Case Study: Fresh brand identity from Momentum Visual drives Toronto foodies back to the Roxton

Case Study by Chris Gostling RGD, CEO and Creative Director, Momentum Visual Inc. 

The Roxton is a restaurant in downtown Toronto. In 2009 the restaurant was purchased by Newton “Junior” Francis, and his wife Becky Gerson. By 2012 the Roxton was achieving moderate success with neighbourhood locals due to the fantastic food and atmosphere, but like many Toronto restaurants, 3 years into operation, they were competing with a stream of newly opened hotspots that grabbed the short attention span of Torontonians imbued with foodie culture.


“We are a small business that was holding its own, but to grow we needed to stop thinking ‘mom and pop’ and use the tools and strategies that big business uses to succeed.” - Junior Francis, The Roxton  


I met with Junior and Becky through a mutual friend earlier that year. Everyone agreed the Roxton was magic, it just wasn’t being marketed. After several meetings and chats over bourbon at the bar, the Roxton engaged Momentum in a 12-month contract under $30k to develop a comprehensive brand identity with corresponding communications strategy and execute it.


Toronto loves its food culture. People who live here dedicate a lot of their personal time (and for many, their professional time) to knowing the best spots to eat in the city. This appetite isn’t just for food, but atmosphere as well. So we targeted food bloggers and influencers, first daters and families, and anyone living in the city with a social life.



The goal was to drive traffic and sales by increasing awareness and recognition. The strategy was to build a stronger, unified visual identity; and a louder, more compelling voice across print and digital platforms.


Our execution of the new visual identity involved a logo refresh, new menu, new website, signage, direct mail and a new look and feel for the Roxton’s online presence.


In refreshing the existing logo, we began by determining which, if any, elements were worth preserving. We all agreed the diamonds were a keeper. Part of the restaurant’s exterior charm is the giant blue diamond lights leading to the front doors. Like a beacon for bar-hoppers and wanderers, those blue diamond lights are unmistakably welcoming, and unmistakably Roxton. We kept the diamonds and gave the logo a facelift.

The first piece of communications to feature the new look and feel was the menu. Enhanced with original full-colour photography shot by our team, the menu was made with 100-lb silk stock and fastened with Chicago screws to 5½ x13 cedar boards. The menu has been recently updated for greater functionality, including tabs dividing each of the menu sections.



We created a brand new website, featuring intuitive functionality and original photography to provide a stronger, more engaging user experience.



The Roxton presents live music three nights a week, so as a sub-branding effort we created the Blue Lights Music Sessions, inspired by the iconic blue diamond lights. To promote the Sessions we designed onsite posters featuring original photography.  


We took over the Roxton Facebook page and are responsible for the majority of content posted. The Roxton’s Twitter presence was mostly non-existent, so we created a new profile with a fresh skin and have gradually been adding original photos and video with each tweet. The Roxton had no previous presence on Instagram so we created an account and are responsible for content posted here also.


A new condominium was recently completed around the corner from the Roxton, so we designed a multi-page direct mail piece to welcome new residents to the neighborhood. The full-colour booklet details what there is to see and do in the area, and also features a coupon for the Roxton.



The main challenge of this project was budget. Funds are at the heart of the Roxton business challenge, with 2012 sales threatening its very existence. It was critical we be as financially shrewd as possible with every decision we made throughout this project.


Client Involvement

The Roxton owners will be the first to tell you they’re not marketers, or designers. They’re passionate about their restaurant, but admittedly don’t know much about how to promote it. While they’ve provided key input every step of the way, they’ve also invested a considerable amount of trust, and allowed us to inform a majority of decisions made throughout the project.


“The initial capital and trust investment in handing over our menu design, website, social media and overall public outreach was admittedly daunting at first. However, Chris and his team have treated our small account with care, attention and professionalism that belies a much larger account,” Junior says.



No specific benchmarks were set for a level of traffic increase that would be considered successful, but here’s what the owner had to say:


“We foresee a relationship with Momentum for the entirety of our ownership of the Roxton. My only regret is that we did not hire them sooner.”


The restaurant enjoyed a significant boost in awareness when it was featured in The Globe and Mail this fall. It was also nominated for Best Burger and Best Bar in Now Magazine Best of Toronto 2013; was the featured date location on The Grid’s The Hook Up; and was also given a nod on She Does the City. listed The Roxton’s burger and ribs as must-try in their “Best of Toronto” August issue. 



MENU - MUSIC - MOJO : Lounge from Momentum Visual on Vimeo.


Designer Takeaways

  1. As with any design project, try to avoid emulating what’s already out there.  Keep it fresh.
  2. A true artist knows when to put the brush (or mouse) down. Corporate identity is challenging because it’s easy to over-think and over-design logos. Depending on the personality of your client’s brand, super slick design isn’t always appropriate. A little modesty can go a long way.  
  3. Minimalism is a popular route for menus these days. But for some restaurants, it just doesn’t make sense to design a skeletal one-pager. If you’re designing for a restaurant, don’t be afraid to tell a bigger story about the food. A menu is a great way for a designer to create a real experience for an audience.

Client Takeaways

  1. Learn your agency’s process. The more you understand the effort involved in what you’re paying for, the better. You’ll actually get more out of your team that way.
  2. Don’t undercut your input. While an agency is paid to provide skills you don’t have, you still know your brand better than anyone, and your insight can spark some serious inspiration.
  3. Don’t be afraid to test ideas. Really great communications often involve some element of chance-taking along the way. Besides, learning what works and doesn't work will help you figure out who your consumer really is.


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