Consumer Trends | February 2014 | By Kevin Hardy

Decked Out

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Domino's Pizza rolled out a new prototype with an enhanced store design.
Domino’s Pizza, which made a name for itself as a delivery brand, recently unveiled a “Pizza Theater” prototype that enhances the store with features including a small dining room. Domino’s

“It’s touched everything,” he says. “I think that movement is about staying a little longer. It’s about lingering, knowing this is a good place to eat. I think there’s a sense that if you can sit down and feel comfortable in the environment, it makes the food taste better. That’s affected the entire industry.”

Showcasing ingredients, products, and prep areas also adds to the overall energy of a restaurant. Because consumers love to see the cooking process, many restaurants are bringing their kitchens out into the dining room, making their prep lines a focal point of the store design.

“Now more than ever, you’re seeing that in concepts that range from fast casual all the way up to fine dining,” says Tanya Spaulding, principal at Shea, a Minneapolis-based marketing and design firm. “People like to see the theater of it. They like to see the food. They like to see how it’s prepared. But more than anything, it makes the experience. That is definitely going to continue to grow, regardless of what level of dining.”

Spaulding’s firm helped design OneTwoThree Sushi, a new quick-service sushi concept in Minneapolis. Each of the three OneTwoThree Sushi units features a backdrop covered in a neutral white, with big pops of color graphics. The sushi prep areas are front and center.

Spaulding says restaurant design is simplifying, with stores using an overall smaller material palette. Design plans that incorporate imported European-made tile just aren’t practical anymore, Spaulding says, while many brands are moving past previous trends, like using reclaimed woods, because they don’t stand the test of time. As restaurants simplify their design strategies, the food becomes the real star of the space, she says.

Spaulding adds that limited-service restaurant design is also becoming more casual.

“Eating out is not a special occasion. It’s a part of everyday life,” she says. “[Customers] make their selections based on what is comfortable and approachable for them.”

And fancy just isn’t comfortable anymore, says Stephen Francis Jones, owner of Los Angeles–based SF Jones Architects.

“People have been kind of tired of going to restaurants and feeling too dressed up,” he says of higher-end restaurants. This shows itself in new design trends like warm wood or otherwise textured tabletops, which are “something you can see and feel and touch.”

At the Southern California organic fast-casual restaurant Greenleaf, Jones worked to highlight the soup, salads, and sandwiches in the store design. At Greenleaf’s Costa Mesa, California, location, he says, the design blends an appealing aesthetic with the need to move customers in and out. The space between the order point and the register is roughly 20 feet, Jones says, so customers move through the line as workers move through their order, similar to the way lines work at Chipotle.

“You’re not having people taking up space at a dining room table waiting to put your order in,” Jones says. “Tables turn quicker because of the time you’re spending standing up in line. You’re seeing a lot of that kind of strategy in the design.”

Designers say lighting and acoustics are often overlooked elements of quick-service design, though if utilized correctly, both can help create a warm, inviting environment.

“People are attracted to light. So you have to play into that,” says Tom Galvin, president of Galvin Design Group in Orlando. “These restaurants are looking closely into lighting elements. They’re looking at colors. And they’re looking at hard surfaces.”

While restaurants are upping their game in the dining room, Galvin says, a lot is happening behind the scenes, too. Kitchens are growing more compartmentalized and efficient than ever before, partly because of the growing cost and scarcity of labor. He expects many parts of the quick-service prep process to be taken over by robots and timers, like the systems many stores already use to fry french fries.

“I think everyone’s going to go to automation as much as they can,” Galvin says.

Juan Martinez, principal and founder of Profitality, a foodservice industrial engineering and ergonomics firm, says labor costs are also playing a role in shrinking store footprints. He says increasing real estate, health insurance, and labor costs are pushing some brands to squeeze into tighter spaces.

“If it costs me less to build and it costs me less to operate,” Martinez says, “I’m going to make more money.”

But Martinez acknowledges that going small is tough, especially when many brands are tearing down walls and bringing kitchens out into the front of house. That’s why using vertical space is a key to compact, efficient kitchen design, he says. When kitchens and prep lines are exposed, there’s less wall space overall for equipment and supplies.

Profitality recently worked with Au Bon Pain to create a smaller prototype for New York City–area stores, which, because of inordinately high real estate prices, were sized about 40 percent smaller than the typical Au Bon Pain store. Aside from offering kiosk ordering for the first time, Au Bon Pain pared down its menu to fit into the smaller space.

New store designs maintain the brand’s iconic yellow color, bakery display case, and sandwich line, says Steve Blum, the brand’s chief development officer. Blum says updating the brand’s look is more important than ever in today’s market, when even the best redesigns can grow tired looking within just a few short years. He says he personally thinks restaurants should be reinvesting in their physical space about every five years, with a heavier revamp every 10 years or so.

“[Trends] are coming in, they look great, and then they get tired pretty quickly. I just see there being a lot of movement in the next few years to stay current,” he says. “I don’t think that there is such a thing now as classical and timeless. So even if you have today what is a classic look, it could be tired in five years.”



While it is good that quick service businesses are updating their design and architecture, I feel that they also need to be focusing some attention on their network security to make sure the customers information is not stolen and used by hackers. A quick service business can be the best looking business on the block but if it is the victim of a security breach all of that doesnt matter. Quick service businesses may not be able to compete on cost, speed, and quality alone but competing on security can only lead to better, more secure business transactions. If I were given the option of going to a brand new state of the art quick service business that is using a traditional network security solution or of going to an existing quick service business that is using a state of the art network security solution like an Application Defined Network (ADN), I would feel more comfortable going to an existing quick service business that used a state of the art network security solution like an Application Defined Network (ADN). It wouldnt matter to me what the quick service business looked like as long as I knew that my payment information was going to be secure.Now dont get me wrong, there is no doubt that the design and architecture of a quick service business matters to consumers. It is typically what they see when driving by and when they first walk in. However, I feel that quick service businesses need to take a serious look at what is going on behind the counter and make sure that the network security solution being used is adequate to operate and secure all of the different applications (payment, loyalty, point-of-sale support, tank monitoring, back office, etc) so that the consumers payment information is kept as secure as possible. In an age where hackers have the ability to access one system and use that system as a gateway into other systems a network security solution needs to be implemented that is designed to handle this.The Target breach was caused when somebody at an HVAC contractor was phished by hackers which allowed the hackers to gain access to the HVAC system which they then used as a gateway into the point-of-sale system. There is no doubt that the Target breach cost the company millions of dollars of lost revenue and severely hurt the companys public image. What I dont understand is that implementing a network security solution that could have prevented this breach would have probably cost much less than the breach did and would have actually improved the companys public image instead of hurt it because the company was taking steps that would make customer payment information less vulnerable. Waiting until a breach happens to make a change is unacceptable and is not a good business practice.I mention Application Defined Network (ADN) above and this technology is extremely interesting. In short, an Application Defined Network (ADN) simplifies security by establishing discrete independent networks that do not require complex security rules to partition traffic types. It is designed to address the need to securely enable multiple, differing applications, such as guest access Wi-Fi, while securing payment and other back office applications on the same network. It allows for specific security and performance policies to be established at the application level versus the network interface level which allows for applications with contrasting security policy requirements to be completely isolated from one another and facilitated with customized security features. If an Application Defined Network (ADN) with public internet is breached by an outside party, the ability of the breach to bleed between the other applications, such as the payment application, is virtually eliminated.All this being said, I think that quick service businesses could benefit from promoting what they have done to ensure that their customers payment information is safe. Spending money on upgrades like chairs, pictures, and tables is nice but not if there is a security breach because of inadequate network security. Once a security breach happens the focus immediately turns to security and not chairs, pictures, and tables. Customers wont care about anything else except why the security breach happened. This is why it is important to look at network security proactively instead of reactivity.


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