The fast-casual class has acquired into one of the restaurant industry’s ascendant forces. Bridging the gap amid acceptable fast aliment and accomplished dining, it offers blast for the buck, ambrosial to consumers on a account while additionally cartoon those who are added comestible adventurous.
But it’s not aloof the affection of the aliment that appeals to fast-casual fans. The architectonics and artful of fast-casual restaurants additionally admonition these brands angle out from the aggressive limited-service pack.
“It’s not the canicule of McDonald’s anymore,” says Rick Conrath, a arch at Washington, D.C.–based GTM Architects. “[Restaurants] accept to await on the demographics of actuality able to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s absolutely analytical that they’re able to action a décor that brings in bodies in the morning, in the afternoon, and later, and that you can action a array of choices as it relates to seating.”
We batten with several experts in fast-casual design—both cast assembly and third-party architects—to acquisition out how fast-casual operators can finer advantage abundance design. These are the top six account for abundant design.
1. Develop a eyes for your brand
While accepting a eyes may complete like accessible advice, not all owners knows absolutely what they appetite to do with their restaurant at the outset.
Conrath says his close begins by sitting bottomward with owners to apprehend added about their vision. Some accept actual specific ideas, while others aloof accept a atom of an idea. “Sometimes they accept an abstraction of what they appetite to do—whether it’s a card or a blazon of aliment or a concept—and they appetite you to adviser them through that action and admonition them a little bit with the branding,” he says.
He stresses that branding needs to be bright so that back barter access the premises, they accept a acceptable faculty of what is activity on inside. For example, if the abstraction is all about alpha food, again the branding should be actual focused on the product.
Over the aftermost three years, Los Angeles–based SF Jones Architects has formed on 30 units for the Kenya-based coffee alternation Java House, alive in accord with a clear artisan and bounded architects who did the assembly and construction. SF Jones created a branded attending and customized anniversary amplitude to the altered attributes of anniversary location.
“A lot of times, what we end up accomplishing [with companies] is allowance them authorize the cast identity, mix the architectonics forth with the cast and the graphics, and admonition to ascertain that look,” says Stephen Francis Jones, buyer of SF Jones Architects. “Then we’ll do the abutting two or three of them, and already they alpha growing, they accordingly attending for cheaper architects to do the rollouts.”
One accepted aberration with amateur restaurateurs is they try to carbon added acknowledged brands, says Vincent Celano, architect and arch of New York–based Celano Architectonics Studio, which has formed on abundant full-service restaurants and afresh beyond over into fast casual. He believes anniversary owner’s alone affection drives the cuisine and the concept, and so it should additionally be presented to the accessible through the restaurant’s design.
“When we alpha a project, we consistently accomplish abiding that the applicant knows who the chump is,” Celano says. “Define what the acquaintance is activity to be.”
Celano’s close afresh collaborated with Grove Bay Hospitality on the American Harvest abstraction at the Brickell City Centre in Miami. Because the restaurant is acreage to table, the architectonics includes a lot of farm-inspired imagery, including a tractor, and has a kitchen with a low counter. “There’s a bit of a blooming wall, [and] a basin of fruits or vegetables,” he says. “There’s this clear representation of the farmer—you can see the concrete labor, bringing advanced the labor, love, and affection of alive on the farm, and the artefact that comes from that.”
2. Acquisition your flow
Moving barter through the alternation with affluence and advantage is addition basic aspect of fast-casual design. The blueprint and afterimage of the menuboard, as able-bodied as the adapted amplitude and appearance of the acclimation line, are important considerations. Visual break can help, such as in Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, breadth a stainless animate kitchen and acclimation breadth is assorted with a red brick bank accomplishments in the dining area.
Conrath recalls how Boston Market, a GTM client, accomplished growing pains aboriginal on, acquainted that barter advancing in for cafeteria were afflicted by the circuitous menu.
“They had to get bodies through the alternation line, and approved a agglomeration of altered things to get them affective forth with computers and monitors,” he says. There are two types of bodies to accord with in a fast casual, Conrath adds: those who appetite to get a quick meal and be out the aperture and those who appetite to sit and break awhile. He says actuality able to accord with both types auspiciously is crucial.
Jones says operators charge accede how throughput will affect guests’ experience, abnormally with the adjacency of the alternation band to tables. “You don’t appetite bodies sitting there with people’s butts in their face,” he says. “You additionally appetite to accept a abode that looks like there is a big band alfresco and is a accepted abode to go. Aggravating to do article that balances those two is absolutely important.”
He adds that he afresh visited Austin, Texas–based Hopdoddy Burger Bar and begin the brand’s access to be unique. Hopdoddy seats assemblage afterwards they order, but if no added seats are available, the restaurant won’t booty any new orders until a table begins to accessible up. That agency that at aiguille times, the band moves slowly, but barter won’t be ashore captivation aliment with no abode to sit.
“The breeze of the cartage is actual important back you alternation up, alike to accord an adumbration of what that’s activity to be, [like,] ‘If you angle here, in eight account you’re activity to accept your food,’” Celano says. “You’re already accepting a chat in agreement of how bound you can get the product, and alternation that happens as you move up or bottomward the counter.”
3. Remember that abate can be better
While abounding fast casuals accept aggressive affairs for dining-room features, experts say bigger is not consistently better.
Conrath says a smaller, arranged amplitude implies to visitors that a restaurant is good, admitting a abode with abounding abandoned chairs implies that it ability not be.
While the boilerplate restaurant candied atom acclimated to be 5,000–6,000 aboveboard feet, Jones says, fast casuals today about accomplish beneath a abate cast of 3,000–4,000 aboveboard feet. He says that with close burghal locations, parking is consistently a problem, and abate aisle beggarly beneath appropriate parking spots. He adds that operators should attending for absolute acreage that was ahead a restaurant because there are inherent difficulties back affective into a amplitude that was not ahead a restaurant.
SF Jones has been alive with a pub abstraction alleged Simmzy’s, whose aboriginal breadth in Manhattan Beach, California, was abate but “always awash and actual popular,” Jones says. But back the aggregation went to alike that success in bigger spaces, it encountered some problems.
“We’ve done bristles new ones, and anniversary one has its own ambiguous components,” Jones says. “But now [the owner] is alone activity to do absolutely baby restaurants, because those are the ones that are authoritative him money. There’s a lot of balloon and error, and aggravating to be repetitive is consistently a challenge.”
4. Strive for boldness and accessibility
Some architectonics and actual apparatus accept become accepted touchpoints for fast casuals beyond the country. For example, wood, brick, and marble accept been broadly acclimated to acquaint quality, comfort, and modernism.
But Conrath says some of these architectonics trends accept become too saturated. He suggests operators be added adjustable with the capacity and types of abstracts they choose. His aggregation afresh formed on a fast-casual alternation alleged Fish Taco that favors a abyssal theme, which he says is all-embracing but calmly communicates the brand’s indigenous menu.
“It’s a aggregate of styles, and there’s a assertive affection to it,” he says. “It hints at the abstraction of Tex-Mex, but it’s not so indigenous that it would about-face you off if you didn’t like those sorts of places.”
Fish Taco’s autogenous architectonics uses abounding types of wood, including afflicted wood. Conrath says there is a movement abroad from the aphotic amber attending advantaged by country clubs and pubs and adjoin lighter atramentous copse and a array of finishes. “It can be a little funky,” he adds.
Celano says the bedfellow acquaintance starts back he or she walks in the door. He stresses the accent of cartoon that are altered to the abstraction and that back a faculty of cast personality.
“The menu, the graphics, and the signage become the character of the cast and the concept, admitting accomplished dining or accidental dining is added about the apprehension of the food,” Celano says. “Fast accidental has to analyze immediately; you accept to accompany the artefact up advanced as allotment of the bedfellow experience.”
5. Focus your message
Going adjoin the atom with autogenous architectonics does not beggarly activity over the top. For its avant-garde booty on the fast-casual pizza shop, Washington, D.C.–based &pizza goes to abundant lengths to actualize a faculty of space, antic activating black-and-white graphics, photos, and designs. But all of it combines to feel absolutely accustomed to the cast and its messaging.
Heidi Guerard, artistic administrator and cast administrator for &pizza, says the architectonics and architectonics from the alpha “always had that clean, adventurous [look], a few big moves, abundant on the atramentous and white.”
Aiming for 21 locations by year’s end, the four-year-old aggregation customizes anniversary unit’s architectonics to its neighborhood. One &pizza breadth is amid in an breadth of D.C. with abounding music venues, “so we took the abstraction of assumption instruments and created a actual ample ampersand that is 118 inches high,” Guerard says, acquainted the concept’s accepted icon. “It’s a check with rivets, and the check is cut into an abstruse adaptation of a artery map of that neighborhood.”
She adds that &pizza’s boutique in Gaithersburg, Maryland, sits on acreage that was a acreage in the 1800s, so the store’s architectonics incorporates spindle-back chairs and barn-door hardware. “We absolutely took a tractor-tire pattern, absent it, and activated it assimilate atramentous corrugated metal that spans about 12 anxiety aerial and 45 anxiety continued that anchors the dining room,” she says.
Guerard says &pizza strives to bang the appropriate antithesis in its design, activity so far as to adapt itself during abundance build-out. “Being able to axis and band abroad annihilation that wasn’t all-important has been our approach, and it has been absorbing as we’ve gone into added markets,” she says.
When &pizza beforehand this year opened its aboriginal boutique alfresco the D.C. area, in Baltimore, some guests were not accustomed with the architectonics approach, which eschews menuboards, messaging, and signs administering barter breadth to adjustment and pay. Guerard says that as the alternation expands, aggregation leaders are rethinking how to acquaint with guests through design.
“Have we been too quiet or are we not communicating with the guests enough?” she says. “It’s absolutely been a acquirements experience.”
6. Booty a chance
Some fast-casual concepts advance artlessly from a alpha idea, and that accordingly dictates a alpha design.
Iowa-based chef and restaurateur George Formaro, whose concepts accommodate Italian, French, and Latin restaurants in the Des Moines area, is a constant abhorrence fan who was originally aggressive by the Universal Studios abhorrence monsters, as able-bodied as the German Expressionist blur The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari. The afflatus led to Crank Burger Drink Lab, a better-burger abstraction that opened in the East Village breadth of Des Moines in 2011. Two added Crank Burger locations followed, and two added are due to accessible by the end of this month.
Zombie Burger aspires to be anxious after actuality bloody, while additionally actuality ancestors friendly. In the aboriginal location, there are three murals by artisan Ron Wagner depicting the Crank Apocalypse in Des Moines, which are awful after actuality graphically gory. Added architectonics apparatus accommodate a 19th aeon cobweb coffin, a crank clown, and a brace of life-sized zombies with whom barter can get their account taken.
“When I told my ally what I capital to do, there wasn’t a archetypal for me to attending at for this,” Formaro says. “We were aloof activity to accept to actualize this affair and achievement for the best. But we’re absolutely able to advance it added now. We accept the alarming zombies up advanced absolutely decked out in what I alarm ‘apocalyptic chic.’ We accept these chain-link fences blind all over the dining room. There are barred-up windows and a lot of altered textures.”
Formaro’s action for article anxious and fun is advantageous off. “It’s adamantine to explain to bodies what to expect, but back they get there, bodies adulation the place,” he says.
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