By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large
The emergence of fast casual concepts has impacted every segment in the industry. These innovative restaurants showed the consumer that they didn’t have to settle for an affordable meal and dining options.
With fast service and higher quality food combined with a welcoming environment, fast casual quickly took off with today’s on-the-go consumer.
Both quick-serve and casual dining restaurants now have some major competition in the market. They have been forced to adapt or lose more business.
What was the first step to win back their customers who have been stolen by fast casual? A total redesign. Here are four concepts that have either recently completed a total remodel or the restaurant’s re-branding is in the works.
The last few years, the chain known for its signature gold arches has experienced a slump in sales. This is not a coincidence either.
The quick-serve giant has been around for 60 years though, so it isn’t the brands first time getting a face lift. But, it has been well overdue and this time around the redesign will make the stores almost unrecognizable.
McDonald’s has started to trade in the cafeteria look with clownish colors, plastic and wood veneer for a sleek more modern design with minimal amounts of the previous red and gold branding.
The brand will be doing a major remodel with six different styles including "Simply Modern,"Allegro," "Craft," Fresh and Vibrant," "Form," and "Living Room." The brand has been slowly introducing these to the world for years now. Many have already been deployed overseas and about 20% of the 14,300 McDonald’s locations in the US have been renovated.
The chain also rolled out new packaging of their fountain beverage cups, carry-out bags and sandwich boxes in the beginning of the year. The brand describes the new design as “fun and modern.”
“Every day 69 million customers visit McDonald’s around the world and this new packaging will be a noticeable change. It was fun to join these ideas together and create playful pieces that connect our customers to the Brand,” said Matt Biespiel, senior director of Global Marketing in a press release.
Mickey D’s isn’t the only fast food restaurant to recently decide to get a facelift. KFC has been testing a new store design since 2014.
The new design is a more modern and bold approach to the previous look, but the signature red and white colors are still extremely present and so is Colonel Sanders.
The design is playful with a carnival-esque spirt that features counter chairs and circular booths. The interior is meant to be more communal with the “colonel’s table,” a rustic round booth in the center of most stores.
“We saw the chance to highlight Sanders’ playfulness and outsized personality along with the brand’s traditional focus on hospitality,” said Paul Lechleiter, chief creative officer at FRCH in a press release published on QSR Magazine. “The codes of Southern hospitality are an unwritten and subtle set of rules that highlight generosity of spirit and gratitude. We aimed to amp up those codes in a thoughtful, quintessentially Southern way where even the littlest things count in big ways. We played a lot with developing a vocabulary around scale in relation to the brand heritage, which led us to exaggerate the KFC brand colors, then soften the image with rustic red shutters to add a welcoming effect.”
The chain plans to refresh 70% of its 4,500 stores by the end of next year and since the first store featuring this design was tested, sales have risen 3%.
This remodel corresponds with last year’s marketing focus on Colonel Sanders. In honor of the restaurant’s 75th anniversary, the brand launch a campaign featuring comedian Darrell Hammand as Colonel Sanders. Besides spending a ton of advertising budget to promote ads featuring the goofy colonel, KFC announced new packaging, menu items and store designs.
California Pizza Kitchen
Again, quick-serve isn’t the only segment to be effected by fast casual’s success. The food quality of fast casual concepts rivals casual dining chains, but they are faster and with a more customizable menu. To appeal to the millennial consumer, California Pizza Kitchen decided to up the ante in 2015.
The chain expanded its food and bar menu, which included incorporating seasonal ingredients and adding hand-crafted cocktails. The chain also started a complete store redesign in 2015 with 20 pilot locations. The brand projects to be completed with the remodel of all stores by the end of this year.
The new look of CPK is more relaxed and natural, with living herb gardens and furniture made from sustainable materials like reclaimed wood and stone. Now customers can also watch their food as it’s prepared with the restaurant’s open kitchen concept.
Even though the remodel project is almost finished, the brand doesn’t plan to stop there.
“CPK is resetting the stage for the next 30 years and we are calling this plan our ‘Next Chapter’,” said G.J. Hart, California Pizza Kitchen executive chairman and CEO in a press release. “We have over 280 restaurants in 208 cities and 15 countries around the world, and this plan takes the best of our heritage, history and soul and infuses it with a new look, a new menu and a new experience.”
This casual dining chain is blurring the lines of fast casual and casual dining to appeal to the millennial-minded consumer.
In March of this year, TGI Fridays opened its first reimaged restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas. The 10,000 square foot store was remodeled to have multiple dining, bar areas and “hang-out spaces” for guests.
One of these hang out areas is called Fridays Offsite where guests are encouraged to stay awhile and enjoy a coffee. This location has a full coffee program with a menu of cappuccinos, lattes and fresh-ground expressos. The area also has Wi-Fi, grab-and-go food offerings, and communal tables.
This store now offers entertainment, such as live music and trivia along with expanded operating hours and is opened until 2 am. Not to mention, the new upgraded technology with mobile and reservations.
The brand is cornering the millennial market with hangover brunches on Saturdays and Sundays.
However, this concept appeals to be an early test. TGI Fridays has not officially announced that the existing chains will be remodeled to match this prototype. But if it does prove successful, it’s likely that the brand will incorporate the elements that work from this model to other stores.
Other Brands on the Move
These four brands are some of the many forced to do a rebrand because fast casual has disrupted the restaurant industry.
Other brands such as Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Arby’s are in the process of a major redesign or are planning to do so in the next few years.
Time will only tell, if previous fan-favorite restaurants who are beginning to be neglected by their former customers, will be able to transform their brand to win them back.