Fast-Casual Franchise Restaurant Branding
Founded in 2003 with locations in Texas and Virginia, Masala Wok has been a fixture in the restaurant business for over a decade, and they contacted our restaurant branding company for a new identity.
The restaurant’s fast-casual menu consists of savory, delicious Indian and Asian cuisine prepared with fresh ingredients and spices. While the restaurant was able to establish a following of people who were already familiar with their unique cuisine, they continued to struggle to attract the mainstream public. They found that, although the food was top notch, their existing restaurant brand stopped short when it came to attracting a fresh, new demographic of diners.
Despite this struggle, the brand continued to expand. As Masala Wok began construction on two new locations, their architect pushed the owners to consider a change in environmental branding and overall design. After completing extensive research into the world of restaurant branding firms, Masala Wok contacted Nice Branding Agency to determine whether a partnership would be a good recipe.
Following a few preliminary calls, the team at Nice Branding Agency, a restaurant branding company, met with the founders of Masala Wok to dig into all aspects of the business. Our team listened intently, probing for details that would shed light on the triumphs and trials of the restaurant, and to find out what was working and what needed an overhaul. The overall goal was to identify Masala Wok’s best assets and highlight them in a manner that would attract new, mainstream customers.
RESTAURANT BRANDING KICKOFF
After careful analysis, as an experienced restaurant branding company, Nice Branding Agency proposed a complete restaurant rebrand for the operation. Our proposal addressed all of the traditional aspects of a restaurant branding project. These included things like logo development, website design, business cards, and menu design, but it also encompassed a complete overhaul of the existing environmental branding. Our plan would focus on a redesign of the entire interior and all customer touch points. While it was clear that the food was phenomenal, we realized that potential raving fans were being turned off by the look and feel of the restaurant.
As we talked through our ideas for the restaurant brand, we used a visual presentation of multiple concepts to bring the proposal to life. This brand direction presentation included three distinctly different visual directions the brand could take. With all three directions being viable options for the brand, the purpose of showcasing various boards is to elicit restaurant owner buy-in on the concept, and allow our client to have a say at the start of concepting.
As the client watched our presentation, we watched excitement mount, which we consider to be the first step in building trust within the working relationship. After a big-picture concept was agreed upon, we set our sights on the tangible deliverables needed to build out the restaurant brand.
Masala Wok selected the brand board below. The board is populated with vibrant and warm colors, often found throughout the streets of India, paired with more modern lines that are indicative of Asian culture.
LOGO DESIGN DIRECTION MEETING
Upon selection of the brand board, our team began to strategize surrounding the restaurant logo. Multiple challenges presented themselves as we began to think through the development of the logo. We had to combine both the Indian and Asian cultures, as well as the associated food, typography, and color into a symbol that would look great on items as small as gift cards and as large as billboards. Additionally, the logo had to be bold enough to entice people from the road, and visible in the light and in the dark. Our design team sketched out some concepts and brought them to our Director of Design and Creative Director for review.
FINALIZATION OF CONCEPTUALIZATION
It was determined that we would work with warm, vibrant Indian colors in alignment with the selected brand board. The logos we would digitally develop would include font selections that made the restaurant approachable and conveyed the fast-casual aspect. And icons would be designed to bring in the culture in a manner that the mainstream public could resonate with.
Our design team set to work digitally developing the concepts into logo marks that could be presented the the client. This process entailed our logo design experts working to pair fonts and colors, as well as creating icons that had meaning to the brand and would serve as a platform for telling the story of Masala Wok.
THREE LOGO OPTIONS
The first option we created featured the vivid plum and pink colors present on the brand board, paired with a warm orange to ground the logo. The icon was built into the logo itself, indicating both an Asian wok and a set of chopsticks in a bowl. The font for the word Masala took on a fluid and delicate form, while the word wok was solid and steady.
In the second option, we build the icon into the logo as well. However, we utilized the A in the word Masala. The letter was formed from a set of chopsticks that hovered over a wok. A super-clean font was incorporated to allow the icon to stand out and win the attention of the viewer.
The third option included a modern, playful design that incorporated an elephant, which is representative of the Indian culture. The elephant’s trunk transforms into a flame, which is symbolic of the wok used in the preparation of Asian food.
Venturing further down the branding path, we assigned colors and icons to each of the cultures to distinguish Indian and Asian within the concept, yet intertwine the cultures in a way that made sense for the brand and the new environment.
PRESENTATION AND SELECTION
Upon being presented with the options, our client selected the logo featuring flame. The logo served as a platform for the rest of the design work, and we brought this playfulness into the restaurant through witty wordplay and fun catchphrases like Tikka Chance or Curry Back. These elements played into multiple deliverables, including the menus, menu boards, stationery, business cards, employee attire, ordering process, website, and social media pages.
The logo then went back to our Director of Design for finalization. Here, the director ensured that all elements of the logo were perfectly spaced and aligned, and that the icon was intact. This was an essential step before the creation of logo files. Once the logo was final, exact colors were selected in PMS, CMYK, RGB, and hex tones. Then, logo files were created in PDF, EPS, JPEG, and PNG. Guidelines were outlined and provided to the client as well. These guidelines indicated fonts and color codes, as well as logo usage rules.
As the brand began to take shape, we met with the architect to reinvent Masala Wok’s physical restaurant environment. Our goal was to create a setting that would capture the customer and draw them into the space while creating an unforgettable experience.
We were committed to the idea of connecting with each customer at some point during the dining process. So, we reviewed and reworked every piece of the interior puzzle, from the tile to the booths and furniture, as well as the wall installations, paint colors, wood finishes, and signage.
One piece of the existing brand that the owner wanted to keep intact was a set of posters that hung in every location. The posters explained the meaning of the words Masala and Wok. They conveyed to customers the meaning behind the restaurant’s name, which is a key piece of the history of the business.
Due to the importance of these two elements, Nice Branding Agency created floor-to-ceiling wall panels with custom-designed typographic and iconic artwork that paid homage to the meaning of the original name but encompassed the new visual identity and created a connection with the customer.
Food images were also displayed prominently on the walls through the implementation of custom-printed canvas art.
At Nice Branding Agency, there’s one thing that gets our motor running, and that’s amazing food. Masala Wok has some of the best and freshest Indian and Asian food we have ever tasted. When Nice Branding Agency entered the picture, we considered the current food photography to be one of the biggest deterrents to Masala Wok’s success. The photos just didn’t do the food justice.
Nice Branding Agency strategically pinpointed the most appealing way to capture the essence of the Masala Wok menu through photos. And after extensive prop collection and planning, set out to reshoot the entire menu. It was a long few days, but Nice Branding Agency was able to get the entire menu shot and edited to best showcase the dishes.
The new food photography was well worth the work, as the photos would be used within the restaurant, on the website and within other digital spaces, and for advertising and marketing purposes. Now, potential customers can drool over the menu, just like we do when we think about eating Masala Wok!
MENU + MENU DESIGN
In addition to the environmental branding, one of the most primary elements of restaurant branding created by Nice Branding Agency is the menu. The menu project for Masala Wok was led by strategy. The restaurant concept included a menu that boasted both Indian and Asian cuisine. Additionally, the choices available for each meal could be confusing to the customer. So we set out to create a menu that was formatted in a manner that would make it simple for the customer to choose a meal.
Since the menu is one of the most interactive customer touch points within a restaurant, we are sure to infuse the design with the brand. Here, on the handheld menu, we conveyed the identity of the brand through hand-drawn illustrations floods of color and texture.
Aside from being a design element, color was utilized within the handheld menu to structure the offerings into Indian and Asian dishes. This allows the eye to find what its looking for, and guides the customer through the menu in an organized manner.
The handheld menus were translated into menu boards, and each of the Masala Wok locations received a set of the boards. One panel was reserved for promotional communication and the modular setup allows for the stores to swap out the boards with ease.
The business card for Masala Wok was created to be an extension of the brand. We implemented a square card to align with the quirkiness of the brand, and emblazoned one side with the logo and icon. The information side of the card was flooded with a brand colors and populated with the typical business card information. Above the info, the flame icon takes its rightful place, and brand fonts are used to keep the card custom.
The importance of branding every customer touch point can’t be overstated, and it was crucial to provide Masala Wok with staff attire, cups, and bags that conveyed the brand. We created tees and hats with the logo and branded taglines for the restaurant. The tees would be worn by the team throughout the restaurant, further connecting customers to the cheeky, yet approachable brand.
In preparation for the website design and development portion of the project, we assessed the existing website to create a sitemap for the new website. The sitemap is an outline of pages we would need on the website. Not every page on the existing website would be needed on the new site. And the new site would require some pages that weren’t present on the existing website. URLs from the existing site were also mapped so that they could be redirected once the new site was live.
Along with the sitemap, we also discussed website hosting with our client. Our hosting package includes daily backups, lightening-fast page loads, and monthly maintenance and monitoring. This ensures that the website performs optimally for the search engines and users alike.
Masala Wok chose to have us host their website, so that we could continue to monitor and maintain the site.
Armed with the sitemap, we created a website wireframe for the new Masala Wok website that put a priority on user-experience. The new website was mapped to include strategically placed calls to action to find the restaurant locations, order online, and view the menu.
Additionally, a slider image was placed at the top of the site with plans to utilize the space for promotional messaging in alignment with the on-going marketing plan.
The menu would be somewhat complex, as the Texas locations and the Virginia locations boasted different menu offerings for their customers. We built out a custom menu in WordPress that would allow Masala Wok to route users to appropriate menu contents, based on the user’s location. The menu items and pricing could be easily updated in the backend of the website.
Contact information for each of the locations was also structured in a manner that would be user-friendly, and a map was incorporated to show users which Masala Wok locations were closest to them.
RESTAURANT WEBSITE DESIGN
With the client’s approval on the wireframe, we moved into the design phase. Here we worked implementing design into the wireframes.
The food photographs that were styled, shot, and edited by the Nice Branding Agency team would take center stage throughout the website, providing hungry viewers with a mouth-watering glimpse into the deliciousness.
Copy was utilized throughout the site to convey the brand and communicate with the customer, making the Indian and Asian concept comprehensible and compelling. Additionally, the accordion-style menu was designed to house the menu items along with the food imagery and make for easy navigation.
Upon approval of the design of key pages and the wireframe, we set to work developing the website. We build our restaurant websites on the WordPress CMS, which allows for easy updates of key content. The website was custom-developed from the ground up. This provides our design team free-reign to create an optimal user-experience, compared with utilizing a theme.
After the site was developed and launched, it proved to dramatically enhance the user experience at www.MasalaWok.com. Go ahead — check it out! The design of the site fully embraced the new visual identity, brand voice, and food photography, while its functionality and development were modern and built with expansion in mind.
The newly designed website was launched on the existing domain, and our team performed a rigorous post-launch testing process. Here, we ensured that all buttons, links, forms, and pages were loading and operating as intended.
RESTAURANT BRANDING PROJECT CLOSEOUT
The end result has been extremely successful for the client. Masala Wok founder, Pramod Prodduturi stated,
“The Katy store is now open and looks fantastic. Customers love the interior, and I’ve noticed lots of people taking pictures. I appreciate your efforts in getting the store ready and lining up all things. We have never had a store opening with as great a response as what we experienced in Katy.”
Since the rebranding, Masala Wok has gained over 8,000 followers on Facebook, as well as 20,000 website visitors every month. The company has more than reaped the benefits of the buzz that was created.
In part, the success can be attributed to the client’s willingness to see the project through, trusting Nice Branding Agency to continually lead the way, and creating a finished product that fully encompassed a vision that would serve the restaurant well.
At Nice Branding Agency, we believe that the simple recipe for a restaurant’s success hinges on three key ingredients: seamless operational and business practices, incredible food, and brilliant branding. When these ingredients are poured into the mixer, the end result is nothing short of 5-star.
ADD ON PROJECT: RESTAURANT SOCIAL MEDIA AND DIGITAL MARKETING
As a follow-up to the branding project, Masala Wok continued working with Nice Branding Agency on marketing initiatives, both digital and in-store. Today, a brand’s online presence must extend cohesively into the social space. With that in mind, all social media marketing and online advertising efforts for Masala Wok were totally revamped. The new strategy was focused on building the restaurant brand, while establishing reporting benchmarks along the way to gauge success. In less than four months, Nice Branding Agency was able to assist Masala Wok in acquiring an additional 8,000 followers on Facebook.
ADD ON PROJECT: RESTAURANT MARKETING PLAN
Once the rebrand was completely woven through the printed materials, customer experience, and online presence, it was imperative that we set up Masala Wok for continued success. We outlined a thorough marketing plan that would ensure the successful opening of both new stores. We feel that the success Masala Wok experienced with the launch of their new locations can be directly related to strategic marketing tactics and a trusting, decisive restaurant owner who was willing to carry out the marketing plan in full.
As a restaurant branding company, Nice Branding Agency continues to service Masala Wok on a monthly basis, providing art direction and design, marketing strategy and digital management, and overall account management. Nice Branding Agency is currently working with the owners of Masala Wok to open their new concept in Lubbock, Texas, called Tikka Shack. The agency will spend a large part of 2016 breathing life into Tikka Shack and weaving the new Masala Wok visual identity into their existing stores.