Founded in 2003 with locations in Texas and Virginia, Masala Wok has been a fixture in the restaurant business for over a decade. Their 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 their 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 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 way that would attract new, mainstream customers.
After careful analysis, Nice Branding Agency proposed a complete restaurant rebrand for the operation. Our proposal addressed all of the traditional aspects of a restaurant branding project, including 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 touchpoints. 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. As the client watched our presentation, we watched their 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.
Restaurant Branding: Logo Development
The logo was first on Nice Branding’s plate. 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. Ultimately, Nice Branding landed on 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. 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 catch phrases 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.
Restaurant Branding: Environmental Branding
As the design began to take shape, we met with the architect to reinvent Masala Wok’s environmental branding. Our goal was to create a physical 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. 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 and explained the meaning of the words Masala and Wok. These posters showed 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.
Restaurant Branding: Food Photography
At Nice Branding, 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 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 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 was able to get the entire menu shot and edited to the owner’s liking. 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!
Restaurant Website Design & Development
As the rebrand unfolded, Nice Branding Agency evaluated the digital space of Masala Wok. With the new menu, logo, photos, and overall design, it was time to move on to a custom- designed website that would best serve the brand. 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.
Restaurant Social Media and Digital Marketing
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 was able to assist Masala Wok in acquiring an additional 8,000 followers on Facebook.
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.
Restaurant Branding: The Result
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 to continually lead the way, and creating a finished product that fully encompassed a vision that would serve the restaurant well. At Nice Branding, 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.
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.