A name is just a name. It is a way to identify something. But it can go deeper than that. The word ‘name’ comes from the Latin word , “nomen”. William Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II). However, if you refer to a woman as one of the more vulgar names for a harlot, you will most likely be slapped, and possibly injured by some of her male relatives. So clearly, there can be more to a name than simple identification.
A name can indicate a ‘brand’, meaning it denotes or describes services or products relevant to it. Branding can be important, because the public perceives brands as indicative of quality, whether true, or not. Businesses, restaurants in particular, sometimes go to great lengths to select a name that will bring in customers. Choosing a name for a restaurant can be almost as important as what kind of food they offer. It could reflect the owners name, or someone close to them, as in ‘Wendys’, and ‘McDonald’s’, or a location, such as ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’, or a play on words, such as ‘The Meat and Greet Diner’. Or, they may just be words, like Krystal’s, White Castle, Burger King, etc… The name could reflect the ethic origins or theme of the restaurant, such as Tupinamba’s, or Western Steakhouse, or Panda Gardens.
It is not possible to measure the quality of a restaurant by just it’s name. Other than copyright and trademark infringements, there are no laws or rules that govern how a place is named. You could call your restaurant China House, but then just serve burgers and fries, if you wanted to. There is nothing but public opinion to stop you.
Where the name becomes important is when the restaurant has been open long enough to get a good reputation attached to the name. Then many entrepreneurs open franchises, and other restaurants under the same name, and serve the same quality food (in theory, anyway….). I am as guilty as anyone else of getting hung up on names. When I travel across the country (as I do frequently) I navigate from Krystals to Krystals, or Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or my all-time favorite…..Captain Ds. There is no telling how many potentially great little Mom and Pop diners I pass to go to these other places. As a rule, I only try new places when I’m paid to write reviews on them, or on the recommendation of someone I trust. I will say that I have pulled into some strange places because the name did catch my attention. One of these was Fudruckers, one of the craziest hamburger joints you will ever go into. I was glad I did. Likewise with 5 Guys, another outstanding hamburger joint, er…establishment (see what I mean about names…).
I have been to some fancy-looking, classy named restaurants and had food that was just barely fit for the garbage disposal, and been in nasty-looking places with names like The Last Chance Diner, and had world-class, outstanding food (I always mark these on my maps). This place had the best chili I have ever eaten in my life, my own recipes included. Another place that looked more like a really rough beer joint than a diner was called Angelina’s. I was hungry, and there was little else around, so I pulled in. They have the best hamburgers I have ever eaten anywhere, including by my own hand, and even have one called a Texas Tornado, that must weigh 3 or more pounds. And once you get inside, the décor is straight 1950s Malt Shop, right down to the checkered floor tile, and the Coca Cola Tables and Glasses, with pictures of Patsy Cline, Elvis, Chuck Berry, old record plaques, pictures of the area in the 50s, and great oldies on the jukebox. My kind of place.
A name might get your attention, but keep in mind that sometimes, a name is just a name.