Over the years we’ve watched as restaurant brands have blurred the lines of concepts in terms of fast casual and QSR as a means for expansion. But as real estate continues to be a hot commodity, restaurant brands are exploring non-traditional formats from universities and stadiums to airports and even retail establishments to meet their consumers in their everyday lives. And as these brands translate their restaurant experience beyond four walls to non-traditional formats there are a few considerations they have to undertake in order to create successful concepts.
Entering New Territory (Literally)
Non-traditional concepts can be a way to expose your brand to new markets, but the key aspect is that you have established a strong foot forward if you expect customers to follow. You often have less time to make a good brand impression; so thinking through a non-traditional strategy is even more imperative. This likely won’t be the place for testing grounds, but instead understanding tried and true strategies in non-traditional environments.
Brand and Consumer Alignment
High-traffic destinations can be a huge opportunity, but it’s ultimately about understanding which sites make sense for your brand and which don’t. If your brand is known as a quick-serve establishment, your barrier to entry into a retail store might not be a good fit. You might see a greater reception on a college campus where students are looking for on the go and affordable options.
Establishing a Consistent Brand Expression
Regardless of location, consumers have strong brand expectations. They expect you to uphold the same service you provide in your traditional restaurant environments and may even be looking for a little something extra. While you may be making modifications on the model, consumers will still expect familiar attributes to be present. How do you showcase transparency and sustainability, or highlight your well-known wit and humor? Creating a kit of parts that can be adapted to various locations will ensure a consistent consumer experience.
Re-configuring the Customer Journey
Whether your consumer is on the go or in between destinations, it’s about understanding the pain points of your consumer. Convenience items like grab n’ go can put time starved consumer at ease. Comfortable seating and convenience aspects like charging stations, Wi-Fi, and TV can keep them connected and entertained during an extended stay.
Re-evaluating Customer Dayparts
Dayparts and peak periods will vary greatly from your traditional restaurant models, so you have to utilize available data to prepare to appropriately accommodate this consumer. A typically slow period in your traditional restaurant experience, breakfast for example, could turn out to be a peak period on a university campus or in a hospital facility. This means evaluating everything from menu to staffing to make sure you’re catering to the desired offer.
Embracing Localized Design Influences
No doubt local design has an influence in traditional restaurant concepts as people look to not only connect with the brand but the community in which it’s within. Local design influences can play an even greater role in non-traditional formats because consumers are looking at these destinations to potentially queue a sense of comfort or establish a sense of arrival.
Takeaway: The key aspect of design in non-traditional restaurant concepts involves looking at consumer needs. It’s not just about adapting a traditional independent space into a different footprint, it’s about understanding what the customer is looking for in terms of the food you provide and the experience you create.