Kitchen59: Turning a multi-layered business into a holistic brand

Kitchen 59 is a culinary — themed hotel that also hosts a funky student campus, provides long-term accommodations to the expat community, features some top-notch co-working opportunities and offers more than a couple of excellent, full of character options to eat, relax or go crazy. It is located in Sofia, aims to be a driving force of the local creative scene and to enrich it with global cultural influences, is founded by an unlikely duo of Dutch characters and is closely connected with the HRC culinary academy. It’s a place like no other.

Sounds great, right? Except: how do you create a unified brand presence around all that?

That’s why working on shaping the kitchen59 brand and bringing it to life was a job like no other, too.

Our task was to create a brand that speaks to a variety of audiences, is true to the unbelievable richness and the unmistakable character of the place and the people behind it, while in the same time avoiding the risk of being too complicated, too vague and generally — not burning the candle on both ends. So we gathered all forces to define the strategic and creative direction for the brand.

The Kitchen 59 Brand Team: as rich and flavorful as the project itself

A project like kitchen59 requires a brand team just as versatile and full of character. So we partnered with FourPlus, then added some more colorful characters on the go and worked alongside with them and the client in every step of the process. For a multi-layered business, we organized a multi-player partnership — we united to become the kitchen59 brand team.

1. CREATING ORGANIZED CHAOS

When you look at the elements of kitchen59, you will see that each of them could be a brand of its own. The hotel would attract its own guests, the dorm — its students. The Talents restaurant has existed for a while as the restaurant of HRC Culinary Academy, so it comes with its own reputation and clients, too. So should we let them live their own live and have a house of brands? Or should we close the chapter of the past and develop the sole brand of kitchen 59?

One would make the business and brand management even more complicated.

The other would kill the life and authenticity of the place.

The answer was somewhere in between.

So we developed the kitchen59 brand architecture in a way that allows each of the divisions to live its own life while at the same time contribute to the equity of the unifying brand.

Our partners from the awesome FourPlus team created a visual identity that truly celebrates the rich and eclectic character of the brand (more on that coming soon). Together with them, we developed a set of brand guidelines and defined the visual framework which gets the best of both worlds. This architecture gives a sense of coherence and familiarity while also leaves space for fluidity, thus creating one strong association of kithen59 as an eco-system of inseparable elements.

This way, we based the brand’s visual world on the core message:

Kitchen59 is an eco-system of creativity where talented people, passion for food and unforgettable experiences meet.

2. PREPPING THE INGREDIENTS

As the founders of kitchen59 have strong background in restaurants and hospitality, we knew at the heart of the brand is the love for food. Yet, food can bring so many associations in people’s minds. How did we make sure it was the one that helped the business?

In a series of strategy sessions we explored the wide-reaching spiderweb of culinary associations the brand could inspire. We then highlighted several routes and scenarios, each of which had the potential to serve as the base of kitchen59’s brand platform.

In several rounds of co-creation , we defined the strategic brand direction that will drive the right type of people to the place, and defined the three main characteristics of the kitchen59 brand. It was crucial that the brand elements are not only unique to kitchen59, but are also rooted in the core essence of the business and the people it will host:

3. WRITING THE RECIPE

It’s not enough to scribble three words on a piece of paper to define the future of a brand. It’s important to know who the brand is but also how it behaves. As they say about people, the same goes for brands: it’s through actions that you see someone’s true character.

In order to bring the brand to live, we sat down to define what the brand character means in practice.

The challenge here is to keep the unique features of kitchen59 and make them as visible and authentic as possible.

The eclectic style, the mixture of elements, and of course — the love for food.

So we crafted the three main principles at kitchen59 that are now the core of what happens in kitchen59 and how it is communicated.

  • kitchen59 uses the universal language of food as a way to connect to people and build a loyal community. Because food has the power to bring together strangers and unite them like a family, we use it in everything we do.
  • kitchen59 creates a culture of openness & collaboration through its activities and events. Just like its divisions come together as one, so do its people — be it guests or employees.
  • kitchen59 is a meeting place of local & global influences. In all it does, it combines flavors and mindsets from across the world. Everything at Kitchen59 is a fusion of global influence & local relevance.

4. COOKING IT UP

We then developed a comprehensive brand launch program featuring all the right ingredients:

  1. The partners: the kitchen59 brand is designed to act like a platform and to be further developed through collaborations. So we defined the general guidelines on how to pick, brief and work with the right partners. We then selected the ones we want to collaborate with for the launch, testing the model in practice.
  2. The brand presence: we designed a brand launch plan to address the different audiences, across media channels that create a bang!
  3. The experiences: we created a program of acts and events, designed to get the people to experience the brand first-hand. We also created the guidelines on how to further develop the brand presence in an authentic way.

Needless to say, 2020 proved to be a less-than-perfect year to launch a hotel, restaurant, bar, event space. Or a rooftop swimming pool. Or any of those other great features of kitchen59. So for most of the awesome, flavorful, colorful ideas you will have to wait a bit. It’s a good thing we based the brand presence on flexibility, right?

Stay tuned for more news straight from the kitchen, friends.

We are an independent brand consultancy for companies that put their brands at the heart of their development strategy. Based in Sofia, Bulgaria.