Brand Strategy, Brand Design
New York City
The Evolution of NY BBQ
When Union Square Hospitality Group opened Bluesmoke Barbecue nearly 15 years ago, it was all about the best of American barbecue, served with a heaping side of Danny Meyer’s signature hospitality. As Bluesmoke prepares to scale and take its NY BBQ show on the road in a more flexible, fast-casual format, they needed a more robust brand identity to communicate their one-of-a-kind food and experience to a wider range of consumers, while staking their claim as New York’s first barbecue institution.
As world hunger, food scarcity, and climate change continue to threaten global food resources, all eyes are on alternative protein as the future of food. The partnership with Impossible Burger was an exciting one, but the world of plant-based proteins was uncharted territory for the restaurant. We needed to ensure we understood what our guests knew and expected from the Impossible Burger, and how we might best shift perceptions and create targeted communications.
Creative inspiration for the Bluesmoke brand identity came from our own backyard: the streets of New York City, or what we called City Sidewalk Culture. It’s the conduit that connects the resources that define Original New York Barbecue — spices from Kalustyan’s, greens from the Union Square Farmers Market. It offers efficiency and entertainment, side-by-side. It’s a place for all people, cultures, and ideas. Because while USHG is proud to take their barbecue out of New York, they’ll never take the New York out of their barbecue.
The updated logo and brand identity nods to the layers of writing, graffiti, signage, and stickers that adorn New York’s sidewalks. The Bluesmoke “sticker” system — with icons ranging from recognizable streetscape forms to the tools and tastes of barbecue — are designed to show some wear and tear, referencing the textures of both city life and the barbecue pit. We also created practical, unpretentious, but beautifully designed to-go and catering solutions that feel true to barbecue, but still celebrate the quality for which USHG is known. Updated messaging, inspired by city sidewalk sights like souvenir tees and take-out bags, also embraces a local, tongue-and-cheek attitude. Staff uniforms and collateral emblazoned with this language empowers any Bluesmoke employee, from anywhere in the country, to champion the brand’s unique New York voice.