Spice Hospitality Group
A farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of Cleveland.
SERVICES: Brand Strategy & Consultation
Spice Catering Co. carved out a niche following among upscale customers who sought out true farm-to-table dining experiences. The first installment of the Spice story left Chef Ben Bebenroth with a desirable issue: his catering company was growing quickly and he needed a new venue.
Without a venue to call his own, Spice settled for becoming a preferred caterer to upscale event locations where the property owners racked in rental and open bar fees. To level up, Chef Ben knew he needed a home base and a liquor license that would increase revenue and profit.
After months of looking at options from dive bars to church basements, Chef Ben landed on an unexpected new home for Spice: a former Mexican restaurant that could house both private parties and daily dinner guests. With a coat or two of neutral paint colors, all new lighting fixtures and fresh covers on the banquettes, Spice was ready to open its doors to Cleveland’s Gordon Square neighborhood.
The issue? How to position, brand and promote this new venture while retaining the core farm-to-table mission of Spice. Once again, Muse was brought in to bring this brand to life.
While Spice Catering Co. catered (pun intended) to sophisticated customers for special events, Chef Ben wanted this dining experience to be more casual and accessible to the community. Muse founder & CEO, Jackie Bebenroth, knew Spice had to strike a delicate balance in the name, look and brand experience to accomplish this. Here’s how Muse did it.
Muse leveraged Spice Catering Co.’s equity for this new venture, beginning with the name: Spice Kitchen + Bar. “Kitchen + Bar” was intentionally chosen to separate this down-to-earth restaurant from the fine dining catered dinner experiences while maintaining a connection to the original Spice brand.
The brand had a big job to do; it needed to communicate that the restaurant was owned by a forward-thinking chef and highlight the farm-to-table nature of its mission. Muse partnered with local design firm Go Media to craft Spice Kitchen + Bar’s visual identity and color palette.
The bold, new logo was a firm departure from the catering company brand, giving a feel of casual confidence. This was intentional to ensure the restaurant wasn’t perceived exclusively as a premium, special occasion experience.
The wood grain pattern elevated the brand without appearing too sophisticated and was a nod to Spice Kitchen + Bar’s connection to nature.
By the time Spice Kitchen + Bar came into existence, the phrase “eat local” was having a moment. Some restaurants in town claimed to be farm-to-table to capitalize on the trend. To separate Spice Kitchen + Bar from the crowd, Muse proposed a new angle: Eat with the seasons.
With this approach, Muse connected the concept of farm-to-table with tastes and traditions that people associated with each season. This created relevancy and evoked emotion. From bright, vibrant greens in the Spring to juicy berries in the Summer and rich, hearty squashes and meats throughout Fall and Winter. This brand wasn’t just about buying local; it brought awareness to seasonal eating in a way that was meaningful – and memorable – to the guests.
Muse expressed the Spice Kitchen + Bar brand most heavily through the look and feel of the restaurant and overall guest experience.
Eat with the seasons was reflected throughout the space. Menu illustrations, centerpieces and even the art on the walls was switched from season to season. Chef Ben wanted guests to enjoy the freshest harvest of the season on the plate...and also to feel the seasons throughout the space.
With a brand that welcomed existing catering clientele and introduced a fresh way of eating to new guests, Spice Kitchen + Bar was poised for success. The restaurant quickly caught fire with local food reviewers, food influencers and a regional audience. It became the go-to restaurant for residents and travelers seeking an authentic taste of place.
Over the course of its 8-year tenure, Spice was featured in dozens of local and regional publications, appearing as the cover story in multiple issues. Chef Ben appeared on two Food Network shows and was ultimately featured in the Wall Street Journal, in a piece that highlighted the ripple effect of local purchasing.
As a result of the restaurant’s growth and popularity, Chef Ben estimates that Spice has invested over $3M in local producers and is one of the largest restaurant contributors to the regional agricultural community.
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