QSRs Rethink Design

From Taco Bell to McDonald’s, fast-food chains are tinkering with store designs in an attempt to connect more with customers.

April 16, 2018

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – At the Taco Bell Cantina, a sleek interior design of wood-topped tables and black metal chairs compliments the souped up menu featuring beer as well as typical Taco Bell fare. With Cantina, Taco Bell is among other fast-food chains dabbling in radically different concept stores that are turning the traditional on its head, Curbed reports.

“What is different now from what we used to do is we are breaking away from a one-size-fits-all model and going to more flexibility, more variations, to end up with a more curated approach,” said Deborah Brand, Taco Bell’s vice president of development and design. “We’ve always known that we have inexpensive food that is craveable, but we also look at value as serving the same food at the same price point in a potentially much more elevated dining environment.”

KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks also have redone designs to both stay competitive among more artful fast-casual competitors like Panera Bread and to reinvigorate interest from younger consumers. “If things stick around too long, it becomes wallpaper,” said Mark Moeller with the Recipe of Success. “We all get bored with wallpaper after a while.”

At a KFC location in Los Angeles, the décor has bright red walls with white trim, along with two framed pictures of the Colonel, along with inspiration signs (“Make the Colonel proud” for diners and “Treat every guest like a friend in your home” for employees). A McDonald’s restaurant in the same city exchanges the primary color palette with a more neutral tan, grays, browns and off-whites. Interior space has numerous seating options rather than the same static ones of traditional McDonald’s.

Newer elements finding their way into QSR design include charging stations, free WiFi and selfie backdrops. “The role of the designer becomes much more than decor and colors and materials,” said Howland Blackiston, principal at King-Casey. “It now involves thinking in a very creative way [about] what are innovations that we can come up with that maybe don’t exist yet, or certainly that haven’t been applied yet, that not only meet the needs of our customer base, but also differentiate our brand from the one down the street.”