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Mega food chains post-Covid design, could you incorporate any?

February 8th 2022
Mega food chains post-Covid design, could you incorporate any?

Over the past two years the giants of the fast food industry have been busy unveiling new restaurant designs. Much of the innovation may not be surprising but the rate of change is something none of us could have predicted two years ago.

Distancing, deliveries, digitalisation, drive-thru and drive-up all feature heavily as do reduced dine-in floorspaces and reimagined kitchens.

Burger King - conveyor belts and kitchens upstairs

During the latter part of 2020, Burger King unveiled radical plans for restaurant design. The initial roll out was intended to see new style locations in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. These new outlets have a 60% smaller footprint than typical Burger King restaurants. This is to be achieved by suspending the kitchen and dining areas above multiple drive-thru lanes. The fast food behemoth delivers orders from the preparation area down to car pickup customers via conveyor belt systems.

Walk-up customers are able to collect their orders from coded lockers located at the front of the restaurant. Delivery drivers will benefit from a dedicated lane to enable them to quickly grab orders for dine at home customers.

KFC - cubbies and kiosks

KFC announced its own plans during the same period. The fried chicken giant dubbed its strategy “Next Generation Prototype”.

The newly designed restaurants do away with much indoor dining, have designated lanes for delivery drivers to collect orders and have “digital cubbies”, essentially pickup shelves, for customers who have ordered online to access their food direct from the kitchen. KFC also explicitly made reference to third-party delivery partners whose apps customers will order their food from.

Starbucks - to become worth leaving home for

Global coffee chain Starbucks announced its future vision. For a business which built its empire on providing a convivial environment for customers to meet up and enjoy a chin wag over coffee, it’s quite the departure.

Naturally, drive-thru offerings are being expanded, as is the digital ordering through the Starbucks app. Much of the chain’s business has historically been built upon commuters and office staff. Those numbers have inevitably dropped off during assorted lockdowns.

The focus of the refreshed Starbucks offering is intended to shift the customer experience from being a pitstop for refreshment to become a food and drink experience that people will explicitly leave home for.

Speeding up drive-thru service times, a reduction in seating areas, a renewed focus on reward programmes, and expanding the plant-based and cold drink offering are also at the forefront of the Starbucks shift. Also worth a mention is the Starbucks push to match drinks offerings with a food option at every ordering opportunity.

The take-outs from the fast food refresh

New-build restaurants on busy traffic areas, with multiple drive-thru lanes and bespoke mobile apps may be a little out of reach for many of the independent cafes and restaurants of the UK.

However, there are some points to consider beyond the conglomerate chains and giant franchise models:

Contactless is the future. Not just in payment but throughout the customer journey, most notably in collection.

Multiple ordering routes are becoming essential, way beyond the traditional phone up and collect model.

Third party collect-and-deliver companies like UberEats and Deliveroo are driving their business models rapidly.

Less indoor seating will become the norm at the same time that outdoor dining furniture (often sheltered) will be increasingly sought after.

Providing a “reason to leave home” has become a core business strategy for the catering and hospitality sectors after customers have become so conditioned to staying indoors.

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