Quick serves are usually quick to embrace trends. In the last few years there have been food-truck roll outs, low-calorie menu items, and, of course, cupcakes. Now, at least two chains are tapping into another hot trend: local art.
In February, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) launched a new line of single-serve beverage systems that let customers brew the concept’s coffee and tea drinks at home. CBTL hired Gensler, an architecture and design firm, to work on a design for the new retail section within its stores, where the new beverage system would be sold.To reinforce the youthful energy of the stores,Gensler opted for store designs drawn up by recent graduates of Pasadena, California–based Art Center College of Design.
Gensler graphic artist and branding specialist Dominick Ricci says local art was a natural fit for the new retail locations.
“It is an L.A.-based company, so we thought that’s something that’s really important,” Ricci says. “There’s just something that has to be authentic with this client.”
Artist Martin Grasser came up with several continuous line drawings that frame moments in time, while Ping Zhu’s work was more lyrical, with saturated colors and a watercolor feel. Ana Serrano, meanwhile, blended the two styles. By starting with the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s existing visual vocabulary and branching out, they brought in a fresh look, Ricci says.
“That they were all young emerging artists was a parallel to this brand, which is a young emerging brand,” he says. “It’s just kind of a nice subtext as we talk about it.”
The designs by the three artists will also be incorporated into CBTL’s new store prototypes that it is rolling out systemwide.
CBTL is not the only concept that has had success with local art. Rush’s, a nine-unit hamburger chain based in South Carolina, recently commissioned Randall McKissick to create a five-foot-by-five-foot canvas painting that would pay tribute to the company’s long history. The painting shows the original location as it looked many years ago, with customers enjoying milkshakes and ice cream while a waitress brings out a burger and fries.
This nostalgic portrait turned out so well that the company created a poster version to hang in all of its restaurants and to sell online.
Dave Ruddle, president of Ruddle Agency, came up with the idea for the painting. He says that it was expensive to hire a local artist, but definitely worth it.
“If you’re a quality restaurant, which we are, we couldn’t just put a nonperfect piece of art up,” Ruddle says. “[It’s] the very highest quality, because it says who [we] are.”
By Robert Lillegard