Why Restaurateurs Should Hire Freelance Designers

Posted by | March 04, 2015 | Freelance, Restaurateur Resource | No Comments
Why Restaurateurs should hire freelance designers

This post is for the independent restaurant owner who wants a good looking brand and strategic marketing without paying stupid amounts of money on services. For those who do-it-yourself and design collateral, social media content, websites and menus because they want to save — this post is for you.

I know what your thinking, since I am a freelancer I am trying to toot my own horn. But realistically I just want to outline the best solutions for each type of situation. Because after all, your specialty is running a restaurant not doing tutorials on how to design your menu. If you are guilty of this I definitely understand where your coming from, but in today’s highly chaotic hospitality market sometimes taking the next step in hiring a professional will set you apart.

So let’s get to it…

Overhead & Pricing

Compared to creative agencies, freelancers do not have a lot of expenses or overhead which means they will not charge you as much as an agency would. Agencies have to charge as much as they do because of their expenses including rent, employees’ salaries, supplies etc. Just like you do with menu items, you mark them up to cover your costs. So does an agency.

Whereas, hiring a freelance designer can help restaurateurs who have extremely tight budgets. You achieve similar results while being charged less than an agency.

One thing to note like any industry, freelancer prices do range so do your homework and ask for quotes. I suggest not to automatically steer towards the cheapest because this can sometime lead to a train wreck.

There are three common pricing systems freelancers use: contract work where projects are based on a quote given at the beginning of the project, hourly rates which is also quoted out at the beginning of the project or value based pricing. A value-based price model can represent any of the following: They are exceptionally great communicators, they are driven to increase your sales not just make things ‘look pretty’ or their service can be exceptionally fast.

Most of the time you will not be sorry you went with a value-based designer, since this price-model is to ensure you get the best value through their services and most of the time still costs less than an agency.

The difference between agencies, employees and freelancers:

So you have established you need someone to help out with your restaurants creative collateral, website or social media content. There are the three options I mentioned, now you must decide which is best suitable for you.


If you are looking to be a multi-chain and have a larger budget to spend on a large team of creatives with many projects to be rolled out — I do definitely suggest hiring an agency. Hiring a freelancer to take on the work load of ten could be straining to a freelancer and mistakes do happen when a projects’ scope is overlooked.

I have listed some really great (local) agencies that have done some amazing work:

Jacknife : Who has worked on blue goose website and Mother’s Pizza & i-Q Food Co. Brand

Shikatani Lacroix : Who has worked on the Tim Hortons Environmental Design

Miller : Who did some great work on Napizza

Concrete : Did some great work on Fabbrica

Underline:  Who did some amazing work on le-jardin


If you are not familiar with what a freelancer is, here is a breakdown: a freelancer is an independent contractor or (in my case, ‘creative’) sole proprietor, that generally works B2B. You can hire a freelancer for various projects or one off projects and can be cost effective because it is like hiring an employee but only when you need them. As well you do not have to pay for the benefits or coverage like a full time employee will cost you.

Full time Employee:

Usually hiring a full-time employee means you have become an established restaurant, franchise and/ or are looking to expand. Maybe you have even expanded and have a corporate head office. Full-time employees are good to have especially when you know there will be a lot of work to be done.

Get it done right and look like a pro

I am not saying your not a pro, but getting a design professional to design your restaurant brand while staying aligned with your culinary abilities, shows you are a well rounded business. Let’s not forget when your customers see a professionally designed and consistent restaurant, they see your business as a shining star.

When getting it done right the first time this also saves time and money in the long run. Having a designer who is familiar with print techniques, understands the differences in paper and marketing media through social media or your website will find you happiness and a lot of hours of tedious trial and error.

Great designers will also know the process of finding the right printer, styles of paper, and generally guide you to what is best suitable for your budget costs. If you have a designer that is pushing you to go with the priciest paper for the sole purpose of showing it off in their portfolio you know you may have a blueberry. (ref. to Willy Wonka)

Finding the right designer:

There is of course like in any industry; there are the good, the bad and the ugly of freelance designers. If you are considering hiring a freelance designer, always do your research and make sure your not just getting someone because they are your brothers best friend in college that deigned a t-shirt once that was sooooo awesome.

If a designer doesn’t know the business side or the objectives of the project this may also bring up some red flags.

Every project has objectives and goals. If the designer doesn’t understand that or can not justify why they designed something the way they did, then you may… (enter in Willie Wonka reference again).

Now, I am not out to bash all designers here of course there are many exceptional designers out there who do what they do really well. To be honest I believe most designers are not out for your money, but want to help you reach your goals because they love what they do — I know I am. But like hiring any other staff or services for your restaurant you want to make sure they are the right fit before you move ahead — even if it just one project.

And just to clarify, if that designer that your brother was friends with in college has a great rep, and is a designer for a living with great references — by all means call him up!

Where to find your designer

There are hundreds of platforms and specialized sites that showcase creatives work. Take the right precaution in reviewing designer candidates and look at what they have produced in their portfolio. Are they specialized? Is their style right for your brand? What have they done before that maybe suitable for your needs.

Some really great sites to find professional designers that have strong ethical and quality standards:

RGD – Canadian

GDC – Canadian

AIGA – American

And some sites that showcase creative work:

Behance – International

Dribble – International

You can also go to a creative head-hunting agency like:

Creative Niche


Lastly, another good way to find a graphic designer is through referrals. Word of mouth is the strongest form of advertising and generally speaking you can’t go wrong with someone with a good reputation. Having a designer with a great background in restaurant design and branding is generally an asset. =D

Hope you enjoyed this post!
—Ashley Howell

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How to Achieve Sustainable Restaurant Design

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