It can be challenging to create a restaurant name that is distinctive, memorable, and gives your customers an idea of what style of food and service to expect. This restaurant name generator gives you dozens of possibilities, the steps below will help you refine them. Enter your name, type of food, and location to get started.
Finding the perfect name is a big step toward realizing your dream of opening a restaurant. Your restaurant’s name should be as unique and descriptive as your menu. Here are a couple of steps you can take to help you decide on the ultimate name for your restaurant:
1. Consider Your Service Style
The best restaurant names tell your customers what to expect before they walk through your doors. A name like the Starry Night Brasserie suggests a slightly upscale French dinner spot. If your restaurant is a breakfast diner that specializes in extra-large Belgian waffles, however, that name wouldn’t be a great fit.
There are three major service styles to consider:
- Quick service restaurant: This restaurant does not have a waitstaff. Customers order, pay for, and pick up food from a counter. Pizzerias, barbecue joints, burger shacks, and sandwich shops are all great examples of a quick service model. Food is typically served in disposable packaging.
- Casual full service restaurant: These are restaurants that have a full staff to take orders, clear tables, and present checks tableside. Casual full service restaurants serve all kinds of cuisine from pho to seafood to trend-driven farm-to-table fare. Food is served on plateware, but tables may not have tablecloths.
- Fine Dining: Like casual service restaurants, fine dining establishments can serve any kind of food. They tend to have large service teams that include bussers, food runners, expediters, and hosts in the dining room as well as a full brigade of prep cooks, line cooks, sous chefs, and chefs de cuisine in the kitchen. Tables tend to have table cloths, linen napkins, and a full set of silver and glassware at each setting.
Names For Quick Service Restaurants
Quick service restaurants can be chains like Shake Shack and Chipotle, or local eateries like your favorite barbecue spot or Indian take out. Names in this category tend to be mouthwatering and give a vivid idea of what style of food they serve. They should also be easy to spell using a smartphone keypad, so they will be easy for customers to find on delivery apps like UberEats, Postmates, and DoorDash.
Some popular words that immediately suggest quick service are:
- Cafeteria: This term is double-edged. It is used as a name for a food hall where customers serve themselves, but some high-end eateries specializing in comfort food use it, too.
- Canteen: Traditionally a snackbar on a military base, canteen is a fun word to signify quick restaurants that don’t take themselves too seriously. Cantine and cantina are popular French and Spanish alternatives, respectively.
- Garden: This is a popular term for informal Pan-Asian restaurants with names like Hong Kong Garden, Ginger Garden, and Thai Garden. It denotes a family-friendly atmosphere, as in the continuously popular Olive Garden.
- Joint: Casual and fun with a jukebox playing in the corner. You’ll probably want to include the type of food you’re serving in the restaurant name to get across what people can expect when they arrive at your restaurant.
- Lab: A lab is generally a low-price option that is slightly experimental. Boston’s Noodle Lab serves inexpensive bowls of broth that tie together the culinary traditions of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
- Noodle: Gets straight to the point. There will be bowls of noodles here. This can be the end of a restaurant name, as in North Hollywood’s Pa Ord Noodle, or it can be followed by another restaurant word like stop, shop, wok, etc., as in the Canadian restaurant Noodle Wok.
- Palace: This word sounds high-end, but you tend to see it most often used in the restaurant names of quick cooking, take-away spots as in Pizza Palace, India Palace, or China Palace.
- Shack: Shacks are fun, laid-back, and often have a beachy vibe. Avoid this term if you want your restaurant to be on the fancy side.
- Stand: A stand is a spot to quickly pick up food with little to no seating. Typically stands have no waitstaff, only counter staff.
- Stop: This calls to mind a small operation, and usually has a specific food attached to it like Burrito Stop, Ramen Stop, or Kebab Stop.
- Wok: Wok immediately calls to mind quick cooked dishes from various Asian traditions.
“Don’t overthink it. Find something you like, and go with your gut! Your success or failure will be predicated much more on your location, atmosphere, food, cocktails, service culture, etc. So, don’t lose focus!”
—M. Dana Mule, Owner, HULA’s Modern Tiki
Names for a Casual Restaurant
If your restaurant concept has a waitstaff, but no tablecloths, you are entering casual restaurant territory. This is the world of Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, and your local pasta spot. Typical restaurants in this category are cafes, bistros, and chop houses. Like a quick service restaurant, casual restaurants need a distinctive and descriptive name; Legal Seafoods is a great example. A casual eatery can take a bit more poetic license if inspiration strikes, however.
These are common words you’ll find in casual restaurant names:
- Bar: If you use the word bar in your restaurant name, you should be open late and serve plenty of different alcohol options. Bars are typically casual, and serve popular share plates, like loaded fries or nachos.
- Bar & Grill: A bar and grill is decidedly more extensive in service and menu than a plain, old bar. It is still a place where customers can expect a relaxed atmosphere and maybe a television above the bar.
- Cafe: People usually think of coffee and light fare when they hear this term in a restaurant name. It’s possible to dress this word up or down, though the word typically suggests a laid back atmosphere. Putting a simple word in front of “cafe” can create a simple and memorable name for your restaurant, like Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe.
- Chophouse: A chophouse is a restaurant that specializes in steaks, chops, and similar dishes, and mainly focuses on traditionally cooked meats accompanied by fine wines and good ales. This word is good in combination with a location—like the Hanover Street Chophouse. Area codes and people’s names are also great fits here, like 801 Chophouse or Bob’s Steak & Chophouse.
- Diner: Diners are often very casual and serve a mix of breakfast foods and other classic American dishes. Quick, friendly service and late hours are the first things that pop into mind after hearing the word.
- Eatery: Eatery runs the gamut from laid back to upscale. Often refers to American food, but can also work for other types of cuisine. Names with eatery in them tend to rely on location to provide the rest of their title as in the Thompson House Eatery or the Laconia Hill Eatery.
- Grill: Grill is a versatile word for a casual restaurant. Grills tend to also include their cuisine style in their name, as in Moe’s Southwest Grill or Tzatziki Greek Grill.
- Kitchen: The word “kitchen” implies an inviting, informal setting where patrons will enjoy dishes inspired by home-cooking. They might also see food being prepared. Cocina, Cucina, and Küche are popular Spanish, Italian, and German versions.
- Pub: Pubs often offer deliciously greasy or cheesy bar food along with an extensive list of craft beer. Consider going a different route if you specialize in a different type of alcohol, or don’t serve beer at all. The Gastro Pub is a slightly more gourmet version of the pub trend, though restaurants tend to avoid using the word “Gastro Pub” in their name, and opt for simply “pub.”
- Tavern: A tavern is a higher-end bar. Taverns have more attentive service and more expansive menus than bars.
“If you’re struggling to find the perfect name for your restaurant, don’t force it. Instead, research popular restaurants, study the history of your cuisine, understand its culture, unveil unknown facts about its origins, and then take your mind off the topic. Your best ideas will come when you’re most unprepared for them.”
—Jason Acoca, Co-founder, COBE Media
“Fancy” Restaurant Names
Fine dining restaurants create their own naming rules. A look across currently operating fine dining restaurants, as well as high end restaurants throughout history, shows four basic naming trends: nouns, proper names, personal stories, and figures of speech. Unlike casual and quick service restaurants, fine dining restaurants tend not to include their type of cuisine or a word to define their style of service.
Here are some popular strategies for standing out in the fine dining realm:
- Use a single noun: In English or any other language, simple nouns are popular for high-end restaurants. The ticket-only Los Angeles restaurant Trois Mec is simply French for “three friends.” John Tesar named his Dallas Steak House simply, Knife.
- Pick a proper name: Proper nouns, like an uncommon family name, are also great here—think of Delmonico’s or Curtis Stone’s restaurants Gwen and Maude.
- Tell a story: Personal stories are part of what creates a genuine connection with potential customers. If there is a way to work a piece of your personal story into your restaurant name, as did the Maine restaurant The Lost Kitchen, it can truly interest diners. San Francisco staple Chapeau! (exclamation point included), is a French restaurant whose name is inspired by the owner’s love of hats.
- Use a figure of speech: The story goes that chef Thomas Keller thought of the name for his New York City outpost Per Se when answering a question about his first restaurant, The French Laundry. He said something along the lines of “the new restaurant won’t be like the French Laundry per se …” and a restaurant name was born. Chicago restaurant Avec is simply French for “with,” and its Chicago neighbor Alinea is named after that funny paragraph symbol that means “the beginning of a new thought.”
High end restaurant names tend to be a little more puzzling than casual and quick service restaurants. The experience of their restaurant begins with the name, so at this tier, adventurous names are more important than names that telegraph the type of food on the menu.
2. Consider the Cuisine of Your Restaurant
If your restaurant will serve French, Italian, or Japanese food, then your restaurant ancestors have done a lot of work for you. These culinary traditions have standard naming hierarchies that define the level of service at various types of restaurants. If you are planning to serve French fare with early hours and lots of coffee, you are a cafe. If you are an Italian restaurant with fine dining ambitions, you just opened an Osteria. A casual Japanese grill is easily an izakaya.
Here is the basic spectrum of each, listed from most casual to most upscale:
- French: Cafe, Bistro, Brasserie, Restaurant, Chez
- Italian: Pizzeria, Trattoria, Vinoteca, Ristorante, Osteria
- Japanese: Izakaya, Shokudo (Teppanyaki/ Sushi-ya), Teiishoku-ya, Kaiseki
These naming traditions tend to describe the type of food served as well as the culinary style it comes from. Most Americans are familiar with the dish that gives a pizzeria its name. In the same way, a cafe is defined by its excellent coffee program, while an Izakaya is named after by the variety of skewered meats and vegetables that are cooked over a small charcoal grill. Bistros and Trattorias are French and Italian restaurants that offer full service and a wide ranging menu.
Italian vinotecas are wine-focused. A Japanese Sushi-ya will serve, of course, sushi. If you are serving any style of food that is exotic to your location, choosing the name of a single, signature dish or ingredient can work. La Paella Spanish restaurant is a good example, as is Chipotle, or the Philadelphia restaurant Stargazy, named after the classic British dish Stargazy pie.
3. Try Some WildCard Strategies
Regardless of your service of cuisine style, there are some tried and true naming conventions that can work to generate restaurant name ideas. These can be combined with the information in the previous two steps to create your full, formal restaurant name.
- Join words with an “&”: A holdover from British pub names like The Rose & Crown, and the Dog & Duck, joining two unrelated words together can make a great name, as in the Chicago restaurant Girl & The Goat, or Los Angeles’ Love & Salt. This works in other languages, too, as in the Italian restaurant Pane e Vino.
- Create a portmanteau: A portmanteau is simply a new word that is created by blending multiple words. The popular Los Angeles eatery Bäco Mercat where Bäco—a combination of the words global and taco—describes its genre-bending flatbread sandwiches is a great example. Cronut, Frappuccino, and spork are all portmanteaus that are so successful they have become part of our culinary vocabulary. An original portmanteau is also likely to be available as a domain name and social media handle.
- Think of hungry animals: A long-running Los Angeles seafood restaurant called itself The Hungry Cat. A spot in Walpole, New Hampshire, called The Hungry Diner cuts out any confusion as to what they are about. You’ll also see names like Lazy Bear, or simply Animal.
- Add your location: Location words can be your nearest named cross street, a local landmark, an area code, ZIP code, or neighborhood name. New York Restaurateur Danny Meyer showcased the versatility of this strategy with his restaurants Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, and Eleven Madison Park.
- Think about geography: Location names can also include the name of the type of soil, a geographical landmark, or a native plant. The Seattle restaurant Sitka and Spruce draws its name from nearby evergreen trees. The Painted Desert Grill makes sense in the Arizona desert.
- Use a non-English word: Choose a word for your restaurant style from the lists above, then add a word from the language spoken in the country where your cuisine originates. Like Khao Noodle Shop in Dallas; Khao means “rice” in Laotian, which is the foundation of the menu Khao serves.
Try a few different combinations. Play with the order of words; Bistro on the Boulevard has a different ring that The Boulevard Bistro. Come up with three to five restaurant name ideas to test on friends and business partners. Then sit down with your favorite options, and make sure they are available.
Claim Your Name
If you have thought of a perfect restaurant name, it is possible that other business owners have thought of the same one. A Google search for Pane e Vino, for example, displays a mountain of results in cities all over the world. Especially in the age of social media and food delivery apps, your restaurant’s name should be unique so it is easy for your customers to find you.
“I counsel all my clients whether for a restaurant or another business to conduct a search after they come up with some candidates. We suggest that they conduct Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Open Table, Resy and any other industry specific searches on their own to assist in narrowing down a potential candidate before hiring an attorney to conduct a clearance search. If they find anything similar, they should move on to their next option.”
—Jason H. Rosenblum, Intellectual Property Attorney
Before finalizing the name of your restaurant, search for the name on common food delivery apps as well as social media and Google. Look on your local Secretary of State’s website to see if other businesses near you operate under the same name. Check sites like GoDaddy to see if the website domain name is available.
A completely singular name may not be important to smaller operations. If you are operating a small-town diner, it may be fine if your restaurant shares a name with an eatery in another state. If you have plans to grow your business to multiple locations, however, it is a good idea to trademark your business name.
If you have an attorney advising your business, he or she may be able to assist you with registering a trademark. Alternatively, a company like IncFile offers a trademark registration service for $199, plus the $275 Federal filing fee. Its package includes the services of a trademark attorney who will conduct a search to ensure that your desired name is available to trademark. Processing a full federal trademark can take three to four months.
Whether or not you decide to trademark your restaurant name, you should take the time to ensure you claim the social media handles for your restaurant on all major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Even if you don’t plan to actively update your restaurant’s social media presence, claiming the handles prevents people who are not affiliated with your restaurant from scooping them up.
When you start a restaurant, you need a name that is unique and descriptive. The best restaurant names also let customers know what style of food and service to expect, without being so common that you might be confused with a competitor. Once you find a good fit, you’ll need to do a search to ensure that you can get your restaurant name as a domain name, and social media handle.