The Complete Guide to Restaurant Branding

With relatively low barriers to entry, it can seem like anyone with a family recipe, a healthy amount of passion, and a dream can make a go of it in the restaurant industry. However there are a number of important factors to consider to ensure you not only make it through the crucial first 12 months of trading, but that you’re set up to succeed and thrive for years to come.

Along with negotiating supplier agreements, choosing the best location, creating a great menu and pricing strategy, and employing the right team with the right experience, developing a solid restaurant brand should be up there in your list of priorities.

Don’t I just need a logo, some fonts and colours?

Your restaurant brand encompasses so much more than just a logo or what your brand looks like – it is everything your customers experience in relation to your restaurant from first hearing about you from friends and checking your menu on the website, through to how your staff greet and treat them whilst dining, and even what they see on the back of the toilet door.

We have over 20 years’ experience creating, rejuvenating and refining restaurant brands to help them connect with customers, stand out from the ever-increasing competition, and endure the ups and downs of hospitality. Here are our key recommendations for building your successful restaurant brand.

Know your story

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of branding, dating back to many moons ago when our ancestors sat around the fireside having a good yarn. Fast forward to today, and the same basic principles apply – great brands are built on great stories that create connection, warmth, trust and, most importantly, authenticity.

It’s crucial that you know your story before you start to build your brand – who are you and why are you in the food or restaurant business? What does your restaurant deliver that no other restaurant can? How do you do it better? (And we are not talking about using the freshest ingredients as everyone says that!) Where does your passion for food come from? How do you create or cook your product? Is there anything unique about your methods or recipes? What do you want your customers to tell their friends about your restaurant?

Many people starting out in the restaurant business or trying to save a restaurant brand don’t believe they have a story but it’s simply a case of asking the right questions.

Casa Gusto pasta packaging design featuring circus characters to reflect the brand's unique story.

Casa Gusto didn’t believe they had an interesting story for their range of imported Italian food and ingredients – until we began talking about how their father first discovered the products whilst following the circus around Italy in his twenties. The Casa Gusto brand was built from there.

Understand your customers

With so many food and restaurant options available within a dining precinct or at the click of a button online, it often comes down to personal or group preference as to where your potential customers will go. You need to really know your ideal customer in order to build a brand that talks their language, makes them laugh or feel good about their purchasing decision, and ultimately leads them away from your competitor and straight to your restaurant door.

The Soo Zee 23 brand identity reflects the 23 unique herbs and spices that make up their authentic beef broth with an eclectic mix of characters, heritage imagery and ingredients.

What’s in a name? Soo Zee is Sichuanese for “number” and 23 represents the number of ingredients that go into Soo Zee 23’s signature beef broth. Aimed at customers seeking a truly authentic Sichuanese experience, the logo also contains the Chinese characters for “eat” and “23”, further enhancing the authenticity of their specialty cuisine, and causing our client to literally jump up and down in joy when he first saw it. View project

Find your voice

Knowing your story and your customers will help you define your tone of voice – should your restaurant brand be humorous, edgy, elegant or mainstream? There is a place for all of these approaches, but what is right for you, your restaurant and your style of customer?

Your tone of voice and brand style should apply to more than just written words. How should your staff greet and treat your customers throughout their experience, right down to saying goodbye? Should you bring personality into the restaurant with hidden pieces of messaging or imagery? How can you use your staff uniform to reinforce your voice and style?

The opportunities to bring personality and further reinforce your brand are endless and pay dividends when people walk away with a smile or even better, share with their networks – free marketing!

The refreshed Oporto identity features authentic Portuguese tiles and language to reinforce their heritage, with images of chickens throughout to showcase their specialty cuisine.

Inspired by Portuguese “azulejo” tiles, the refreshed Oporto brand oozes authenticity, clearly represents the cuisine, and provides a smile. See how our work improved NPS 40 points. 

Restaurant branding opportunities

Having worked with hundreds of restaurants and food brands over the years, these are the most underutilised areas we see for amplifying your brand:

Menu design

Whether it’s on the wall or handheld, your menu is something every customer is going to read or at least look at – use it to connect and push the key messages you want people to know about your brand and business, but not to the detriment of readability.

The 6 Head menu reinforces their premium positioning using a custom leather case branded with the logo, and die cut pages featuring core brand elements.

Encased in leather, with the logo branded on the front, the 6Head menu not only feels premium, but also ties in with the story of the six head of cattle rumoured to be the first in Australia that formed the basis for the brand. View full branding project.

Wall graphics

Restaurant, fast food outlet, drive thru, market stall – they all have walls. Use this space to illustrate a key message, talk about your story, food or brand principles, or simply create a smile in the mind.

Each Guzman Y Gomez store features a unique wall graphic that reinforces their brand heritage and purpose.

Every Guzman Y Gomez restaurant has a feature wall that reinforces the Mexican street-style roots of the brand. See our work with GYG over the past 15 years. 

Takeaway packaging

Your takeaway bags, boxes and cups should be treated as walking advertisements. Create something truly clever and/or interactive and watch those Instagram posts write themselves.

The Chicken Treat bucket packaging is designed in the brand's comic book style and features the word

Dang! One word says it all, really. Chicken Treat fried chicken is dang good! Read more about why we used a comic book style for the Chicken Treat restaurant branding.

Let’s talk about your restaurant brand

Whether you’re a brand manager looking to reinvigorate a multi-national food brand or an entrepreneur with the beginnings of a dream, you can talk to us. Contact us on +61 2 8231 9977 or and let’s see how we can build the best brand solution for you today.