Ask the expert: Chef / Owner: Brenda Buenviaje

Brenda’s French Soulfood / Brenda’s Meat and Three / Libby Jane / Brenda’s Po’Boys (upcoming)

We are delighted to announce that the Restaurant Branding Roadmap team is launching our, “Ask the expert” series. Once a month we will post an interview with a successful restaurateur, chef, supplier, brewery professional or a hospitality industry authority. To keep things short and concise, some interviews may be split into two parts. If you enjoy the article, please share. If you’ve got a suggestion for an expert we should interview, let us know.

To kick off our new series, meet Brenda Buenviaje, Owner & Chef Proprietor of Brenda’s French Soulfood, in the San Francisco area. Brenda is co-owner of these great restaurants, Brenda’s Meat and Three, Libby Jane and soon to open Brenda’s Original  Po’Boys.

Brenda knows how to build a great restaurant brand. Under her leadership, Brenda’s French Soulfood was recently featured on Food Network’s “Best ever.” It also earned a top spot as one of Yelps most reviewed restaurants in the world along with other industry awards. Brenda was also invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.

Brenda’s background is as interesting as the food and dining experiences she creates.  She grew up near New Orleans where her multi-ethnic Filipino, French and Sicilian heritage really sparked her passion for food at a young age.

She went to Louisiana State University to study art, but she soon decided to follow her true passion for food and moved to San Francisco in 1997. Over the next decade, she worked her way up through many elite food establishments by kicking butt in the kitchen, and finally launching her own brand. Today Brenda is a successful restaurateur, chef, businesswoman and brand.

Q – What’s in a name? How did you come about?
A – Do your research.  

Conduct a competitive analysis for the market you serve. Something that works in San Francisco may not work in New York or Chicago.

Q – Tell us more about your brand story.
A – Become your brand, but be a little mysterious.

Do what you love, make delectable dishes and get people talking. Don’t name your restaurant Sammy’s if there isn’t someone named Sammy there. Use your chef or someone on site to solidify your brand.

Q – What’s a brand you admire outside of the restaurant industry? And why?
A – BI-RITE Market. Solid concept, story, philosophy and follow through.

BI-RITE started off as a mom and pop store. When their son took over he took the brand to the next level by defining their philosophy and brand. They focused on local and organic foods and sustainability. Next, they wrote a book, Eat Good Food, to help their audience learn how to buy groceries and use them. Focus on what matters and make sure it is obvious in your brand communications.

Q  Can you talk about growth and anything you’ve learned?
A – Grow your brand. If something is working, it’s time to capitalize on it.

Make your patrons spill into the streets. It will create the brand buzz you’re looking for. People in line will start posting their location, tagging friends, family and talking about the great experience. Expand when necessary, but not too early.

Tune in next week to hear more from Brenda about why restaurant reviews matter, how to create your signature style (even without an art school degree) and how to get the attention of the Food Network that reaches over 50 million viewers per week.

Want to learn more about Brenda and her growing brands? Follow her:


If you are new to Restaurant Branding Roadmap, we are foodies and branding professionals. Weekly, our blog covers hospitality industry trends, restaurant branding and marketing. Our goal is to share cool ideas and insight from our 40 plus years as branding experts, our world travels and from other hospitality industry experts—so you are inspired to build awesome and lasting restaurant and business brands.