Fast-Casual Franchise Restaurant Branding
After 17 years in business, Masala Wok was ready for a new identity. So, they came to the experts.
The restaurant, with locations in Texas and Virginia, serves up savory Indian and Asian cuisine prepared with fresh ingredients and spices. While Masala Wok was able to establish a loyal following of people who were already familiar with their unique cuisine, they struggled to attract new diners. They believed their brand was to blame.
Despite this struggle, the restaurant was adding two new locations. That’s when their architect recommended a change in environmental branding and overall design.
Following a few preliminary calls, we met with the founders of Masala Wok to learn about the business. We were curious to find out what was working and what wasn’t. Our goal was to identify Masala Wok’s best assets and highlight them in a manner that would attract a steady stream of new customers.
MASALA WOK BRANDING KICKOFF
After careful analysis, we proposed a complete restaurant rebrand, including logo development, website design, business cards, and menu design. Additionally, we recommended a complete overhaul of the existing environmental branding. We would focus on redesigning the interior and all customer touch points. The food was phenomenal, but the look and feel of the restaurant was turning people off.
We used a visual presentation of multiple concepts to bring our proposal to life. We offered three distinctly different visual directions the Masala Wok brand could take. 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.
During our presentation, our client’s excitement grew, which is the first step in building trust within the working relationship. After a concept was agreed upon, we set our sights on the tangible deliverables needed to build out the brand.
The client chose the brand board below. It features vibrant and warm colors found throughout India, paired with Asian-inspired, modern lines.
LOGO DESIGN DIRECTION
Multiple challenges presented themselves as we began to think through the development of the Masala Wok logo. We had to combine the Indian and Asian cultures, the associated food, typography, and color into a symbol that would look great on everything. Think gift cards, billboards, and everything in between. The logo had to be bold enough to entice people from the road, and visible in the day and night. Our design team presented some concepts to our Director of Design and Creative Director for review.
FINALIZATION OF CONCEPTUALIZATION
We decided to work with warm, vibrant Indian colors in alignment with the chosen brand board. The logos would include font selections that made the restaurant approachable and conveyed the fast-casual nature. Icons would bring in the culture in a manner that would resonate with the public.
Our team began digitally developing the concepts into logo marks to present the the client. During this process, our designers work to pair fonts and colors, as well as create icons that would serve as a platform for telling the brand story.
THREE LOGOS TO CHOOSE FROM
The first logo option featured the 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—an Asian wok and a set of chopsticks in a bowl. The font for “Masala” had a fluid and delicate form, while the word “wok” appeared solid and steady.
We built the icon into the logo for the second option, as well. But here, we formed the “A” in the word “Masala” with a set of chopsticks. A super-clean font made the icon pop and catch the attention of the viewer.
The third option featured a modern, playful design with an elephant, which represents Indian culture. The elephant’s trunk transforms into a flame, a nod to the preparation of Asian food in a wok.
We assigned colors and icons to each of the cultures to distinguish India and Asia within the concept, yet weaved the cultures in a way that made sense for the brand and the new environment.
LOGO PRESENTATION AND SELECTION
After viewing the options, our client selected the logo with the flame. It served as the foundation for the rest of the design work, and we brought this playfulness into the restaurant through witty wordplay like “Tikka Chance” and “Curry Back.” These elements appeared in multiple deliverables, including the menus, menu boards, stationery, business cards, employee attire, ordering process, website, and social media accounts.
Our Director of Design then ensured that all elements of the logo were perfectly spaced and aligned, and that the icon was intact. This finalization process is an essential step before the creation of logo files. Once the logo was complete, exact colors were selected in PMS, CMYK, RGB, and hex tones. Then, logo files were created in PDF, EPS, JPEG, and PNG. We then provided guidelines for the client, including fonts and color codes, as well as logo usage rules.
Once the building blocks of the brand were established, we met with the architect to reinvent Masala Wok’s physical restaurant interior. Our goal was to draw the customer into the space and leave a lasting impression.
We wanted to connect with each customer at some point during the dining process. So, we reviewed and reworked every element, from the tile to the furniture to the paint colors.
The owner requested that we keep a set of posters from the original brand hanging in every location. They break down the meaning of the words “Masala” and “Wok,” which is an important piece of the history of the business.
We created floor-to-ceiling wall panels with custom-designed typographic and iconic artwork that paid homage to the meaning of the name but encompassed the new visual identity.
When we started working with Masala Wok, we considered the current food photography to be one of the biggest roadblocks to the restaurant’s success. The food is incredible, but the photos weren’t doing it justice.
And so, we strategically pinpointed the most appealing way to capture the essence of the menu through professional photography. After extensive prop collection and planning, we set out to reshoot the entire menu. It was a long few days, but we were able to properly showcase the dishes.
The new photos would appear as custom-printed canvas art in the restaurant, on the website, and for advertising and marketing.
One of the primary elements of restaurant branding is the menu. Our menu project for Masala Wok began with strategy. Since the menu features both Indian and Asian cuisine, and the options for each meal weren’t straightforward, we set out to make the menu more customer-friendly.
The menu is a prominent customer touch point, so we wanted the design to reflect the brand. On the handheld menu, we featured hand-drawn illustrations, vibrant colors and texture.
Color was also utilized within the handheld menu to structure the offerings into Indian and Asian dishes. This guides the customer through the menu in an organized way.
The handheld menus were translated into menu boards, and each location received a set of boards. One panel was reserved for promotional communication and the modular setup allows for the stores to swap out boards easily.
The business card was designed to be an extension of the brand. We chose 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 the brand colors. The flame icon sits at the top and brand fonts customize the card.
Every customer touch point needs to align with the brand, so we provided Masala Wok with branded staff attire, cups, and bags. We created tees and hats with the logo and branded taglines for the restaurant. The tees would be worn by the team and connect customers to the cheeky, yet approachable brand.
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 moving forward. And the new site would require some pages that weren’t present on the existing website. Existing URLs were also mapped so that they could be redirected to the new site.
We also discussed website hosting with Masala Wok. Our hosting package includes daily backups, lightning-fast page loads, and monthly maintenance and monitoring. This ensures that the website performs optimally.
The client chose to have us host their website, so that we could continue to maintain it.
We then created a wireframe for the new Masala Wok website that prioritized the user experience. It included strategically placed CTAs to find the restaurant locations, order online, and see the menu.
A slider image was placed at the top of the site for promotional messaging in alignment with the ongoing marketing plan.
The menu would be somewhat complex, as the locations had different offerings. We built out a custom menu in WordPress that would allow Masala Wok to route users to appropriate menu contents, based on their location. The menu items and pricing could be easily updated in the backend.
Contact information was structured in a user-friendly manner, and a map was incorporated to show users which location was closest to them.
Once the wireframe was approved, we moved into the design phase.
The food photography would take center stage throughout the website. The copy would convey the brand and communicate with the customer, making the Indian and Asian concept compelling.
The accordion-style menu would house the offerings along with the food imagery, and make for easy navigation.
After getting approval for the design of key pages and the wireframe, we started developing the website. We build our restaurant websites on WordPress, which allows for easy updates. The website was custom-built, which gives our design team free-reign to create an optimal user-experience rather than using a theme.
MASALA WOK WEBSITE LAUNCH
The new site dramatically enhanced the user experience at www.MasalaWok.com. The design fully embraced the new visual identity, brand voice, and food photography. The website functionality and development are modern and built with expansion in mind.
The new website was launched on the existing domain, and our team performed a rigorous post-launch testing process. We ensured that all buttons, links, forms, and pages were loading and operating as intended.
The client was extremely pleased with the resulting restaurant brand. Customers rave about the interior and often take pictures in the restaurant.
Masala Wok has since gained over 8,000 followers on Facebook, as well as 20,000 website visitors every month. The restaurant continues to reap the benefits of the rebrand.
The success can partially be attributed to the client’s willingness to see the project through, trusting Nice Branding Agency to lead the way and create a finished product that would serve the restaurant well.
With seamless operational and business practices, amazing food, and bold branding, you can’t lose.
ADD ON PROJECT: SOCIAL MEDIA AND DIGITAL MARKETING
As a follow-up, Masala Wok continued working with us on digital and in-store marketing initiatives to align with the new brand. The new strategy centered on building the brand and establishing reporting benchmarks to gauge success. In less than four months, we were able to assist Masala Wok in gaining an additional 8,000 Facebook followers.
ADD ON PROJECT: MARKETING PLAN
Once the printed materials, customer experience, and online presence reflected the new brand, we wanted to set up Masala Wok for continued success. We outlined a thorough marketing plan that would ensure the successful opening of two new stores. Thanks to strategic marketing tactics and a trusting, decisive restaurant owner who was willing to carry out the marketing plan, everything went off without a hitch.
We continue to work with Masala Wok on a monthly basis, providing art direction and design, marketing strategy and digital management, and account management.