Rambler: Rebirth of a Restaurant Space
Few graphic designers know the restaurant business quite like Robert van Horne. The principal and founder of r.vH design, a boutique graphic design firm in San Francisco, is the go-to designer when it comes to the food and drink industry. So after a legendary restaurant closed its doors and a hip, spirited business took its place, r.vH design was the perfect firm to build a bridge from the old to the new.
San Francisco foodies were introduced to the brand new restaurant, Rambler, in 2016 by Hat Trick Hospitality Group. The spot may have felt familiar to those with knowledge of the city’s restaurant scene since it is located in the space formerly occupied by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Postrio.
“Postrio was an absolute San Francisco icon,” says van Horne. When it closed, “it was like watching the end of an era; it was sad for many people.” The Prescott Hotel, which Postrio was attached to, also changed hands and was reopened as Hotel Zeppelin, which has a more contemporary feel than its predecessor.
When it was time to come up with the branding for Rambler, the challenge was clear. How do you honor a space known for its iconic status while appealing to millennials who are looking for something new?
Bridging Two Worlds
One of the first things r.vH design did was get a feel for Rambler’s personality. “It is the sort of place you could go and have a very dressed up lovely meal, but you could also go in jeans and sit at a communal table and have a glass of wine,” van Horne explains.
Then they focused on ways to ensure that the branding reflected the restaurant’s colorful name. “Rambler was sort of a name related to a bygone era,” van Horne says. It conjures up images of the 1960s and 1970s, and rock and roll music, such as Led Zeppelin’s hit “Ramble On.”
“We looked at a lot of things like early motorcycle culture and rock and roll, and tried to see if we could channel a little bit of that,” he says. That meant choosing typography, imagery and other elements that would bring the name Rambler to life.
When it came to designing the website, they first addressed the practical. The site had to make it easy for people to find out where the restaurant was and get a look at the menu. However, r.vH design had another goal in mind: “How do we give someone that has never been here a little window into the restaurant?”
The answer was using imagery that showcased not only the food, but what the interior looked like. “Seeing images of the dining room, seeing images of the bars, getting an image of what the mood is – that’s important,” he explains.
Adding a One-of-a-kind Touch
Rambler doesn’t just service diners, it also provides room service to Hotel Zeppelin guests. But since Rambler is a one-of-a-kind restaurant, they didn’t want to send food up in your everyday silver room service trays. So r.vH design created to-go bags printed with the Rambler logo that provided a unique and classic touch. They also created branded elements for other food packaging items such as mason jars, pizza boxes and sandwich wrappers. “It was more fun and hip,” he says, “yet it didn’t feel incongruent with the restaurant.”
Then there was the challenge of designing the menu. “There are basically six different menus, and they have different amounts of content,” van Horne says. The firm had to play with the typography and other elements to create a consistent look despite the fact that each menu had a different number of items.
Finally, the campaign included other promotional items such as business cards and fliers.
One sign of success is a happy customer. Judging from the bustling clientele, the restaurant invokes the right mood to the many diners who walk in the door. r.vH design managed to create something new while honoring the history of an iconic restaurant and hotel. “It’s something that people that are in the hotel as well as the local community can get behind,” van Horne says.
Photo credit: Joyce Oudkerk Pool www.jopstudio.com