Brands on the Move: Four Restaurant Chains Redesigning its Space to Appeal to Today's Consumer

Brands on the Move: Four Restaurant Chains Redesigning its Space to Appeal to Today's Consumer

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 five concepts that have either recently completed a total remodel or the restaurant’s re-branding is in the works. 

McDonald’s

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.

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Taco Bell Channels the Fast Casual Atmosphere with Re-design

Taco Bell Channels the Fast Casual Atmosphere with Re-design

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

Say goodbye to Taco Bell’s pink and purple signature look! The brand recently announced that it’s time for a brand refresh.

The quick-serve mogul plans to open 2,000 new stores by 2020, 200 of which will be in urban areas. All the estimated stores will feature one of the four new restaurant designs.

“Building new restaurants is a key component to the overall growth and evolution of Taco Bell,” said Brian Niccol, Chief Executive Officer at Taco Bell Corp in a recent press release. “Great design, Great Food and Great Economics is at the heart of our growth.”

A Whole New Taco Bell

The stores with the fresher look will initially be opened in Orange County, California. Each of the four designs have their own theme that will reflect the communities of where they are located.

Here’s the lowdown of each design:

  1. The “Modern Explorer” will portray a rustic style and is a more elevated version of the chain’s “Cantina Explorer” restaurants. The focus of this design is to offer the customer with more transparency about where the food is coming from.
  2. The “Heritage” design is inspired by the chain’s original Mexican culinary roots. It will mimic the brand’s initial look in the Mission Revival-style. These stores will feature warm white walls and more classic/natural materials (no more plastic.)
  3. The “California Sol” stores are inspired by the California lifestyle. It will offer a “laid-back beach” feel with seating inside and outside.
  4. The “Urban Edge” store look will represent an urban culture with both international and street style.

Each of these styles are channeling the fast casual atmosphere and are drastically different than the current stores of the chain.

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Taco Bell Takes a Bite at McDonald's With New Commercial

SCREENCAP OF TACO BELL COMMERCIAL  | YOUTUBE.COM

SCREENCAP OF TACO BELL COMMERCIAL | YOUTUBE.COM

If there's at least one thing we remember from high school, it's that food fights can get pretty dirty. And when the one doing the slinging is a multibillion-dollar company? Well, then, food fights turn into an all-out food war. The fast food chain Taco Bell made some hard-hitting, not-so-subtle, fast jabs at McDonald's with its new commercial.

In an effort to promote its new biscuit taco and breakfast menu items, Taco Bell painted a Cold War-era, post-apocalyptic world called the "Routine Republic." A television set plays a commercial within the commercial filled with communist-state propaganda, art showcasing mighty fists holding up burgers and a twisted, smiling clown-faced enforcer, complete with blaring trumpets in the background. Guards bullying civilians are also eerily clown-faced. Posters are plastered on grimy walls, the only bit of color in the grungy city is a dirty, yellow slide winding around a bleak, concrete patrol tower, no doubt symbolizing McDonald's playgrounds. 

The message around the city is the same: "It's another perfect morning in the Routine Republic, where happiness is eating the same breakfast."

McDonald's has become a routine trademark in the fast food breakfast audience, and known for its Happy Meals. Here, Taco Bell is encouraging consumers -- imprisoned by this routine -- to break free and try something different, meaning what Taco Bell has to offer. 

With grenades in the shape of little, burger-shaped, wind-up toys (Happy Meal toys were pretty explosive in popularity...every kid wanted one!), a ball pit moat surrounding the city walls, and slogans such as "Circle is good! Hexagon is bad!" splattered across the commercial, the circle clearly representing a burger and the hexagon a Taco Bell Crunchwrap, the references were undeniably jammed down the viewers' throats. 

But did the viewers digest them happily or spit them out?

One user on Youtube commented "Shots fired. McDonald's, your rebuttle?" While another answered, "There is no rebuttle. McDonald's is a sinking ship." A third chimed in saying, "Taco Bell, although this is well produced, I'm still not going to think of you as something truly 'different.' You're all fast food in my mind...but props for going WAY out of your way to prove otherwise."

Industry experts, your thoughts? Was this a clever move on Taco Bell's part or was it just plain greasy? Watch the video here!

Can Quick-Service Brands Make the Shift into Fast Casual?

In this episode of On Foodable Weekly, brought to you by the Foodable Network, show host Paul Barron and QSR Magazine editor, Sam Oches, chime in on the attempts of quick-service chain restaurants to enter the Fast Casual sphere. What are these big guys doing right and what are they doing wrong? Is it even possible for QSRs to make the jump or will they plummet into profitless pits?

“It’s an interesting move. I think in the last couple of years, a lot of QSR concepts have been exploring that idea of upgrading to Fast Casual. And you know, it’s worked to some degree for some,” Oches said. “But on the other hand, I think there’s a lot of evidence for why some of these bigger legacy QSR brands should probably just stick with QSR.”

The approaches QSRs have been taking vary. Wendy’s has been steadily adding Fast Casual components to its menu without full-out embracing the movement, while KFC jumped headfirst into fast-casual with its KFC Eleven concept, yet it ultimately failed. Why are these brands doing what they do?

Barron and Oches first discuss Del Taco and Rubio’s, two brands whose menus are primarily fresh mex. In a decade, Rubio’s has gone from going toe-to-toe with Taco Bell to successfully elevating itself to Fast Casual, yet Del Taco, which is attempting to do the same thing, may struggle. This could be due in part to the fact Del Taco has already been established for 50 years, whereas Rubio’s has a younger history, Oches said. As a legacy consumer chain with a loyal customer base who has an expectation with their visit, it would be challenging to make that leap and requires a huge investment in the supply chain and equipment of the franchise.

The next two brands Barron and Oches explore are Sonic and McDonald’s. Both brands have been around for nearly as long as the other and have the same brand trademarks, yet, Barron reveals according to the Restaurant Social Media Index, Sonic has increased its score from 73.5 to 88.8 in consumer sentiment, whereas McDonald’s has fallen from an 80.82 to 67 in the last four quarters.

Why?

“Sonic is very much a middle-class brand…that really resonates in the Midwest and in the South, and it’s something that is kind of a down-home brand, and I don’t think they try to pretend they’re much more than that,” Oches said. “Whereas McDonald’s wants to assert itself as the leader in limited-service restaurants. And if that means upgrading the menu, if that means upgrading its restaurants, it’s going to try to do that. I don’t think Sonic is much going to try to play that ballgame.”

Yet, Oches doesn’t count McDonald’s out of the running.

“I would never bet against McDonald’s. When you look back at the last 20 to 30 years, you actually see McDonald’s go through this a couple of times,” he said.

He believes the company should aim for the millennial demographic, which is now at the cusp of starting families, in an authentic way. By winning back this generation and having them bring their children to get Happy Meals, McDonald’s will win the next generation as well. Watch the full episode to get more insight on QSRs making the shift to Fast Casual.