Trends in Restaurant Design

Written By

Willoughby Design


Customer Journey

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When it comes to restaurant experience design, today’s QSRs are faced with the need to create dining experiences that will appeal to the Millennial and Gen Y demographics that now represent more than half of the QSR market. The challenge is to do it without pushing away existing customers — including Baby Boomers.

To achieve this, QSRs must take a “people inclusive” approach to experience design. A people inclusive approach calls for the creation of an overall experience that is universally intuitive and user centric, first.

Here’s what is coming down the pike and what you can do to establish your QSR as truly people inclusive.

1. Apps as an Appetizer

Even though Millennials are more natural at using applications as part of their dining experience, Boomers are catching up quickly. Customers are discovering new restaurants through apps like Yelp, Chefs Feed or deciding on the fly where to go based on availability through OpenTable. Most of these third-party apps are go-tos for the majority of dining customers, but that doesn’t mean a proprietary app isn’t the way to go. Starbuck’s has had great success in eliminating the need for a loyalty card or even using a credit card by with their mobile payment and rewards app. Panera has rolled out an app that allows customers to place orders and pay ahead and avoid lines by using the Rapid Pick-Up service (full disclosure, Panera is our client). Customers are always seeking convenience and simplicity. Providing ways to bust lines and improve speed and accuracy will keep them loyal.

2. Good Health AND Good Eating

In addition to consistently improving sources and offering healthier (or at least less caloric) alternatives, QSRs need to work hard to highlight the value of the healthiest choices while framing less obviously healthy choices through an equally constructive and healthy lens such as “everything in moderation.” People go to restaurants for an experience to enjoy, nourish and indulge.

3. Be a “Third Place”

To stay ahead of the Fast Food category when it comes to the Third Place, QSRs must find ways to create inclusive and meaningful customer experiences that are perceived as completely unique and that evoke a sense of belonging and community for everybody. Be cognizant of your QSR’s location and mix in materials and visual cues that connect to your community. Also consider ways to keep clients staying longer with outlets for laptops, better music, outdoor patios or community tables and rooms for larger groups.

4. Substitute Unique for Consistent

Millennials equate dining to entertainment. They perceive themselves as “foodies,” following social media feeds of chefs and restaurateurs, Instagramming their plates, and attempting to replicate dishes at home. They seek out both new restaurants and “hole-in-the-walls” for unique flavors and experiences. Even though the casual dining trend was built on Boomers’ desire for consistency, their desire to eat healthier and more interesting food means they’re increasingly willing to try new things, too. Make uniqueness more palatable to Boomers by connecting those new experiences to something Boomers already value.

5. Personal Connections

Whether your customer is 22 or 72, training employees to greet and treat guests with hospitality and care is table stakes. Technology cannot replace personal relationships. However, technology and social media do play an important role in connecting with your customers. If a customer has a bad experience, you will hear about it on Yelp much more quickly than you will hear about a good experience. Turn this into a positive and an opportunity to connect personally and acknowledge the situation. This simple act can go along way.

To remain competitive, QSRs need to study and create strategies for serving both the Millennial and Boomer categories and respond to trends in health consciousness, the desire for locally grown food and adventures in tastes. Winning brands will be those who figure out how to weave those things together in a way that results in an endearing, welcoming and inclusive public place that successfully connects everything and everyone together — for good.