Simply Great Food
Nineteen, one of our favourite Edmonton restaurants, used to be a dining room for members of the Blackhawk Golf Club. They opened their doors to the public several years ago, but they still had that reputation for being a "fine dining" restaurant. And as a result, people were surprised when they got inside and discovered a pretty casual atmosphere.
We sat down for an interview and discovery session (all right, there was some menu sampling, too) with Chef Andrew and General Manager Nicole Hewson. Over dinner, we discussed what they considered their weaknesses and what kind of message they wanted to send out to the public.
We looked at the entire scope of the brand, figured out what people’s perceptions of the restaurant were, and identified the stress points that could make or break a customer’s decision to eat there. It became clear that what Nineteen needed was a friendlier brand image that matched up with who they were: a great dinner choice for jeans and power suits at the same time.
Adjust Nineteen's brand to align with the restaurant's personality.
The identity itself was great: simple, bold, and clever. The more we looked at it, the more we loved the simple shapes, the Roman numeral abbreviation for 19, and the near-symmetrical type. In fact, it was so great that we didn’t want to change a thing. All we did was add an alternate lightweight logo to balance out the page in certain designs.
But there weren’t many supporting graphic elements that could span the entire brand. The menus and website seemed to be independent of each other; we wanted to unify all the different pieces under the Nineteen umbrella.
We were inspired by a version of the logo on the original menus. The letters XIX formed a set of triangles, which fit perfectly with the geometric logo.
We expanded on the idea to create a changing tangram pattern that would be slightly different for every piece of the Nineteen brand. That way, whether the customer was visiting the website or the physical location, the brand would be consistent wherever they went.
What the identity had in concept, it lacked in colour. We wanted to connect it to the restaurant’s physical space with a splash of colour. Right away we homed in on their amazing chairs and bar seating. The mustard yellow and olive green looked great in the space, and we thought they’d look even better on the menus and the website.
One of the first things we noticed in our discovery meeting was that the menu system was incredibly complex. There were seven large menus, all in the same size and with a similar look. They did a great job of spelling out everything Nineteen had to offer, but with so many different menus, it was hard to keep the process organized and hassle-free.
We streamlined the system by compiling all the beverages into a vivid, mustard-yellow drink book that made choosing a cocktail or bottle of wine into an event, not a chore.
The menus themselves used the new tangram pattern, which cascaded from the top of the sheet to create some visual whimsy and much-needed differences between the menus.
The different colours for each menu helped expand the brand while making it immediately clear which was which: yellow for dinner, red for lounge, and so on.
Now that the branding was in place, it was time to tell people about Nineteen’s new look and feel. And we’ve found that the best way to do that is with advertising — in this case, a magazine ad.
Everyone who comes to Nineteen loves what they see and keeps coming back. But Nineteen’s old ads and imagery weren’t communicating the right tone to the outside world. Both Nicole and Andrew wanted to fix that. The messaging needed to be unpretentious and accessible, and it had to challenge the "fine dining experience" image that people associated with Nineteen.
"We are happy when people just feel like having a tuna twist and a beer. We are a comfortable place." —Chef Andrew Fung
When we took a look at the ads Nineteen had run in the past, we saw that they were geared toward upscale clients with statements like "Be demanding." With that line, it was no surprise that Nineteen was getting a reputation for high-class dining. If they wanted to reach a wider audience, the message needed to say, "Be content."
We needed a new perspective. Every business, no matter how large or small, has some kind of story to tell. In Nineteen’s case, it was the food: the range of dishes available, the incredible presentation, the unbelievable taste... It was time to take a step back, condense the message into a single idea, and let the food speak for itself.
We worked with Curtis from Curtis Comeau Photography to develop these ads. This took the form of a top-down shot with no cutlery or extra clutter, just strong lighting and a sharp focus on the food.
The images of Chef Andrew’s incredible food can’t help but grab attention. The images assume the hero role, while the messaging takes a supporting role as the sidekick. Together they emphasize Nineteen’s menu and atmosphere with a clean, crisp look that makes it immediately apparent who they are, what they do, and how they do it.
When we started work, Nineteen already had a solid web presence. They were active and engaging on their social media accounts, and the well-built website made for a nice handheld experience on mobile devices.
Our goal was to make people realize one simple thing: that Nineteen is a comfortable place with great food. So instead of rebuilding the website and social media from the ground up, we kept the underlying structure the same and focused on updating the branding and messaging.
They were using a templated website to serve their mobile visitors. But since the desktop site was already responsive (meaning it resized to fit mobile devices), they were just using an extra site that they didn’t need. We discontinued the mobile site to create a more consistent experience for visitors, no matter what kind of device they were using.
We also lightened the overall tone of the site to align it more closely with the real physical location. The original photos on the site were classic "fine dining": white tablecloths, fine china, low lighting. We chose newer, brighter photos to show off how cozy and eclectic the space is.
New site functionality allowed us to feature the food and drink menus over the atmosphere, making it clear that taste is front and centre.
At Habit we build a lot of brands, but we saw this particular project as an opportunity to find Nineteen’s identity, make it match up with who they really were, and communicate it to the rest of Edmonton. Great food speaks for itself; all we had to do was give it a voice.