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Blatt, Blatter, Blattest? Design Good Enough to Eat.

Written by in Profiles

I’m on record as saying that Danny’s Bar & Grill serves the best burger in Omaha – but Ben Lueders insists Blatt Beer & Table has the best. I wanted to find out for myself. So I sat down with Dave Nelson of SecretPenguin to talk about Blatt’s branding. One thing we do agree on is that of  all Omaha burger joints  (and there are a number of them ), Blatt’s branding system is the best in class.

Dave Nelson of SecretPenguin says “Last minute demands are reasons for retainers. The pressure of last minute things are also the reason we only work for those we believe in. It’s easier to get out of bed and help in the middle of the night when your heart is in it.”

SecretPenguin started out as a youth focused design agency, but you shifted directions. Why?

SecretPenguin focuses on its passions. Earlier, we were youth focused [such as the sport of skate boarding], but we now realize ‘youthful’ means more than ‘made for the youth’.

Skateboarding trends a couple years ahead of mainstream trends, so as we are immersed in skateboarding and its cultural innovators, we’re privy to what’s happening next. We use that knowledge to create design strategies which have been successful for client business.

But why restaurants?

We love the theatre of restaurants — from the customer service, to food presentation, to packaging and labels, to signage and down to men’s room details. Naturally, we  gravitated towards them. They’re a passion for me.

For those not from Omaha, Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, or ‘The Blatt,’ closed in 2010 and was demolished in 2012 to for zoo expansion. Our Henry Doorly Zoo is famous. We love wild animals. Remember Marlin Perkins and Jim? Anyway, Dave, tell us how you shaped the name .

The owners wanted the word  Blatt in the name. ‘Blatt’ in German means newspaper or book. Handmade paper objects play a key role in our branding scheme.  We first considered Blatt ‘Gastropub’ because a gastropub specializes in high-quality food. That’s what Blatt does. But ‘gastropub’ is now overused and too often misused, which taints it, so we dropped it.

Instead, we elected Blatt Beer & Table. ‘Beer’ because Blatt serves a wide variety of craft beers. No ‘crap on tap’ is their motto. ‘Table’ for two reasons: 1) to denote that we’re not just a bar, we expect you to sit down at table and eat and  2) to represent the idea of sitting together, as a family or community. Blatt is part of the North Downtown neighborhood/community scene: it is a place where people can gather for more than the College World Series.

Ben Lueders claims Blatt Beer & Table has the best burger in Omaha. While impressed with Blatt burgers, I stand by Danny’s burgers but aver this place has the best Chicken and Waffles. How does a menu influence your design direction?

The menu is the basis of the narrative. We build a story behind it and build the brand out from there.

This restaurant features many branding opportunities. I mean, the Blatt even has custom mustard labels. Is this something you work out before hand, and how do you factor in budget considerations? Where do you draw the line? Watermarked napkins?

With Blatt, we were involved at the outset, so we could help set priorities and make choices. That is fun position to be in. Sure, there are always budget constraints, and some ideas had to be put aside for other priorities for the time being. When budget is limited, we try to cut costs by doing things by hand, which is more work but also more fun, more unique and gives us more ownership in the outcome. For example, we created menu templates for daily beers that they can create in-house and we make quick print signs for their doors. The key is to maintain consistency.

Dave Nelson says every piece of restaurant design must be as fine as every morsel of food. “Poor design can subconsciously lower the perception of the quality of food on the plate. I tell clients to put as much effort into design as they do into menu.” (Danny’s Bar & Grill is an exception. Their burgers are great. The word ‘design’ never entered their heads.)

Compare the gastropub restaurant business with the skateboarding business.

They are both quick moving, youth-centric, customer-oriented and demanding. Because stuff is needed quickly, we do anything we can to support the effort … like printing out 200 more menus at midnight during the College World Series because the client’s own printer is broken. Such last minute demands are reasons for retainers.  The pressure of last minute things are also the reason we only work for those we believe in. It’s easier to get out of bed and help in the middle of the night when your heart is in it.

Any personal connections to Rosenblatt Stadium?

The father of one of the owners of Blatt Beer & Table threw out the first pitch at Rosenblatt Stadium.

What is your favorite  food, and are you looking for a client that caters it?

Peanut Butter. On anything. I would love, love, love to find a peanut butter client.
You will be their jam. Best of luck. Readers, take a look at the nice video showing some of SecretPenguin process for Blatt.
Hey!?!  What’s the Big Idea?!
Paper is an artifact. You ought not steal the nice menus designed by SecretPenguin (but ya can, ya know?). You cannot steal the bleacher seats outside. But you can HAVE the coasters that come with your craft beer. Paper — it is the gift that keeps on giving. Ask the fans at the Blatt Beer & Table.