What’s in a name? A franchise’s services and staff will ultimately determine whether it survives or falters, but a its name ultimately will play a huge bearing on the way it is known to the world. We know for a fact that franchisors spend a great amount of time considering exactly what they should name their business before expanion.
The name game is particularly important to food franchisors. Take, for instance, the 'Papa' trend in pizza franchises. There’s Papa John’s. There’s also Papa Murphy’s. Or consider a recent restaurant-naming trend in the Bay Area that the Wall Street Journal recently profiled.
It seems in San Francisco and Oakland, which is home to some of America’s best restaurants, there has been an unlikely upsurge in restaurants named after somewhat obscure roadways. So you can now enjoy a nice meal in places named A16, RN74 and SR24. The first two of those roads are named for highways in Italy and France, the third is something of a copycat, named for a road in Bay Area. It seems naming your Italian restaurant Bella Roma or something similar just won’t do anymore.
What does this mean for franchising? Well firstly, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Note that in the case of the San Francisco roadway restaurant-naming craze, the names do nothing to clearly communicate the food on offer. Rather they do the opposite and leave the customer to do all of the imagining beforehand. In a competitive food market like San Francisco, a bit of mystery probably goes a long way. Food franchisors eyeing national growth cannot afford to be so cryptic. They must communicate their brand immediately with their name. For instance, we hear the name Papa John’s and the mind immediately thinks of hot pizza. This mental connection underwrites their success.
But all the same, name crazes come and go, just as new words enter the cultural dictionary out of the blue. Franchisors eyeing national expansion know they need a bold, memorable and inviting name to make sure customers remember their business. This goes beyond the restaurant world. There’s a lot in a name for franchises.