advantage of the print medium would not only involve the potential consumer but additionally resonate with the restaurant’s ideals of participation, and the user creating their own meal and being a part of cooking.

The alternative to this would focus on the facts themselves, on the ‘curious’ part of the restaurant’s title, in that an interesting food fact or preparation method would be used and treated like a headline but left incomplete. This would hopefully encourage people to search out the answer, almost like a quiz challenge to the reader. The answer would be available online, on the restaurant’s facebook. The only issue with this concept is that the fact would need to be tempting and amazing enough to elicit the curiosity in the viewer to go out and find the restaurant and the answer.

So far this is all I’m focusing on for this project. How exactly I’ll tone down the menus, coaster designs or interiors of the restaurant I still don’t know. But once again, following the theme of curiosity seems like a better bet. So far at least. If the restaurant are curious about food then curiosity must be a good thing, and hence exploring more curious and unusual foods must be a good thing. That’s the premise anywho.

Listening to: Mimi Ashi by Oh No! Yoko


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