Valeo’s Pizza actually came to us months and months before there was ever any serious talk about working together on pizza restaurant branding for their business. The owners of the iconic Wisconsin pizza place had acquired the restaurant from the founders, and were committed to maintaining the quality and service that customers had come to expect for generations.
However, after attending a conference with pizza restaurants from across the nation, Christal and Eric were inspired by the innovative pizza restaurant branding that had taken over their industry. As they prepared to launch their second location (which was also their first dine in location), they wanted to update the brand to better reflect the personality that the restaurant had taken on since they’d taken over.
They weren’t an easy sell, and it wasn’t until they read one of our blog posts that Christal reached out. The post served up some tough love about clients controlling the design process and unwittingly sabotaging their project in the process. Apparently it resonated and we onboarded Valeo’s Pizza as our Q3 2017 restaurant branding project.
With most rebranding projects, we typically start with a logo redesign or a logo refresh. This wasn’t what Valeo’s had in mind. They were dead set on keeping their existing logo, as they’d just refreshed it 5 years prior.
However, there were problems with the logo from a design perspective. It wasn’t scalable and when sized down to the size of a quarter, it wasn’t really readable. Big no-no. Because don’t you want your logo to be able to be on cute little labels, and stamped on to go bags, and placed in the corner of a document? Of course you do!
So, we realized that we were going to have to work for this one. We wanted to make sure that Valeo’s started off on strong footing, and while we would have loved to go with the flow, we just weren’t going to stand by and let this logo bring the brand down a notch or two. Plus, it became apparent that some of the design elements that we had planned weren’t going to work with the existing brand mark.
We started by talking with the client about what they loved about the logo. They told us the story of the original founders hanging a neon sign in the window and the nostalgia that brought. It really said “pizza” to them and we could see that. The logo had a line running through it to indicate the bulb of the neon sign.
Well, that’s something we could definitely work with. We knew that we could preserve the elements they loved, all while creating something that wasn’t such a rule breaker. The new logo would serve them better as they begun the journey to build their pizza empire. And in the end, we won the great logo debate and got to give the Valeo’s logo a facelift.
We used an inline font that would nod to the neon sign, but would serve as a more polished and well-crafted mark for the client. We then hand edited the font to create somewhat of a custom font for the logo. The client was pretty particular about the edges of each letter and of the line within each letter, and we wanted to get it just right for her. Painstaking, but perfection in the end.
From the logo came a couple of refreshed icons as well. The icons would be used strategically throughout the brand.
In addition to the logo, we developed sayings and icons for their core values that would be used throughout their branding materials including their window clings, menu, printed materials, etc. These sayings were meant to make their core values more relatable and memorable, and they were set in typographic lockups that would be used throughout the brand.
See, Valeo’s is more than your run-of-the-mill pizza place. When Christal and Eric took over, they saw that there was the opportunity to really make an impact in the community by using their restaurant as a training ground for leadership. They are fiercely committed to this cause, and they love their employees like their own. Through the restaurant, they provide employment opportunities that come with built in options for leadership, if the staffer wants it and works for it. They train their people beyond tossing and saucing pies, and send them out into the world better equipped to handle what life will throw at them. If you want to hear it straight from the source, check out this video on the Valeo’s website.
To create that pizza restaurant branding magic within the interior, we engaged in the environmental branding portion of the project. We started with a box and created a floor plan and seating layout that would provide an optimal number of seats. We considered customer flow, customer journey, ideal spacing around seating, and more. We worked with the client to determine what would be possible within the space, and to take into account any must-haves that they had established. For example, no tables floating in the middle of the space and a glass wall separating the kitchen from the dining room.
From there, we began to work on the interior design elements. We addressed wall color, wall texture, flooring, flooring transitions, table tops, booths, booth materials, chairs, light fixtures, countertops, bar tops, bar area, bathrooms, and every other little detail that would be visible to the customer. There was no area that was overlooked in terms of the interior and how we could weave the brand through each item and touchpoint.
We created a focal point in the restaurant with the slogan, Say Cheese in large marquee lights. This was contrasted against an industrial and vintage, yet polished look that allowed customers to feel the brand in a more pronounced manner.
The look we developed for Valeo’s wasn’t that of a typical pizza parlor. We brought in elements that were indicative of an italian restaurant, like the colors red and white, along with comfy booths and big black and white old timey photos. But we also incorporated plush, tufted leather, juxtaposed against rough hewn tables and industrial style seating. We proposed big, industrial lighting and bare-bulb hanging fixtures. The fonts for environmental graphic design were somehow intricate, but also clean.
In order to create a buzz during the construction phase, we created custom window paper that would cover the windows of the space prior to the opening. The paper would allow people to know what’s coming and would get them excited. It was also a way to introduce the new pizza restaurant branding and build brand ambassadors, even before the doors opened.
During this phase, we really hashed out a lot of the brand elements and came to a conclusion regarding what elements the client would approve, and what would need to change. That’s usually how these first design pieces go.
Valeo’s wanted to be able to use the window inserts on-going, so part of the design referred to the opening, but other parts would be relevant well after the grand opening, as well.
In order to showcase the food well, we embarked on a food photography mission for Valeo’s. The images would be used throughout the website, on the menu, in the promotional materials, and more. Food photography for a restaurant is muy importante and is not to be overlooked.
Our process starts with prop purchase. You see, we can’t just plop the pizza on the counter and call it a day. We have to set the mood. Create a scene. Well before the shoot, we get busy buying up all the things. This includes backdrops, flatware, bowls, plates, accessories; everything you see in our shots. Some stuff we use and some we return, but we come with lots. We have to present the food in the most compelling manner, and this includes intricate food styling on custom backdrops with lots of lighting. It seriously makes our mouths water just talking about it. And this is what entices customers to take a taste and takes pizza restaurant branding up a level or two.
Then on shoot day, we worked from a shot list that had the kitchen firing dishes all day. We shoot until we get it right, and many Nice hands are required to fluff the food, sauce the backdrop, sprinkle the ingredients and more. The edited photos were on point and we were excited to put them to good use.
Now for the heavy GD. Graphic design, people. Here, we got to work deploying the pizza restaurant branding across all customer touchpoints. There’s not a detail too small to be considered, and we worked to create custom take out cups, kids menu with a coloring sheet and games, a kids cup, and custom menu boards.
For the menu boards, we designed industrial, powder-coated bars for the menus to hang on near the point of sale. We then created boards that were branded and easy to navigate.
In addition to the menu boards, we created a menu design that could be used for dine-in or take-out purposes. Menu design is crucial, guys. The Valeo’s menu featured a flow that guided the customer through the ordering process, and photo photos that presented the fare in an enticing manner.
Like many quick-serve restaurants, Valeo’s wanted to sell branded apparel. We created several designs that featured the slogans and sayings that we developed. The tricky part about branded apparel is the the client typically wants the brand featured loud and proud, but the end customer really just wants to buy a cool tee.
So, we worked to create options that not only showcased the brand well, but were also super wearable. Because ultimately, we want these puppies to see, right?
Ok, so if you’ve stuck with us this long, then you really deserve to hear about the website project. When we build a restaurant website, we want the user experience to be guided by mouthwatering images and well placed calls to action. In this case, the calls to action were to order online or to get here now.
We start with wireframes. These are a skeleton of the site and provide the client with an opportunity to proof the layout before design comes into play. This was an important phase for Valeo’s, as there were some things that they wanted to shine that aren’t typically involved in a restaurant website build.
We worked through the wireframes and went on to design. We provided a design comp that was in line with the brand direction. It featured a bright white header, easy to read navigation, custom-branded elements, and the food photos we’d taken and edited.
Then, we got the site staged for client review. The staged site is viewable online, but it’s not live on the domain yet. This allowed Valeo’s to move through the site as a user would and provide feedback or approval on the functionality. Ultimately, when we get to this phase, approval is easy as we’ve gotten feedback at each of the previous stages.
For restaurants, we typically link to an external site for online ordering and rewards programs, and this allows the restaurant to maintain their operations while launching a new site. Internal operations are entirely unaffected by the launch of a new website.
Now that the new pizza restaurant branding was solidly in place throughout the interior and online, it was time to talk marketing. All we’re saying here is that once you have an amazing-looking brand (and great food), you’ve got to drive people through your doors. It’s not “if you build it they will come”. It’s “if you build it and market it, they will come”.
We proposed a launch marketing plan that would identify every possible outlet that would allow us to reach the target market. We estimated the number of Nice Branding hours it would require to carry out the comprehensive plan, and then we priced out both local and digital media buys related to the plan.
In the end, the Valeo’s team pulled together to execute part of the plan themselves, and hired the Nice Girls to design and deploy the bulk of the initiatives.
Stay tuned for all the deets on the Valeo’s Pizza launch marketing plan and insight from the owners on their first couple of months of business.
If you’re opening a new restaurant, or are interested in a rebrand for your existing restaurant, give us a shout – we’d love to help you out!
Although we do love pizza, we’ve got more than pizza restaurant branding in the bag, so whether you’re a pizza parlor, mediterranean spot, oyster shack or something else, if you’ve got the food, we’re here with the branding!