Avocaderia billed itself as “the world’s first avocado bar” when it first launched in 2017. The menu back then was comprised entirely of dishes featuring trendy healthy food, from smoothies and toasts to an Avoburger featuring smoked salmon between two avocado “buns.”

Cofounder Alessandro Biggi says the brand has done some growing up since then. Now, the menu features a much wider variety of seasonal produce, and not everything includes the namesake ingredient.

“We followed the feedback from our guests and developed more salads and bowls because that’s what was driving repeat business,” he says. “Over time, we just kept evolving the offerings, so we wanted a new name to show how the concept had become more of a destination for healthy food.”

The company rebranded to Avo late last year to mark that evolution and shape its strategy going forward, but conversations about the change started just two years after the first store opened its doors. The company’s leaders decided early on that they wanted to shorten the name instead of introducing a completely new identity. They started conducting surveys to gauge how customers felt about the move and began working with graphic designers to determine what the new logo would look like in 2019.

“There were a couple of iterations on the design side, but we always wanted to have the same typography and the same color palette,” Biggi says. “For us, the whole idea was always to have some continuity by taking what we already had and improving it by simplifying it.”

After the pandemic put those plans on hold for a few years, the company conducted another round of surveys with a larger base to further validate the initiative last summer. Feedback on the shorter name was overwhelmingly positive and stronger than it was pre-COVID.

Avo opened its fifth unit in January, marking the first time a new store opened with the updated branding. Then it got to work implementing the change across the rest of the system.

“That’s where the headache starts because you have to change every single asset that you have in the store, and all of the digital assets, like the website, the social media handles, and so on,” Biggi says. “It can get challenging to ensure consistency once you start realizing how many different things out there actually have your name on it.”

Avo teased the new name online and in its newsletter before making the rebrand official. It also made sure there was internal alignment throughout the organization, especially among frontline employees, who were tasked with explaining the change during face-to-face interactions with customers.

“Whenever you change your name, you sort of reset the communication that you have going, so you have to ensure you have something really good to say,” Biggi says. “You have to ensure that the message is clear and easily understandable.”

Effective rebranding hinges on compelling storytelling. While a catchy name supported by consumer research and a solid strategic direction is crucial, it won’t mean much if guests aren’t on board. Managing customer expectations and providing ample explanation for the change can help minimize the risk of confusion and resistance.

That’s why Zoup! is taking a gradual approach to changing its name to Z!EATS. The fast casual kicked off the initiative earlier this year with its app and loyalty program to familiarize existing customers with the new branding.

“If you’re a regular guest, you’re going to see Z!EATS for a while before the name on the building changes,” says Kelly Roddy, CEO of parent company WOWorks, which owns multiple better-for-you fast-casual brands, including Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Barberitos, and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh. “It’s important that you don’t leave your loyal guests behind. You want to bring them along with you.”

Z!EATS takes a cue from the original name, incorporating the same “fun energy” from the letter “Z” while broadening the focus beyond soup, he adds. The brand is building on its health-forward positioning with a new menu that showcases additional product categories like sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, and mac and cheese.

It’s an evolution that stems from extensive research into the preferences of younger consumers. Roddy says the big insight was that Gen Z diners look for menus that deliver on nutrition as well as variety in terms of both flavors and formats.

“Better-for-you ingredients, clean food, and flavors that are on trend—that’s our whole philosophy,” he says. “Over the next year, Zoup! is evolving to not only live up to that, but to communicate it as well. I think as you roll it out, you do it one restaurant and one team member at a time, so you can teach people how to help you tell that story to the guest.”

The rebrand also comes with a new store design. There are some back-of-house elements, like improvements to the kitchen layout and fresh equipment to support the bigger menu, along with front-of-house upgrades, like self-order kiosks that reinforce the commitment to meeting the expectations of younger consumers. Most of the changes are aesthetic. Dark color palettes and rustic, soup-themed decorations are being replaced with brighter, fresher design elements to create a more vibrant and energetic atmosphere inside the store.

The inaugural Z!EATS restaurant is slated to open in Atlanta this spring, and all of the roughly 70 existing Zoup! locations will be revamped with the new look by the end of the year.

“You start by putting up signage in the restaurant that says ‘Zoup! is becoming Z!EATS. Here’s what that means.’ Then, you change the menu, add the technology, and rebrand inside of the store,” Roddy says. “After everyone has a chance to live with it for a while, the very last thing we’ll do is put the new sign on the building. You have to be very thoughtful and methodical with something like this. That requires some patience. It’s about doing your research, planning it out, bringing franchisees along, getting their feedback, testing it, making changes, and then rolling it out slowly.”

Fast Casual, Fast Food, Marketing & Promotions, Story, Avocaderia, Zoup! Fresh Soup Co.