There is a reason Michael Mina is one of today’s leading celebrity chefs, with destination restaurants in many of America’s top food cities, and it’s not just his culinary skills.

A strategic marketing approach and a nuanced understanding of brand development give Mina a competitive edge against any restaurant group that treats branding as an afterthought.

“Everything I do is deeply personal; it has to have a story and heritage, and that needs to be expressed in a way that the customer recognizes,” Chef Mina says. “Not in a superficial way, but in an authentic experiential way, at every touch point. That’s why we forged a collaboration with UNIT partners.”

Based in San Francisco, UNIT is a brand strategy and graphic design agency dedicated to culinary, hospitality, and retail brands. With a professional eye toward building brand loyalty and a personal passion for food-related projects, UNIT was a natural fit to team with Mina Group.

“We don’t just act as art directors for our culinary clients,” says Ann Jordan, partner and creative director at UNIT. “We become part of the restaurant’s team, helping to shape menus, attending chef’s tastings, mapping the customer experience and contracting professional culinary writers and authors.”

UNIT’s efforts on Mina Group’s behalf extend beyond traditional design assets into way-finding strategies, monuments of convenience, architectural cues, and storytelling vehicles.

UNIT has partnered on brand work for four Mina Group properties to date: The Ramen Bar and PABU in San Francisco; StripSteak in Miami; and Locale Market in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Working with Mina Group means finding the soul of each restaurant and anticipating what the guest wants from it,” says Shardul Kiri, partner and creative director at UNIT. “It requires a heightened level of insight and creative thinking that guides our end product, be it tangible or experiential.”

In today’s market of rapid restaurant expansion and pop-up culinary culture, brand consideration can get sidelined.

“We obsess over every detail and focus on making the entire experience exceptional,” says Mina Group president Patric Yumul. “We chose UNIT partners because they understand how central the cultural experience is to Mina properties. It’s everything.”

Industry News, Kitchen Equipment