The most expensive thing you’ll ever say: restaurant tagline do’s and don’ts

At a recent lunch with the Vigor team, someone brought up a chain restaurant slogan that they just couldn’t stand. It had a major cringe-factor, and didn’t communicate much. After throwing around some equally cringe-inducing variations on the tagline, we felt the need to do something constructive.

So we thought some restaurant tagline do’s and don’ts would be a good place to start. These aren’t really rules, mind you, since no piece of creative can really be evaluated in isolation. Additionally, some of these are no longer in use. But we hope they’ll get your gears turning and shed light not only on tagline approaches, but on brand strategy in general. Ok, let’s go.

Do #1: Share Your Purpose

A restaurant is so much more than what’s on the plate. At Vigor, we define a “passionate purpose” for each brand, and this purpose ties together every part of the brand, internal and external. Sharing this purpose in a compelling way is a great way to introduce someone to your brand.


Food with Integrity. —Chipotle

Puts a spotlight on the ethics of food sourcing—then jumps in that spotlight.

America Runs On Dunkin’ —Dunkin’ Donuts

Paints a picture of hardworking, industrious America, rolling along on tasty donuts.

You Deserve a Break Today —McDonald’s

Your boss and spouse may disagree, but thank heavens McDonald’s will give you a break.

Do #2: Show Your Personality

Another strong approach is to introduce the consumer to your brand personality. This can make an immediate connection on a personal level and set the stage for the rest of the experience.


Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined —Hooters

Subverts expectation, makes no apologies, has fun along the way.

Come on Home —Hardees

This tone of voice wears a mustache and speaks slowly and reassuringly.

We Have the Meats —Arby’s

Goes full alpha meathead with tongue in cheek.

Do #3: Clarify Your Position

A third strong tagline tactic is to position yourself against the competition by calling out what makes your restaurant unique among competitors. As a side note, many of these tag lines become obsolete as the food landscape changes.


Think Outside the Bun —Taco Bell

Offers a break from the (at the time) sea of burgers and sammies.

Subs So Fast You’ll Freak —Jimmy John’s

Takes a bite out of typical delivery options, while slinging the crack of gen z, which, as it turns out, is speed.

Eat Fresh —Subway

Offers a break from processed and fried options in the QSR space, albeit with questionable credibility.

Don’t #1: Rest on Your Laurels

Consultants may be right when they tell you to keep doing what made you famous, but that doesn’t mean keep talking about it. Your claim to fame has an expiration date, unless you’re making an integrated play toward nostalgia or authenticity.


Home of the Whopper —Burger King

Well, now I know where to get one, just in case.

Home of the Original Double Decker —Big Boy

I doubt we can find the first person to place patty atop patty, but if we could, I don’t think they’d deserve a Nobel prize.

We Didn’t Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich. —Chik-fil-A

I’ll give Chik-fil-a a partial pass for showing some personality and positioning here, but it may be time to find something new to be proud of.

Don’t #2: Pat Your Own Back

“Says you” is one of our most often used pieces of advice at Vigor. If millennials are skeptical about about corporations, gen z’ers are conspiracy theorists. Nobody will believe your review of yourself, nor should they.


We do Chicken Right. —KFC

At least you never did one wrong.

Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. —Papa John’s

Sure, this one is famous, which is just another way of saying expensive. And do you believe it when you taste that sugary sweet sauce? Didn’t think so.

Not just good… it’s Sonic good. —Sonic

Rule #1 of definitions—don’t use the word to define itself.

Don’t #3: Waste Your Words

Think of your tagline as the most expensive thing your brand will ever say. You have to make it count for something. Or do you?


Come Hungry, Leave Happy.  —iHop

I won’t say which tagline kicked off this whole conversation, but I won’t say it isn’t this one.

What are You Eating Today? —Arby’s

Well Arby’s, I don’t know, but maybe we can talk about the weather over lunch?

Gourmet Chinese Food —Panda Express

It’s a shot at the positioning approach, yet falls into the “says you” trap in the most boring way possible.

Pat yourself on the back. You made it through this article. Creating a strategically sound, creatively compelling tagline can feel like a monumental task. And while guidelines like this can help and inspire, the best way to approach any piece of creative is to develop a proper strategy first. This strategy provides the lens through which to view your tagline, your visual identity, and everything else you do, ensuring that when you have your moment to be heard, what comes out is pitch-perfect for your audience and 100% cringe-free (unless that’s your brand personality).

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