If you read our article on coming up with restaurant name ideas, then you probably were left with a list of quite a few potential names. Now comes the part where you take that list and whittle it down to find the PERFECT name that attracts customers for years to come.
This process will vary depending on how many potential names you have on your brainstorming list. You are not going to be able to follow these steps with a giant list; it would take forever.
The goal is to get it down to five names by step three. To start, pick your top twenty and move on to the meat and potatoes of this post to begin to eliminate names and find “the one.”
Put it to the Test
1. Is It Available?
The first step in putting potential names to the test is to make sure it is available. Doing this early on will save you the wasted time and heartache of finding out someone has already taken the name you fell in love with. Determining availability is an incredibly important part of the process but is relatively simple.
Start by doing a quick Google search. Is another restaurant using the same name or a very similar name? If not, you have cleared the first hurdle!
The next step is to type the exact potential name for your restaurant in the address bar without spaces, add the “.com,” and hit enter. If another business’s website comes up, then you are going to need to modify your original idea or pick a different name. You are in luck if the site goes to a sales page or is unable to connect; that means it’s most likely available!
Next, go to godaddy.com to see if the domain you want is available to purchase. If it is, that is a good sign and you are on the right track to finding a name.
Most domains cost around $10-$20 to purchase, but some domains are bought by “flippers” with the sole intent of flipping them to somebody for a profit. If they are asking for anything more than $100 to acquire the domain, I advise you to pass and find another domain or slightly modify it (perhaps add “restaurant” or “cafe” to it) to not pay the premium price. Premium domains can go for more than $15,000! It is not worth it!
The next step in making sure the name that you want for your restaurant is readily available is to check the federal trademark database. You can use the TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) to check to see if the name you like is already in use.
Even if the name you want to use is not trademarked, you still want to confirm no one else is using it. If you were to go ahead and name your restaurant the same as another existing restaurant and they filed suit, they would most likely win because they will have evidence to show that they were using the name first. Using a name that is not trademarked but is already being used by another restaurant is a risky gamble.
For example, if I want to name a restaurant, “The Clubhouse Diner,” a quick search of the TESS system shows that it is not trademarked. Nonetheless, this is the name of an operating Diner in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and has been in business for over 40 years. Fun fact: it is also the first (paid) restaurant job I ever had!
If I used the name and they contested it, it would be clear that they had it first and thus hold the rights to the name. Even if I paid the $500-$1000 fee to file for a trademark, they would still be able to challenge me. With 40 years of tax records, reviews, menus, and pictures to prove that they used the name first, the court would quickly rule in their favor. The moral of the story is not to risk using someone else’s idea, be creative.
Using a Non-Restaurant Trademark or derivatives of another restaurant’s name is also a bad idea. For example, opening a rock & roll-themed restaurant and naming it the “Soft Rock Cafe” is just asking for trouble from The Hard Rock Cafe. Yes, softrockcafe.com is available for purchase, but don’t even consider it!
2. Does it Fit?
At this point in the naming process, you probably have a good amount of potential names listed. Now it is time to narrow that list down to a top-five. When you are in the process of cutting the list down to five, take each name and ask yourself if the name fits the concept you are trying to bring to life. Here are some tips to help narrow your search.
Start with the end in mind. What is your ultimate goal? Are you looking to start a restaurant that grows to become the next big chain? Or, are you merely looking to make enough to provide for your family while doing something you love? Considering where you want to end up will make it massively easier to get on the road towards that goal.
Does the name align with your restaurant’s core beliefs? For example, the word “Barrell” in Cracker Barrell has a rustic feel to it that is in line with the restaurant’s goal of feeling like an old country store.
Does the name align with your target customer? If you are targeting a younger demographic of working professionals, you probably don’t want to use a name like Nifty Fifty’s that would be more appealing to older folks.
A creative name is fantastic, but you do not want to create a name that is complicated or difficult to remember or pronounce. A name that is difficult to recall will harm word of mouth as customers try to tell their friends about the great new place they just visited! Keep it simple yet memorable.
3. Create a Focus Group
Now that you are down to a top-five, it is time to get some input and choose a final name. Run it by friends and see what they think. Using a poll is a great way to get feedback from a larger focus group. The easiest way to do this is through Facebook messenger or Facebook groups.
A great way to accomplish this is to set up a simple survey through Survey Monkey. Below you will find a free template that you can use for your survey!
The more responses you can get to a survey, the more accurate this method becomes by seeking the “wisdom of the crowd.” Ideally, you will have 50+ responses. To find people to complete your survey, try these methods:
- Your Phone Address Book: Send a simple message with a link to the survey to every contact you have, either by email or text.
- Local Facebook groups: The people in these groups are your potential customers. Their input is very valuable!
- Industry Facebook Groups: There are quite a few prominent ones with some really smart and creative operators who will give you honest feedback.
Naming a restaurant is both challenging and stressful, but do not let it stop being fun. This is an exciting time and you should try to enjoy the process. Take your time before committing. Once you do, there is no turning back.
Not to worry though, if you followed the steps in this article along with my other post on coming up with name ideas, you are off to a great start!