Restaurant Startups: Logo, Name, and Branding – What You Need to Know

May 16, 2022

Starting a restaurant from scratch is a dream for many, but few have the means to accomplish it. If you are lucky enough to turn a dream into a reality, there may be a few things you haven’t considered. All well-conceptualized restaurant ideas include a name, a logo, and an overall vibe for the brand. But how do you know your idea hasn’t already been taken? How do you ensure you comply with trademark and copyright laws?

Here are a few initial points to consider as you dream up your restaurant-to-be.


Naming Your Restaurant and Protecting Your Name

Coming up with a name for your restaurant is an exciting first step for restaurant owners. Maybe you’ve had it in your mind for years, or perhaps you are still trying to find that perfect name. Either way, you need to ensure the restaurant’s name is available and not already taken. You can usually look it up on your state’s Secretary of State website. Other ideas include creating a hard-to-forget name with a pun incorporated, using the names of family members whose culinary traditions you want to pay homage to, or incorporating some local flavor into your brand name.

Once you have the perfect name, register it as a trademark with the US Trade and Patent Office. Cross-check it to ensure it’s available as a website name and handle on social media platforms. If it isn’t, consider adding the state’s initials at the end. For example, if you run a cafe called Smith Family Cafe in New York, but that name has already in use on Instagram, consider taking the handle @smithfamilycafeNY.


naming your restaurant


Avoiding Trademark Infringement

Trademark infringement is a big deal–not only can it cause you to lose customers, but it can also cost you millions in a lawsuit. A Minnesota Taco joint made headlines earlier this year when it was sued for copyright infringement. Taco John’s of Wyoming accused Taco Chon’s of Minnesota of naming themselves a similar name to create confusion between the two brands. Both are fast-casual Mexican restaurants. Taco John’s seeks financial compensation for lost profits and a permanent stop to the similar-sounding name.

Although it’s possible to have civil suits regarding trademark infringement in a state court, they are typically brought to federal court. In trademark infringement trials, the court will hear evidence about the similarities between the two brands, determining if they are close enough to create confusion and have customers mistakenly assume there is an affiliation. If it’s ruled an infringement, the offending restaurant will have to change its name/logo, give financial compensation for potential money lost, and pay attorney fees. Therefore, you should avoid the possibility of an infringement suit, so you don’t lose time, money, and effort down the line.


Designing a Restaurant Logo

A study out of Harvard examined 597 brand logos and found that 40 percent of logos were descriptive while 60 percent of logos were nondescriptive. A descriptive logo incorporates design elements that show the customer what the business specializes in (think: a burger restaurant that has a burger in its logo.) In the studies conducted, consumers were more likely to find a descriptive logo more “authentic,” making them more likely to buy from the brand.

Consider a logo that incorporates design elements indicative of what you do. If art is not your strong suit, see if you can work with a graphic design team to develop the logo. Your logo will create a lasting impression on your customers, so it’s an important piece to get it right the first time.


How to Trademark/Copywrite Your Logo

Once you have a logo, it’s essential to protect your intellectual property. A trademark protects your logo and your slogan in most cases. However, if your logo is very intricate, it may be considered a creative intellectual design, which would warrant copyrighting in addition to a trademark.

You can begin a trademark application at the USPTO website. Costs range from $250 to $350. If you need to file for a copyright, you can do so at the US Copyright website, starting at $45.

Opening a restaurant can be a roller coaster of emotions, but developing your brand doesn’t have to be. By following the above steps, you can ensure that your business will be one-of-a-kind and on a path to success.