Mix-up over similar restaurant names

SINGAPORE - In an increasingly competitive dining scene where restaurants fight to stand out among others, what a restaurant is called can make all the difference.

But of late, there have been more eateries with similar names that have, at times, caused confusion among diners. Diners sometimes book tables at the wrong restaurants or turn up at the wrong venues because the names are similar.

Words that have proved popular among restaurants over the last year include "commune" and "lime". Over the years, there has been "jade", as well as other common words that include variations of restaurant names with "big" and "fat" in them.

Housewife Alice Lee, who is in her 60s, says: "I get confused over Crystal Jade Palace, Jade Palace and Jade, and have to double check with my friends where they have booked so that my husband and I do not go to the wrong restaurant."

Restaurateurs say similar names are coincidental, and that they choose names mostly because it tied in with the concept.

Commune, for one, has been particularly popular. Three eateries - Commune Cafe at Millenia Walk, Commune Bistro at Phoenix Park and Communal in North Canal Road - have opened in the last year. But restaurateurs and spokesmen claim "no blunders" in terms of mixed-up bookings have happened so far.

Mr Raymond Lo, 23, a sales and marketing executive for Commune Cafe, says: "When customers ask us about our other Commune outlets, we tell them that this is the only branch and we are an independent company." The cafe, which opened last July and serves coffee, tea, cakes and sandwiches, is an extension of two-year-old furniture shop Commune, located next door.

A Commune Bistro spokesman says: "It is disconcerting, but we are sure nobody intended for it to happen. We just take it that the name is commercial, in a good way."

The bistro, a contemporary cafe in the day and a modern Vietnamese restaurant at night, is owned by Austin Winkler, 30, and Angus Chang, 33. It opened last August. In hindsight, they say they wished they had named the bistro something else but realised there was "no issue" and decided to keep the name.

Chef-owner Ryan Jette, 32, of Communal, a new-American restaurant which features communal counter-dining, says he was unaware that other eateries with similar names existed.

Other examples of restaurants with similar names include seven-month-old Lime, a modern South-east Asian and International buffet and a la carte restaurant at Parkroyal On Pickering hotel, and Lime House, a month-old Caribbean restaurant in Jiak Chuan Road.

But the two have different concepts. Lime is a hotel restaurant with open kitchens and high ceilings, whereas Lime House is located in a corner shophouse, and decorated with Caribbean art and 1950s-style colonial furniture. The name Lime was picked for the hotel restaurant because it was "short and crisp", and tied in well with its "fresh approach". Meanwhile, Lime House was named after the act of liming, which is Caribbean slang for hanging out.

Both even use similar shades of lime green in their logo.

The hotel and Lime House's owner says they have not heard of instances of diners mixing the two restaurants up.

For Chinese restaurants, the most confusing are Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant at Ngee Ann City, Jade Palace Seafood Restaurant at Forum The Shopping Mall and Jade at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore. Indeed, auspicious words such as jade and gold, and terms such as palace, are commonly used in the names of Chinese restaurants.

These three restaurants, however, each have different names in Chinese. Crystal Jade Palace is known as fei cui huang gong jiu jia, Jade Palace is known as jin ju hai xian jiu jia and Jade restaurant is known as yu lou.

Mr Ho Kin Fung, 55, general manager of Jade Palace, admits that diners do get confused at times, and have turned up only to find that their reservation had been made at another restaurant.

He adds: "When diners make reservations, we always remind them that we are at Forum The Shopping Mall."

The same goes for Jade at The Fullerton Hotel. Mr Giovanni Viterale, general manager of The Fullerton Heritage, which includes the hotel, says: "We understand that there are other restaurants whose names carry the word jade. I have briefed my colleagues to reiterate to diners they are booking Jade restaurant at The Fullerton Hotel."

What is key to note is while restaurant names are similar, they are unlikely to be mistaken for one another because of their different offerings, concept and interiors.

The Business Registration Act lists a number of restrictions on the registration of business names. These include, but are not limited to, business names that are "undesirable" or "identical to that of any corporation or to a business name".

While confusing names can cause headaches for some diners, restaurateurs say having similar names is not a bad thing because it creates awareness of their restaurants. Mr Chris Morris, 40, owner of Lime House, says: "In a funny way, I think it is great. The fact that more restaurants that have the same name is a positive thing."

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