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Fast Casual Restaurant Design: Standing out from the Crowd

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There are more than 660,000 restaurants in the U.S. and more than 190,000 quick-serve franchises. That’s a lot of competition for consumer dollars. With so many choices and similarities in offerings, it’s harder than ever to distinguish yourself in a way that connects with customers.

When it comes to fast casual restaurant design, fast food restaurant design, or quickservice restaurant design, there are concrete ways to stand out from the crowd.

Start with a Vision

It starts with your vision. What are you trying to communicate to people when they first walk in your door? Are you going for funky and fun, hip and high tech, clean and cool, warm and inviting, or maybe something else? Maybe you’re focused on food quality or farm-to-table. Your vision and your focus will determine the tone you want to set.

When people walk in the door, you want them to immediately understand what you are all about. The best QSR restaurant design connects the environment to the brand.

Give it Character

Once you’ve determined the vision, the next step is creating the environment that embodies that vision. There are so many cookie-cutter solutions out there it’s easy to fall into the trap of replicating what’s working elsewhere. Wood, brick, and marble make up the majority of fast casual restaurant design because they project quality and comfort, but they can also send the message that we are just like everyone else. Whatever you do, make sure to add some touches that make it your own.

Choose carefully because the character of your Quick service restaurant design or fast food restaurant design will need to be part of everything you do. Your menus, your signage, your color scheme, your logo, your marketing, and your social media should all be consistent and true to the theme.

Find a Narrative

Your design should tell a story about who you are and what you do. By connecting your vision to the design, you can make it memorable. If you are a farm-to-table restaurant, a farm theme might help convey the message. If you are selling the concept of fresh ingredients, your signage might focus on products more than price. If you’re local, consider incorporating local design elements into your style.

As humans, we’re natural story-tellers. Nothing sells products or businesses these days better than a brand story to which people can relate. 79% of people report they want to hear companies tell their store and more than half say it influences their buying decisions. With nearly limitless choices on where to eat, the underlying story can have a significant impact. It might be a founder’s story, the story of your most popular dish, or the connection to the local community, or something else. Just make sure it connects back to your vision.

Choose Your Design

That vision impacts everything you do in your design. You’ll lay out the store differently if you want a cozy and comfortable feel or an open floor plan.

Size does make a difference. Fast casual restaurant sizes used to average in the 5,000-6,000 square foot range, many operators have chosen to go to a much smaller footprint of 3,000-4,000 square foot. A smaller restaurant that’s full may imply that it’s popular as opposed to a larger space with the same number of customers but lots of empty chairs.

Use Your Data

Washington D.C. fast casual chain Cava Grill hired a data scientist to analyze everything from its supply chain to customer loyalty. They found ways to improve in-store traffic patterns to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction.

You don’t need to hire a data scientist to take advantage of data. The right QSR POS system can provide you with a wealth of information to help manage your business and make operational changes.


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