Many quick-service brands seek drastic modifications when designing new store prototypes, often including components that wow customers and radically transform the brand identity.

With a recent store redesign, La Madeleine executives opted for a different approach and found themselves selecting a more subtle plan of attack for the new look.

“We’re not throwing out all of the old look and feel and coming up with a brand new look and feel. That would be the completely wrong way to approach it,” says Carol Kamenish, director of design for La Madeleine. “We’re very happy with some of these elements that we’ve had in our older stores. It’s just, how do you refresh it and make it more updated?”

Paul Carolan, chief operating officer of Le Duff America, which owns La Madeleine, says the design team emphasized remodeling the current theme and structure rather than starting from scratch.

“We wanted to examine the core elements of our brand and to do an extensive brand analysis with our core customers and non-core customers, and to study the French country and who we were,” Carolan says. “The core—the fireplaces, the wood beams—is still there, the unique settings of different rooms, the different types of furniture and seating is all there. We just made them all relevant for today.”

Since its inception, La Madeleine has incorporated a décor that resembles a French countryside house, and the brand didn’t want to lose that ambiance in the remodel, Kamenish says.

“Having said that, we don’t want the French country home to be like a period design from 50 or 100 years ago,” she says. “It’s like if you knew someone with a French country home, but they remodeled it.”

The design team kept the classic wooden beams, rustic fireplaces, and wooden floors. However, they adjusted the paint colors, furniture, and artwork to give the space a more modern feel.

“Consumer feedback so far has been wonderful. We’ve heard comments like, ‘I feel like I’m in someone’s home,’ which is probably the best comment we could get,” Kamenish says. “They love the décor, they love the cozy feel. … I think we’ve found the right mix.”

She says it is crucial for every restaurant concept to reflect on design relevance. Brands need to update, remodel, and refresh their store design every so often, she says.

“There’s always new competitors in the market, there’s always new ideas and things that come and go. … A brand never wants their customers to age out,” Kamenish says. “We needed to refresh to stay relevant to a new generation of customers, but we just had to be careful about keeping our heritage elements by just updating and refreshing certain parts of our design.”

By Marlee Murphy

Design, Fast Casual, News, Restaurant Operations, La Madeleine