Makisu needed to get back internal clarity after a decade of dedication towards processes and products. They were looking for a partner to help them rekindle the flame, voice their ambition and refresh their identity for the next decade.
Makisu has been around for just over 10 years, pioneering the Belgian fast-casual scene, mixing Japanese and Californian influences.
After successfully opening 5 restaurants in Brussels and Liège, the founders came to us with the intention of clarifying Makisu’s positioning to prepare for growth.
With just over 10 years of stories to share, just as much exploration of cooking techniques and kitchen processes, and a team of 150 people Makisu it was time to take an introspective look and shine a light on their brand’s essence.
Hitting the 10th-anniversary mark, Makisu’s founders were ready to rework their brand. A new identity just wouldn’t have cut it.
They needed to clarify their vision in a narrative that would get their people moving forward with purpose.
An ambition accompanied by its share of challenges: a general loss of perspective (post-COVID) on their competitive difference, no internalised marcom team, and a need to formalise the vision and tone of voice before venturing into the world of communications.
We put on aprons and a (sushi) chef’s hat and dove straight into the Makisu kitchens. Chopping vegetables, cleaning kitchen appliances, and rolling makis with the teams.
We quickly learned that the team members shared a good-natured attitude to life and a passion for serving fresh and homemade food to the restaurant's guests. This was gold for us (in clarifying a legitimate vision) as we genuinely experienced the sunny side of sushi.
But there was more to Makisu than just bright personalities. At the core of the dining experience, we saw dedication in finding the best ways to combine chefs' magic, kitchen robots (hello Henry & Steve) and natural ingredients to make the most healthy and affordable sushi possible.
« Working on simplifying a golden circle was an ongoing project at Makisu. Personally, I had been trying to simplify —not to say get rid of— the whole ‘sunshine acronym’ for a while now. With the clarified strategy I feel that we’ve finally reached that level. I think that the hard work you put into understanding Makisu truly shows. You’ve helped reformulate what’s unique here and the result is smart enough that anyone in the team can get behind it. Brilliant! »
Manon Van Brabant
Workshops and Training Facilitator, Makisu
In collaboration with the founders and a close-knit team of internal brand ambassadors, we built a narrative for Makisu that would act as a north star in shaping their plans of expansion. Giving the company purpose for the next decade.
Makisu is all about the magic that happens when you put good food, natural ingredients and sunny people together: sushis that feed our good nature.
Naturally, the collaboration led to the reworking of their brand identity. A visual relifting ended up being the better solution.
For the founders, the collaboration’s goal was straightforward: to make what they had in mind shareable, so that any team member would be equipped to help them build Makisu’s future.
The immersion at Makisu was chaotic, but such is kitchen life. We got to learn the way they prepare all ingredients with a maximum of day+1 in the fridge. How they build upon a scrap kitchen mentality, turning the ugly parts of the butternuts (that otherwise would go to waste) into the most delicious butternut cheese cream. How they cycled through seasonal vegetables in designing their menus. How they could count on each other in organising their shifts for the best work-life balance. How they created room for team members to grow and progress in their professional journey.
It was a rich experience and led us to confirm that their values truly lived internally and in their relationship with the clients.
Working on bringing clarity to Makisu’s purpose, we had (first) to spot the gaps between ambitions, say and do. Putting all that through the perspective of business and field reality helped us find the singular idea that brought all stakeholders together.
« It's been quite a ride clarifying our brand mission and doing a makeover of our graphic identity with Nemesis. Smart, ambitious, good-humoured and hard-working, the team dove deep into our culture to help us reformulate what makes us unique and how to leverage it through the big and smaller choices we make every day at Makisu. It's been an iterative process in which our voice was heard as well as challenged. »
The brand vision –tying back to the slogan ‘the sunny side of sushi’– was then unequivocal:
To feed our good nature.
Their internal drive was to make sure everybody could have a great experience at Makisu. And everybody meant both the team and the customers. If Makisu was a “good-natured eatery” for many guests it was mostly because, behind the scenes, Makisu is a “good-natured company” to its employees.
Redesigning a brand’s visual identity for a restaurant chain with such baggage is no easy task. The constraints were multiple: keeping up with the previous design system (which was mainly focused on vector illustrations), telling their history (of travelling the world) and showcasing the energy that exists (within the teams) behind the tagline sunny side of sushi.
Phew, quite the challenge.
To bring back the old identity in the new one, we made stickers. They incorporate previously identifiable elements into a more playful lockup that speaks on the internal principles and processes.
To display the life of the kitchen, we found that expressive lines would be the most relevant way to add emphasis on words as well as dynamising the compositions.
To communicate their voice with as much personality as their tone, we had to choose a font with friendly and memorable features that perfectly translated what we had seen working from within.
And finally tying it all together: brand colours, inspired by the trip around the world that would inspire the founders to launch Makisu in the first place. The colours evoke California landmarks and Japanese art in a narrower colour palette than what they previously had. Now Makisu can start building brand equity.
The new brand assets were introduced to a selected team of internal ambassadors so they could make it their own.
« The internal brand launch was a truly special moment for the team, it felt like we were seeing who we really were for the first time, highlighting our hard work and dedication to serving our customers with the best possible food and good-natured experience, and being unapologetically proud of it »
HR Officer, Makisu
All in all, the brand redesign made the brand feel fresh and ready for the next ten years. Above all, armed with the new strategy Makisu is set up for a roll-out at a pace that supports business and growth. We already helped them explore other cities and survey potential new restaurant locations.
We can’t wait for what’s next for the lovely people of Makisu.
To round off the brand's experience we reworked the entire website. So it could serve both as an interface to online ordering and an employer brand page. Giving insights into what it's like to work in Makisu's kitchen.
We’re one chat away to the start of an amazing brand transformation.
Hit us up!