Indicators you need a new logo

You can update the menu, redesign the interior, and launch a new advertising campaign, but unless your restaurant keeps its logo fresh, you’re going to miss out on new and returning customers. As a communications tool, everything about your logo – from the decision to use a serif or sans-serif font – sends a message about who you are and what you have to offer.

Are you sending the right message? Find out why Arby’s, Taco Bell, Chili’s, Olive Garden, and KFC needed new logos. And learn the six indicators that it may be time for your restaurant to refresh its logo in this week’s episode of Branding Bites.

Rather read than watch? Check out the transcript below!

// Transcript

Kacha: Hi everybody and welcome to Branding Bites. My name is Kacha, I am the strategy director here at Skidmore Studio.

Shawn: Hi I’m Shawn, the design director. And as the design director, I’ve got a very exciting show in store. It’s my personal favorite. We’re going to talk all about logos today.

Kacha: This is going to be a good one.

Shawn: More specifically, should you get a new one? Do you need a new one?

Kacha: Sometimes we have to think about this. It is a topic worth considering if you’re a restaurant at any stage of your growth.

Shawn: What are the indicators that you might need a new logo?

Kacha: Okay, let’s go through them.

Shawn: We’re going to start off with a very practical one and that’s “Is it functional?” Olive Garden, I think, is a great example of this. If you remember the old Olive Garden logo, it looked like it was carved, rough-hewn out of stone.

Kacha: Yeah.

Shawn: It looked like a sign. I think it was a sign originally. Right? They recently did a rebrand, love it or hate it, it’s a much better evolution. It’s a lot more functional. I can scale this thing down, I can print it, I can put it anywhere, I can backlight it. I can do whatever I need. Functionally – a huge improvement.

Kacha: Totally agree. Then branching off of functional, one of the things we talk about a lot of does it pass the t-shirt test?

Shawn: Absolutely.

Kacha: Would your employees want to wear this on the branded t-shirt that they’re going to be wearing in the restaurant? Could you sell it as merch? The best example of a restaurant that built its brand on merch is Hard Rock Cafe.

Shawn: Without a doubt.

Kacha: The t-shirt test passed with flying colors for that time. Maybe it’s time for an evolution, obviously that’s for them to consider. Can we pass that t-shirt test?

Shawn: It’s a great example of building a brand on that alone. In the 80s you had to have one of those Hard Rock Cafe shirts or you just weren’t cool, right?

Kacha: Right, right.

Shawn: I think another great thing to keep in mind as an indicator is that we want to stay fresh.

Kacha: Yeah.

Shawn: For restaurants, it’s very important. Restaurants are always evolving. More so I think [than other industries.] We see more logo evolutions in that space than anywhere else. There’s a lot more competition. We’re visiting restaurants much more often so it’s very important to stay fresh. I think there is no better example of this than Taco Bell.

Kacha: Yeah. Every few years.

Shawn: Yes. And I think the reason why is it gives that generation, that age group, the chance to own that brand. You don’t want to go to your dad’s Taco Bell. You want to go to your Taco Bell. The latest iteration, purple and black, as Gen Xers we go, “Eh that doesn’t feel right.”

Kacha: Right.

Shawn: I’m telling you the young audience is going to love it and they’re going to own it. That’s going to be their Taco Bell. In a few years we’re going to see another one.

Kacha: Yeah.

Shawn: Stay fresh.

Kacha: Totally. Along with staying fresh, I love when restaurants are looking ahead to the changes that they’re making. Restaurants that are shifting their interior design, that are changing their menu offerings like Taco Bell might be doing.

Shawn: Yes.

Kacha: They’re changing their food photography. I think a great example of this is Chili’s. Chili’s went from the wordmark mark to just the actual image of the chili with an apostrophe S. They’re getting in line with interior design changes, menu changes, food photography changes. I feel like they saw that coming and said, “Let’s keep the logo in line with that.”

Shawn: They’re the Prince of restaurants, right? The “Prince and The Revolution” Prince. They’re the Apple of restaurants. They’ve been able to just very successfully take their name, turn it into a mark and call it good. That’s fantastic.

Kacha: What other indicators you got?

Shawn: I think another huge indicator is: “Is your logo limiting you to a certain type of food or a certain style?”

Kacha: Yeah, yeah.

Shawn: I think Arby’s is a really great example of this. When they launched, they were going to be a big Tex kind of burger place, roast beef, Western, slab-serifs, all that kind of stuff.

Kacha: Yeah.

Shawn: They were for a long time but when they rebranded and they went to Market Fresh, you see a much fresher logo. You see a lot more white. You see a sans-serif typeface. Recently they’ve gone back to a serif, big-slab typeface …

Kacha: Because …

Shawn: “We have the meats.” You can see this logo is always keeping in times with the food their selling and the brand they’re trying to be. It’s very important.

Kacha: Absolutely. Speaking of keeping in times, let’s wrap up thinking about if everybody has outpaced you and you’re out of step with the times and you’re just not current and relevant anymore, it’s time to really consider a new logo. I’m sorry, but I’m going to call out Applebee’s here. Your competition has surpassed you, the culture is moving past you. You were great 20 years ago when you were really growing into who you are now, but that logo is holding Applebee’s back, I believe, from really being culturally relevant. Because it doesn’t match when I go inside.

Shawn: I was just in an Applebee’s recently and I was pretty impressed by the food, the new atmosphere, but I do have to say: I think it’s time, Applebee’s. I think another great example of somebody who has maintained freshness is KFC.

Kacha: Oh yes. They’ve evolved a number of times.

Shawn: We say KFC right? The biggest evolution was as we pushed away from fried food and deep-fried foods and things that were unhealthy, they dropped that out of the equation. Go to KFC, reinvent their brand, clean it up. It’s been amazing.

Kacha: Yeah, that’s been awesome. This has been fun going through indicators of why you might want to consider a new logo. Number one rule though, if you’re considering a new logo, please hire experts.

Shawn: Yes, always. These are just symptoms, indicators. You want to talk to somebody like us or your creative agency, find out is its time.

Kacha: Yes. All right, well thank you. It’s been a great conversation. If you have any questions hit us up @SkidmoreStudio on Twitter. We’d be happy to answer them. Until next week, talk to you guys later.

Shawn: Thanks.