It's on schedule to open in September, but the $20 million "upscale Italian" restaurant at New York's Lincoln Center still has no name.
It's not for want of trying, reports Glenn Collins in Wednesday's New York Times.
Such a heartbreaking story. Such a familiar drama.
“The restaurant requires a name as iconic as its location,” said the restaurateur Nick Valenti, chief executive of the Patina Restaurant Group, which will operate the restaurant and runs the luxe Grand Tier in the Metropolitan Opera House. He declined comment on how, or when, a name would be chosen.
The restaurant was originally to be called Patina, referencing the space run by Mr. Valenti’s partner, Joachim Splichal, in Los Angeles.
Mr. Valenti, Mr. Splichal and Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center, later agreed that a different name might be more appropriate because Jonathan Benno, the 40-year-old former chef de cuisine of Per Se, signed on with a vision for an Italian-themed restaurant.
Actually the name Benno itself was once considered, but put aside for the obvious reason that Mr. Benno might not forever be at the helm of Lincoln Center’s culinary cynosure.
“We all came up with hundreds of names,” Mr. Benno said. “So many. You would wake up at 4 a.m.? You’d come up with a name. It never stopped.”
Consider the cast: two business partners, a culture mogul, and a star chef. (You could stop right here and name the place "Ego.")
Consider the location: Lincoln Center, an arts mecca for residents and tourists from around the world.
Finally, consider the process: from all appearances, an exercise in randomness—the creative equivalent of throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it will stick.
Was a naming brief ever drafted? Not likely, given the apparent lack of rigor. Without a naming brief, you'll recall, you have no defined objectives or criteria for your exercise, and no yardstick against which to judge the results.
Is there a neutral party guiding the decision? Again, all signs point to no. Someone with no ego invested in the outcome, who has experience in managing complex branding projects and the diplomatic skills required for wrangling monumental egos, would certainly be an asset here. In my world, we call such a person a name developer. That's right: Dreaming up hundreds of names is only one of the services a name developer can perform for you.
The Times's "Diner's Journal" blog, eager to pitch in, has asked readers to suggest names. So far, 200 of them have obliged. But even though some of the names are clever ("At that price, it should be Rubato"), more names are not the solution. The solution is more clarity about a goal, more effective management of the discussion, and better storytelling about each name.
The goal so far has been an unrealistic one: an "aha!" moment, a coup de foudre, love at first sight. But as I frequently tell my clients, name development isn't about finding a romantic match—it's about making an arranged marriage. It's about finding a suitable partner that will serve you loyally over the years.
In short: Leave the cooking to the chef and the bill-paying to the businessmen. And hire a name developer to lead you to a meaningful, appropriate, appealing name.