With more than 600 restaurants licensed in the city of Springfield, standing out from the crowd can be a significant challenge. That’s a goal of Omer Onder, a native of Turkey, who is pursuing his dream of owning a restaurant, Springfield Diner.
Branding agency Longitude is on board to help the diner think strategically, and Springfield Business Journal is documenting the journey. Welcome to Made to Order: The Journey of a Restaurant Rebrand.
Meet Springfield Diner
Turkey native Omer Onder is a relative newcomer to the restaurant industry.
The former journalist owns and is the primary chef at Springfield Diner LLC, only his second job at a restaurant after a stint in 2017 at Florissant City Diner.
While the eatery includes Mediterranean options on the menu, Onder takes pride in focusing much of his food on classic American diner fare – hamburgers, sandwiches and an assortment of breakfast options, including skillets and omelets.
“It was my dream to have a restaurant, a small place,” he said.
With a seating capacity of 42, Springfield Diner, 1730 E. Republic Road, Ste. U, fit the size description.
“I always was cooking things for my friends at parties. But these parties had to be at my house,” he said with a laugh.
Onder speaks with a Turkish accent, has a distinct handlebar mustache, boisterous laugh and enthusiastic personality.
He has a vision of his restaurant, located in the Southgate Shopping Center, serving as a friendly gathering spot. Think “Cheers” – the classic NBC comedy – sans alcohol.
“People come to eat at your restaurant. If they like food, it’s amazing,” Onder said. “If they like your place, if they like the atmosphere, it’s better than anything. I like this feeling.
“They are not just customers anymore, they are friends.”
Springfield Diner recently hit the one-year mark, but Onder recognizes that he still has a lot to learn about the restaurant industry. Part of that learning curve is branding, he said.
“I didn’t want it to be about me,” he said, about resisting calling his business Omer’s Diner or Omer’s Cafe.
Longitude LLC’s Dustin Myers and Jeremy Wells have become well versed in restaurant branding in recent years.
The partners have worked in graphic design and branding work for nearly a decade, joining forces in August 2018 to form their agency, located at 334 E. Walnut St., Ste. B. Longitude specializes in brand development, strategy, film production and photography for small and midsize businesses and startups.
Each had been working separately for years – Myers with Longitude since 2010, and Wells on his own at Wells Innovative LLC. But after collaborating on several common projects, most notably the Ozark Mill development project of Johnny Morris, the duo became business partners last summer and formed an LLC. Myers serves as CEO, while Wells is chief marketing officer.
A new connection was made March 25 when the pair met Omer Onder, owner of Springfield Diner. His restaurant became their newest project, as Longitude aims to rebrand the eatery, which just reached its first anniversary.
Other restaurant jobs for the agency have spanned the country, with pizza franchise Slice Factory and Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering, both in Chicago, downtown Milwaukee beer hall Glass + Griddle, and Bodrum Mediterranean Restaurant in New York City’s upper west side among its clients. Wells said the company portfolio also includes international clients, such as Shahi Nan in London.
Longitude’s restaurant projects have been a mix of startups and rebrand opportunities, Wells said.
“The restaurant-heavy focus started probably four years ago,” Myers said. “It’s an industry where branding has such an important role. How you present something visually matters a lot for a restaurant. And it’s fun getting to see stuff on the walls, signage, menus – you don’t get that with every industry. You can fully immerse somebody in a brand.”
Springfield Diner will mark the first local restaurant rebrand project for the agency, Myers said.
Neither of the Longitude owners said they’ve ever visited the diner, even though Myers said he lives “across the street.” Both said they plan to drop by soon to visit more with Onder about the operation – and of course to sample the cuisine.
Call it part of essential research.
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