The design of QSR restaurants is changing. Brands are redesigning their dining rooms and drive-thru to increase speed and service.
QSR design is evolving, with drive-thru becoming more prominent and some brands, like Taco Bell, adding additional drive-thru lanes and smaller dining areas as COVID changes how diners consume food .
Del Taco recently opened its Fresh Flex prototype in Orlando with an evolution towards technology.
QSRweb reached out to Mark Landini of Landini Associates, which offers versatile work that combines strategy, architecture, interior, graphic, product, furniture and digital design, via email to find out why and how QSR brands are rethinking designs in a modern world.
Landini Associates works across all sectors of retail and hospitality, and the company is best known around the world for its work in the food industry. Clients include Loblaws (Canada), McDonald’s (Global), Marks and Spencers (UK), Walgreens (US), Esselunga (Italy), Emart (South Korea), ALDI (Australia and China), David Jones (Australia) and Selfridges (London), among many others.
Q What are the common elements of today’s QSR designs when it comes to color and design?
A. I won’t comment on the “style” of others, but it’s probably time to stop treating people like bees and magpies. We are not only drawn to bright colors and shiny surfaces.
|McDonald’s Place Pushkin|
Technology will have the most significant impact on QSR design in the future, but it only starts with ordering. Trials using kiosks and other interfaces have seen sales jump as customers are less pressured and more focused. Sales, personalization and convenience can also be increased, but “less pressure” shouldn’t be dismissed as just a point-of-sale thing. It’s also a QSR thing now.
QExplain the increasing deregulation of the use of sidewalks for outdoor dining? Why is this important for brands?
A. You really only have to visit Paris once to see why it makes sense. Climatically identical to London, the French have used the pavements for centuries as places of human gathering and display. Never underestimate the “display” bit. It’s also safer outside now.
Q Drive-thru has become big business, with many new models incorporating a second lane for mobile orders. What’s new in the drive-thru?
A. More cars! Since the pandemic, sales have gone from 50/50 internally versus drive-thru to 20/80 and it’s expected to stay that way.
As such, the potential of drive-thru is growing exponentially. That’s where the sales come from and that’s where the smart operators invest. Landini Associates is working on a number of projects where we seek to reinvent this model. It’s an exciting challenge that goes far beyond simple traffic management.
Unfortunately, many operators are held hostage to their history with an inefficient footprint and buildings that are indistinguishable from their competitors. Using them as tags is more important than ever so they are recognized even before you intend to eat.
Q How important is the atmosphere today? It’s all about speed of service? How are restaurants rethinking their interiors?
A.Ambiance has always been important, and finally QSR brands realize that. It’s increasingly important to consider what, beyond the food, might make a customer choose your dining experience over a competitor. Unfortunately, too many interiors aim for the lowest common denominator with food processing plants and canteen-like people, ignoring the basics of what makes a great human experience. COVID-19 has simply intensified this investigation but the changes in scenery only tickle the surface. The opportunity is deeper than that.
Q How has the pandemic changed the design of modern QSRs?
A. There isn’t much — yet. Tactical necessities imposed by COVID-19 have slowed innovation, but it is beginning to regain momentum. The strategic opportunities are there, but so far they have been widely adopted by other categories. The model needs careful consideration as the competition has changed to include all food retailers now.
Q What becomes obsolete as the design progresses?
|Slims Quality Burger, Australia|
A. The generic”. Many QSRs – and let’s face it, this is often an undeserved compliment – still operate on outdated belief systems regarding their customers’ preferences; how to look and how to operate. Food spending is a bigger opportunity than ever before, and QSRs are starting to recognize this and are restructuring themselves accordingly.
An important question to consider in depth is how does your brand connect emotionally with customers who are not physically visiting? As home consumption increases and delivery is increasingly implemented by third-party companies and platforms, QSR products can be made anywhere. Going from a brand to a commodity is a dangerous transition and not in the interest of the brand. The opportunity is enormous and the answers are before us.
QWhat do QSRs often overlook when it comes to design?
A. That we are living through a technological revolution that will have a greater impact than we may yet imagine. Many innovations that could result from this have yet to be explored and realized. Many still design with blinders on; starting from their history and a “well that’s how we do things” attitude, forgetting that the brand is an evolving party. Too many conversations are therefore turned inward and not forward-looking. Using a great outside designer who is both experienced and a proven lateral thinker would help.
Q Why are we seeing more brands refreshing their looks today?
A. Pre-COVID-19 was a time of expansion, with many companies entering new markets but not yet integrated when it hit. Many of these brands are now starting to question whether their pre-COVID models are as sharp as they could be. Things have changed, people have had time to reflect and perhaps realize that COVID-19 is not the only scourge. There’s also a generic one, casually sweeping the QSR world for a long time, and it’s created a lazy calm. As a result, many brands are essentially the same: similar products; similar experiences and similar ways of thinking about distribution. But, COVID has affected our safety and when that is threatened, we tend to act.
Q How important are new prototypes to operations?
A.If you never experiment, you are unlikely to evolve and succeed. The most innovative brands test and test again and again. The world changes in nanoseconds, which is why we recommend practicing what we call “reinventing the normal”. It begins with a consideration of whether yesterday’s starting point should be used today? Amazon took 9,080 days to become the world’s largest retailer. It’s a “blink”. Think how many tests it took!