Est. 2016

Refining the Refinery

From Gastro Pub to Bistro & Bar, a redesign, Shanghai, China.





You might be wondering why the most popular restaurant and bar in XinTianDi would need branding? After 7 years, the team’s intuition was that it it was time for a makeover.

Overcoming the fear of change to embrace their future vision, they bravely selected a new interior, new branding, and a huge amount of custom art and illustration work to provide their loyal crowds with a new, refined experience. 

Brand Strategy
Creative Strategy
Visual Identity
Brand Applications
Menu Design
Brand Guidelines
Wall Graphics
Custom Art Creation

The core brand statement

Craft is our chosen medium of expression, fueling our passion for the art of mixology and gastronomy.

As artisans of craft, we wholeheartedly pour our creativity into curating an experience that delights the senses and ignites the imagination. Within our establishment, we strive to cultivate a sense of belonging and community, accompanied by a diverse selection of exceptional food & beverages.

Redeveloping the Visual Identity

Starting with the logo

One of the toughest challenges when rebranding is: “should we change the logo?”. Though this is very much a case per case answer (more guidance provided here), in this instance, it made sense to create something more refined. No adaptation possible here, it was back to the drawing board.

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Refinery Logo 2023 Rgb Primary


Rethinking, creating a new brand mascot

One thing that we did want to keep, was our mascot. Here also, he had to drop the hipster look to adopted a more sophisticated look.

The logo at the foundation for the signage required for flexibility, we actually use it in 7 different ways throughout the space. 

Although it’s commonly believed that a brand should be consistent, when it comes to a restaurant brand – especially one that harks back to an older era, using the logo in different ways can feel like the brand has been there a long time.

Refinery Wallgraphic 4
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Refinery Wallgraphic 2

Creating more supporting graphics
(secondary brand identifiers as we call them!)

One downfall of the previous identity, though fitting for a clean industrial concept, was to have only a logo and the silhouette. This refined version, however, would call for a lot more details.

Refinery Equipment Illustration

Brand Signage

At Thread, we plan for all aspects of signage and wayfinding.  Signage is an essential element of branding. It helps creating a recognizable and memorable image for your cafe that customers can associate with your products and services. Consistent and high-quality signage reinforces your brand proposition and build customer buy in. We loved the Refinery signage so much that we created a whole post about it.

From industrial design style to eclectic aesthetic

Creating brand depth with in the Interior Intergration

A lot of the Refinery consumers have been frequently visiting for years. The goal was to offer them a lot of new features to explore and discover with each visit. 

Crafted Interior Design Pieces

It's not about choosing nice things!
Everything must belong to one brand universe

While a number of venues focus on telling a brand story, the Refinery space is offering to dive into a universe. Each part of the decor reveals bits of it, from the distiller’s working scenes, to the stained glass landscape featured as the stage backdrop, to the shelves of distilled craft mixtures. The framed artwork also helps suggesting time and geography of the universe, getting guests to wonder.

All the art created was custom made by us specially for The Refinery.

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Finally, some pretty unique restaurant applications

New discoveries all the way to the bottom of your custom plate design

New menu items and brand identity call for menu redesign and photography of course. Possibly some new placemats and napkins. Standard! But what else can bring novelty to your guests? Ever considered some custom made plates and other 3D coasters?

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Bilingual photo menu

The challenge of designing picture menus in China!

When designing an image based menu there are a number of things to take into consideration. There isn’t much good inspiration on the internet as China, and in particular, Shanghai, is a fairly unique target market for menu design. Pictures need to look good, but great photos with nice backgrounds make for awful menus! Having a photo of every dish is a nightmare too, as everything will be small and looking like one of those laminated menus on the counter at KFC or Yong He Da Wang!

The key is to have the right balance of images, simple backgrounds that allow you to adjust the composition and add the content. Bearing in mind of course, that in Shanghai you’ll have double the amount of content, as it needs to be bilingual. Additionally local consumers like to see English first, as it builds trust that this is an international brand and chef – which it is.

Finish it off with some illustration work to tie it all together with the brand story, and here we have it!

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...it's a wrap!

Turning tens of new marketing assets into guidelines.

What are the consumer saying?

Excellent environment, so many cool things

Your 5 most important points checklist while (re)branding your restaurant

  1. Define your personality, Who are you?! Before you start the rebranding process, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want your restaurant brand to stand for. Consider what makes your restaurant unique and how you want to position yourself in the market.

  2. Know your target audience: Understanding who who, and what they are looking for in a dining experience is crucial when rebranding a restaurant. Conduct market research to gain insight into your target demographic’s preferences and habits.

  3. Develop a consistent voice: Your brand voice should reflect the personality and values of your restaurant. Ensure that your messaging is consistent across all touchpoints, including your website, social media, and advertising.

  4. Revamp your menu (Element Fresh redesign): Rebranding a restaurant is an opportunity to update and refresh your menu. Consider incorporating new dishes, updating existing ones, and sourcing local, sustainable ingredients.

  5. Refresh your space: This might have been at number one, but it can be big budgets. A restaurant’s interior is a significant part of its brand identity. Consider updating the décor, lighting, and layout of your space to reflect your new brand identity. This can help create a more cohesive and memorable dining experience for your customers.

Read more about the rebranding challenges in Justine’s article here.

Would you like to take your brand to the next level, just like Refinery did?

Get in touch with us and find out more