Bringing Mexican cuisine in North London: Arriba Arriba

The mission

Arriba Arriba is a new Mexican restaurant in West London, with locations in Acton and Ealing. It started as a delivery-only concept run by the owners of Smokey’s Restaurants, but the phenomenal success that the concept had with West Londoners quickly convinced the founders, Sarah and Zee, to invest more on it and turn it into a restaurant on its own right.

The Output

We worked closely with Sarah to properly understand and map their brand’s personality, the audience that they wanted to reach and determine the immediate and long-term priorities of the brand, before we started working on the visuals. We developed the logo and the other touchpoints of the brand identity, and as our cooperation continued, we helped out with the menus, signage, staff uniforms, banners for their opening events and various other production graphics that a modern restaurant might need.

The Impact

Our main effort was to create a brand identity that shows the restaurant’s focus on authentic recipes and quality ingredients, and as a result it was important that we avoided the much-overused cliches and stereotypes of Mexican restaurants, such as chili peppers, sombreros, and the like. In the end, we delivered a beautiful, well-crafted mark that is as much at home in West London, as it will be when the franchise grows into an international brand.

  • Arriba Arriba Ealing/Acton
  • Brand Strategy
  • Logo Design
  • Typography
  • Retouching
  • Menu Design

A business born in the pandemic

Arriba Arriba started as an experimental concept out of the kitchen of Smokey’s Restaurant; the Southern-style burger restaurant was already well-established in West London. It was very easy to use its kitchen to deliver a second, Mexican-inspired menu to people ordering online, without needing to have a separate physical location.

As the orders from the virtual Arriba Arriba skyrocketed, it was time for the bosses of Smokey’s to start planning for the development of a physical restaurant; West London was ready for a local, authentic, Mexican experience.

Defining the scope

When we started working with Sarah, a few things were already being set in motion from their end. She and her business partner Zee had already found kitchen space to develop the business, and they also had started some works, which meant a few restrictions to us – the wall tiles and furnishing for the restaurant had already been ordered, which meant a very fixed colour palette.

On the same time, the Coronavirus pandemic had already started breaking out to the UK. While the stress about building and furnishing the physical space had been subdued due to the restrictions, it created a massive boom in the home delivery food industry – which meant we needed to take action quickly and have a food menu and brand identity quickly.

Strategy sets the foundation

We sat down with Sarah to develop the foundational aspects of the brand, understanding the aspirations that she had for the business and where she would like to take it in the future. This way we can make sure that we don’t design ourselves into a corner when the brand needs to grow.

As we were delving into discovery, we saw the massive opportunity that Arriba Arriba had to develop into a large franchise business. With two locations in North London, and with no big contenders in the hearty-but-quick Mexican restaurant space, this brand is developed for expansion. We created the Audience Profiles of Salman and Gemma to reflect the energy of London and the UK in general.

Between quality and friendliness

One of the big challenges in developing the visuals was to communicate the balance between the focus on great quality and the friendly and warm attitude that the restaurant wants to develop. This is essential in a marketplace like London’s – there are many full-table service restaurants, and a couple of them are quite recognisable brands. Leaning too far in this direction would mean that we signal that this is not the place to grab a quick burrito on the go. On the other hand, there are many subpar-quality fastfood restaurants in suburbs like Acton, and leaning too much on this direction would mean that we might be communicating that the food is bland and sloppy.

However, we managed to bridge this dichotomy by combining great attention to detail — interesting layouts, proper kerning, lots of branding touchpoints — with friendliness and approachability coming from the vibrant neon colours, the offbeat typography, and the irregular zig-zags that serve as a decorational element throughout the brand.

The logomark

For Symbolon Branding, one of the cardinal sins of logo design is the reliance on visual puns and overly descriptive iconography, and this played a role in the way we designed the mark for Arriba Arriba. We thought the name is enough to demonstrate the kind of cuisine, so instead of oversaturating our image with chili peppers, sombreros or other trite images, we decided to go for the “bite mark”.

Our mark creates a nice hexagonal, badge-like frame, while at the same time subtly depicting an open mouth with teeth, ready to take a big bite. It is using symmetry to avoid an overly long wordmark, though there is a specific version of the logo that works for wide format, that also plays with the idea of the double word.

The evolution

The brand was fruitful, and with the basics in place, as well as a very solid brand foundation, it was very easy to develop new and exciting touchpoints, from the wall menus, to the printed brochure, to the in-store signage and even the staff’s t-shirts.

Arriba Arriba is still open in Ealing and Acton, serving delicious burritos and quesadillas to the hungry North London market.