It’s safe to say we all have a bit of a love-hate relationship with catchy restaurant slogans. On one end, they’re fun to identify and definitely repeat out loud (often without even realizing it.) On the other, if you hum “Ba-da-ba-ba-baaaa!” one more time under your breath, your significant other may slug you.
The science behind the slogan, however, absolutely never gets old. What makes some work and others fall flat? There really is a science to effective communication, and you can use it to your advantage when writing your restaurant slogan—but only if you understand it.
As Forbes put it in a 2018 column: "To be memorable, communication must be clear and concise, presented in a form that doesn't overwhelm the audience with unwanted or unessential data that hides the message in a lot of noise and makes it impossible to retain or to act upon."
In other words, less is more. You need to sell your point and resonate with the consumer —oh, and be catchy as hell—in as few words as possible.
No easy feat! But these 13 restaurant slogans manage to do just that -- read on to find out why you’ll keep coming back to them (in more ways than one).
Why it works: This vintage quip from Mickey-Ds certainly set the bar high for fast-food restaurants. For one, it puts the famous logo directly in your mind, but here’s the real kicker: it actually made you look for it. The slogan engaged listeners in a subconscious game of "I spy;" upon spotting the signage in question, who could possibly avoid pulling over for some fries and a milkshake?
Why it works: Be honest: you sang this slogan out loud as you read it. And you used a bit of a Louisiana accent. Right? Right?!! It’s OK: so does everyone. Because it really is that catchy. More importantly, the slogan evokes the soulfulness that Popeyes aims to associate with their brand and product (read: “Southern style” fried chicken). Plus, it's no small accident that getting this slogan stuck in your head means you will quite literally be sonorously serenading others with your “love” of Popeyes chicken.
Why it works: This clever play on words brings a lot to the table. First and foremost, dropping the “Donuts” from the name itself allowed the brand to grow beyond its Munchkins -- positioning it as a coffee contender (lookout, Starbucks!). The slogan then subtly reminds us we need this fix to “run” our lives. Because we totally do.
Why it works: A longtime knock on fast-food chains is the “one-size-fits-all” vibe they give off, what with all the efficiencies, massive menus, and so forth. Burger King totally flipped that around with their slogan, encouraging the customer to envision a world where they wouldn't get attitude adding extra pickles and holding the mayo. (Real-life experience may vary, of course.) By encouraging you to be a pain in the butt, it actually makes the brand— and its Whoppers—far more appealing.
Taco Bell (Through 2011)
Why it works: An incredibly simple pun underpins this winner, which drives home Taco Bell's differentiated menu offerings and takes a subtle dig at its burger-joint fast-casual competition. The slogan got you to think outside the bun! You just thought about a taco right now, didn’t you? Wait, are you already eating one? We rest our case.
In 2012, the Taco Chain retired "Think Outside The Bun" for "Live Mas"—another pun, this one based not on sending up a corporate buzz phrase, but rather on the crossover between its Mexican-esque offerings and its North American customers' native language, English.
The Olive Garden (through 2012)
Why it works: Sorta like a Saturday afternoon pursuing sheets at Bed, Batch & Beyond, The Olive Garden’s classic slogan worked because it evoked that sense of homecoming everyone yearns for. The slogan taps into the brand's familiarity: you know what you’re getting, what the experience will be, and how it'll make you feel (besides, presumably, full on unlimited salad and breadsticks.)
When the chain replaced the classic slogan with "Go Olive Garden" in 2012, it was roundly mocked for swapping its workhorse for an anodyne replacement. But the old slogan lives on, sort of: it is now officially licensed to late-night host and comedian Jimmy Fallon. So... there's that.
Why it works: Honestly this one is just fun to say. Is it the beefy baritone of a one Mr. Ving Rhames, who gives the spots their voiceovers? Or the fact that you definitely tried to mimic it right now? Maybe it's both? This is a great example of how deliberately awkward phrasing (using the definite article "the") can break through the noise and stick in customers' heads. Sometimes, silliness just works—and Arby's slogan this is one of those times.
Why it works: Let’s forget for a second about the lawsuit that made this slogan extinct, and just stick to the obvious reason it was effective for so long: it made you believe this fast-food pizza chain used superior stuff in their pies. Was it true, or just the placebo effect working its magic? As far as marketing goes, that's one and the same. Beyond the message, the cadence of short sentences with two-syllable first words ("better" twice, then "Papa") is perfectly designed to get stuck in customers' heads.
Why it works: For anyone who has ever been to an International House of Burgers... err, Pancakes, you know they don’t skimp on portions. And therein lies the effectiveness of this sort, smart, elliptical slogan. It auto-triggers satisfaction to the point it’s almost a Pavlovian response. Or perhaps literally one, because picturing a heaping plate of pancakes could very well induce actual drool.
Why it works: Despite the fact its salads and bread bowl soup combos can pack as many calories as a Big Mac, Panera very quickly positioned itself as the “healthy” fast food option thanks to an upscale, vaguely rustic brand aesthetic, and of course, this slogan. The quip simultaneously elevates Panera's own fare as a quality offering, while also raising the question what the heck other fast-casual spots are offering, themselves.
Why it works: Here’s the thing about Cracker Barrel: people seldom go there for just the country breakfast (not that those grits aren’t worth it on their own.) It’s to play that weirdly addicting golf-tee strategy game, perusing the “shop” for saltwater taffy, and naturally, swaying in one of the many rocking chairs in a carb-loaded stupor. Bottom line: it’s an experience, and this slogan spells out exactly why using the time-tested "rule of three" technique for maximal impact.
Why it works: Three (or, in this case, two) words: Repeat, repeat. “Remember: you and your team may be a bit sick of your message once you’ve got it crafted and have used it a few times in speeches or press releases,” explains Forbes. “But your potential audience is bigger than that, and remembering your message is not their top priority. Repetition is key to success.”
Why it works: We start and end with McDonald’s because—"Ba da ba ba ba!”—this one has it all. It’s upbeat, fun and makes the brand feel the same way. You really are lovin’ it. (Unless, of course, you're the significant other in this situation, in which case, you most decidely are not.
OK, now we gotta know… What’s your favorite slogan? Send your picks to firstname.lastname@example.org