4 Ways to Choose a Restaurant Name

Choosing a name for your restaurant is one of the most important decisions you can make. It may reflect your restaurant’s theme or its location, or simply be a play on words. As the owner, you should select a name that resonates with you and has either an emotional tie to the location or the clientele. The most important thing to consider when choosing a restaurant name is the impression it leaves after customers read it.

© The Balance, 2018

Name Your Restaurant After a Location

If the restaurant is a unique place, the owners have their work cut out for them. They take a cue from the location and pick a name from there. For example, there is a restaurant located in the former boiler room of an old New England shoe factory. Because of this historic link, the restaurant was aptly named The Boiler Room Restaurant. It is easy to remember, and most of the locals know that it refers to the old shoe manufacturer.

The French Laundry, in Napa Valley, California, is one of the country's most esteemed restaurants. Its name stems from the fact the restaurant building housed a steam laundry during the 19th century. It was actually a Chinese laundry, but chef-owner Thomas Keller thought that a European name better exemplified his nouveau-French style.

Reflect a Theme

Choosing a restaurant name can also come from a theme or menu. Chinese restaurants do this perfectly, with names like Jade Palace, Fortune Fountain, and The Great Wall. Each of these restaurant names let customers know that they serve Chinese food.

Saison, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco, is named after the French word for season. Since the menu changes dramatically with the availability of the seasonal produce, the name is a perfect fit for their concept and is another great example of how to reflect a theme in your restaurant's name.

Add a Personal Meaning

Opening a restaurant is like having another child in many ways. Sometimes a restaurant's name is indeed a reflection of the owner’s name or someone dear to that person Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas named his restaurant concept after his daughter. Perhaps your grandmother influenced your joy of cooking, so you might name your restaurant after her. Whatever the meaning behind your restaurant’s name, be prepared to share it with the public, who love a good story.

On the flip side, maybe the name doesn't have meaning for you but would hold significance for your clientele. Let's say you buy a beautiful old building that once housed a charity for children. Calling your restaurant something like The Giving Table evokes a sentiment that might otherwise prove elusive when marketing your establishment.

Try a Play on Words

Paula Deen’s first restaurant business was called The Bag Lady because she and her sons went around delivering bagged lunches to local businesses. Fun restaurant names that have nothing to do with food are usually easy to remember and pass on by word of mouth.

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck called his Beverly Hills restaurant Spago (Italian slang for spaghetti). Little in the name would tell you that it serves a fusion of Mediterranean and California cuisine, with a specialty in wood-fired pizzas. It’s just a great restaurant name.

While some people don't find puns all that clever, they can be clever and memorable in restaurant names. Names like Thai Tanic, Frying Nemo Fish and Chips, and Lox Stock and Bagels all use a clever (if even a little disturbing) twist on words that make them easy to recall.