Over the past 7 years, the Mayan Cafe has become one of our most integrated partners. We love highlighting the passions of Chef Bruce Ucan and General Manager, Anne Shadle. Our continued alliance has included interior design consultation, branding, digital strategy and, most recently, a kickass food truck.
Our partnership with the Mayan Cafe started in 2010. Since then, Bruce and Anne have bravely traveled into expanding their delicious brand beyond a typical restaurant’s reach. They have grown their catering presence and dove head first into street food, all while keeping their menus creative, local and true to their vision. This growth called for a structuring of their brand verticals. These verticals will allow for strength in creativity and increased communication of the brand’s promise to it’s consumers.
It is an understatement to say we were a little excited about seeing Chef Bruce Ucan’s food take to the streets. We are of the mind that the brick-and-mortar Mayan Cafe in our neighborhood has the best food around. So we couldn’t wait to see how the team would alter their delectable dishes to a broader audience.
We met with Anne and Bruce to make sure we were able to embody the essence and identify the story of Mayan cuisine in a design. That process started with implementing Personifying Design by the way of our Semantic Differential exercise. Through this, we were able to pull out the color strategy, styling preferences and overall brand story from the team. A few sketch iterations, mood boards (and Alice cameos) later, we had a general direction for the truck design.
We wanted to mimic the coloring of Mayan pottery. The heiroglyphs were chosen and styled for their meaning of celebration and imbibing. It was important to add some stylistic hero images to the design, so we used inspiration from Bruce’s tattoo of the Mayan God of Food and Agriculture. Kelly implemented characters from other notable Mayan designs and illustrations to create an energetic, but stylistically accurate portrayal of food’s origin, life and story.
Pat Sheehan, our resident muralist, created a template for Kelly’s design implementation with precise measurements of the truck. We were lucky enough to have the food truck stored in our parking lot for all of our “What does that thing do when it’s unfolded?” line of questioning. Once the wrap was established, the food truck was moved to its semi-permanent location at the new Gravely Brewing venue. A carbon paper transfer was used to outline the artwork after a base background color had been painted. We used 1 Shot Lettering Enamel to brush paint each line, and stood in awe of the steady handiwork. Check out the truck for yourself at Gravely’s location on Barret Avenue. And I dare you to not order the whole menu.
In 2010, we began adjusting the brand elements to give longevity and separate them from trends. The logotype changed to a more modern sans-serif with a strengthened glyph, leading to improved printing and readability at a distance. Next, we developed a menu that could scale easily, allowing for Mayan Cafe’s frequent menu changes based on seasonal food purchases. Our new aesthetic was applied to other promotional materials including the website – which was designed to make it easy for customers to learn about the food, find the restaurant and share their experiences with others.
Restaurant sites are notoriously poor performers, with very few catering to smart phones. Mobile web browsers represent the changing audience of users who need location, hours and menus, all at their fingertips in a moment’s notice.
Menus: Web menus in general are difficult to keep up-to-date. There was also a concern that vegetarian items and allergen information should be easily disclosed. The OpenMenu solution we provided allows the Manager to update menus in a single place, while simultaneously updating both web and print versions with ease.
Mobile: How often have you decided to dine somewhere and not been able to call for reservations because you couldn’t find the number? We wanted people to be able to view daily specials, menus and easily call for reservations, any time, any where, and on with any device.
When the restaurant location started renovations, we worked with De Leon & Primmer to develop a color palette of browns and reds to compliment the cuisine. The rich colors speak of roasted peppers and sauces and are intended to compliment the food on the table. The interior of the restaurant was repainted in these colors with a light-catching design pattern on the walls. Weathered wooden chairs were added to lend a rustic feel to the space. After a trip to Ucan’s hometown, photographers Kriech-Higdon shot several large format photographs featuring local cooking. These images hang in the dining room, displaying the art of Mayan cuisine.