What’s in a Name?  What the top 100 restaurants and bars in America tell us about how to select a name.

What’s in a Name?  What the top 100 restaurants and bars in America tell us about how to select a name.

Naming your restaurant or bar is an important part of creating your brand identity, so it’s worth spending time to figure out something that sounds good, is memorable and matches your concept.  Plus, you’ll need a name that has a matching domain name available for your website and any relevant social media accounts.  Lastly, you’ll want to make sure the name isn’t already being used in your local area and possibly even beyond, so that you have a unique name that you alone can own and won’t have a legal challenge to your brand.

The process to finalize a name can take some time, but there are four key steps to develop a great name for a restaurant or bar.

Step one:  Brainstorm with abandon!

I like to do a major brain dump and just write everything down I can think of and then work on it over a few weeks (or more).  As I keep working on it, I re-order the top part of the list as I decide which ones are my favorites (sometimes based on my own opinion, but also based on feedback from family and friends).  I also use the list as a place to keep track of notes as well as which domain names are available – names that are not available  often eliminate some of the options. 

Don’t rush this process:  it may take some time to brainstorm and research options that match your restaurant concept.  It’s great to start by thinking broadly of all the names you like. 

There are a couple of online tools I use to help brainstorm and develop new combinations of the words I like:

Name generator:  Wordoid  

Domain name generators: Nameboy  Leandomainsearch  Namemesh    

It can also be helpful to look at other names that are being used in the market as an inspiration for new ideas for your restaurant or bar. To help spark your ideas, we’ve compiled a list of the top 100 restaurants and bars in the U.S by name and meaning, and organized them into five different categories. 


Step two: Find a domain name

Check the domain names for all the ideas on your list.   Revise/alter the names or eliminate as needed.

The sources I use to look up and buy domain names are: www.hover.com  www.godaddy.com.

I think it’s important to get a .com domain name instead of the less common .net or other extensions, especially for a consumer-facing brand like restaurants, bars and other food services, so I’d suggest limiting your search for .com URLs only.  If you haven’t done this type of research before, you may be surprised at just how hard it is to find a .com domain name that isn’t taken already (or is available but is really expensive to buy).  You may have to modify a name you like in order to find the right domain name.   For example, if the restaurant name is Jane’s Cafe and janescafe.com is already being used, try variations of the name using:

-       Location identifiers:  janescafenyc.com janescafeonthird.com

-       Additional names (perhaps a middle name or combined with another name you like): janeandjoecafe.com  janeybcafe.com

-       Multiple words: janescafeandcoffee.com  janeskitchenandcafe.com  sunnyjanescafe.com

As I’m looking up availability of domain names, the names continue to evolve -  I continue to prioritize the list from favorites to least favorite or bucket them in groups.  Keep getting feedback from friends and family to help refine the process.

Step three: Use external resources as needed

If you get stuck without a name you really love at this point, you can go back and start again at step one, or you can use an external resource to help generate a name for the business.  Even if you don’t have much of a budget, there are great online sites that can help you find a good name, including:

Squadhelp – which runs a contest among thousands of naming experts and suggests many names to choose from (with .com domain names that are available). Squadhelp is very affordable with the basic package starting at $199.

After extensive brainstorming on names for another business idea, I used Squadhelp to find a name and was very impressed with how easy the service was to use as well as the diversity of names they developed.  I would definitely use it again if I needed naming help. 

Crowdspring - is another alternative to Squadhelp with naming packages starting at $299.

If you have a larger budget and need something further along, you can hire an online or in person agency to help develop a brand name and design for your restaurant or bar.

Step four: Get registered

Once you find the name you like, buy the domain name so you own that URL.  You should also reserve the name on social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram, maybe Twitter (if it’s a fine dining restaurant, Twitter is a good place to reach the business community, but if it’s a casual local spot, I’d probably skip it).  You don’t need to use any of these accounts right away, but reserving them all now will ensure that someone else doesn’t take the name you wanted to use. 

Finally, of course, be sure to register your business by following the process in your local state/city, including the requirements for registering your business name. Depending on the scope of your business, particularly if you have ambitions to expand to multiple locations or aspire to get national recognition for your restaurant/bar, you may also want to look at federal trademarks.  You can start with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office and follow their process for applying for a trademark (assuming it is available). You may also want to consult an attorney to trademark or copyright your name.

Any other suggestions you have had success with?  Or questions?  Shoot us an email at info@dinexpert.com. 

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