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Thursday 21 April 2011

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Names are so important. The wrong name can hang around a business’s neck like a millstone.

The unfortunate name of a child says more about the parents. The child had no say in it. But the name a business should be different right?

What does “Bob’s Steak and Chop House” say to an Australian audience? Unfortunately, it doesn’t say the same thing as when it is said to an American audience from whence it emanated.

In the US it is synonymous with fine dining. There are seven of the restaurants there and the brand is known for quality and high class.

The first Bob’s recently came to Australia. It was brought here by a lovely entrepreneurial couple Sanjay and Shine and opened in Melbourne Docklands in April, 2011.

In my role as owner/editor of the Docklands News, I was extended an opportunity to invite 30 local “movers and shakers” to the opening.

And that was where it started to get interesting. The reaction from my invitees provided an insight into what Sanjay and Shine will be up against as they position their offering amongst Melbourne’s fine dining.

Despite spelling it out in my covering letter (admittedly, not in CAPITALS), not to be fooled by the name, the reaction from one guest was interesting.

I caught up with her on another matter and mentioned the invitation to Bob’s. 

“Oh, yes, I’ll probably come,” she said. “But I don’t really like those places.”

Oh really, I thought. What sort of places would they be?

“Oh, you know. There’s one over there at NewQuay. What’s it called?”

“Are you talking about Outback Jacks?” I ventured.

Yep. Bundled in there with Outback Jacks, Smorgys, Lone Star, and other “all you can eat” food joints was the finest restaurant yet to come to Docklands and (yet to be determined) probably one of Melbourne’s finest.

So what can be done about this disconnect between perception and reality?

The most obvious thing would be to change the name. But that’s not going to happen.

To the US franchise owners (Bob’s is 50 per cent owned by Omni Hotels and Resorts) this would be like losing a limb.

No, the name is here to stay. It’s going to be a long haul and, ultimately, it will be word-of-mouth recommendation that fills the 150 or so seats every night.

The visual language of design is the most obvious tool to be used in a day-to-day sense.

Communication design speaks a language and, in this case, the layout, the imagery and the colours can easily position Bob’s in such a way that people will immediately understand that it is upmarket establishment.

Good graphic designers can work magic.

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