Brand Strategy, Brand Design
New York City
The Evolution of NY BBQ
When Union Square Hospitality Group opened Bluesmoke Barbecue 15 years ago, it was all about the best of American barbecue. As Bluesmoke prepares to scale and take its NY BBQ show on the road in a more fast-casual format, they needed a 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.
The rebrand hinged on a fundamental shift in positioning. Bluesmoke was founded on the idea of bringing the best of barbecue to New Yorkers — with the brand’s expansion and new fast-casual format, we helped them craft a more relevant promise: bringing Original New York Barbecue to everyone. The challenge was about preserving the brand equity and recognition they’ve accumulated, while shaping both the visual language and the brand’s messaging with an eye towards the future.
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.