Designing Fast Food Retail Interiors

There was a time when fast food was all about being fast and cheap. It was a new enough concept and so convenient. So convenient in fact that fast food retailers built their entire outlet, buying experience, service levels and food standards to satisfy the ‘fast’ and ‘cheap’ needs of customers. And it worked! Fast forward a few years and improved education about nutrition, the need to eat healthy meals and also the vast amount of competition in the market has meant that fast food chains have to completely change their approach to adapt to the new needs of the 21st century consumer.

The focus is now on delivering a stronger brand to reach a broader base of customers that they want to linger around and make the outlet part of their weekly or daily routine. So, what does the new brand focus require? Well it needs to demonstrate freshness, good quality ingredients, an improved buying experience, a nicer seating ambience, better comfort, more visibility of food preparation areas and improved conveniences.

While the ingredients and the quality of food are obviously a key and vital component of the brand, this article focuses on the architectural and interior design of the outlet and how the various elements of the interior design impact the brand and therefore elevate the customer experience for modern fast food chains.

Before we consider the design of fast food chains, it is worth looking at how luxury goods retailers and vehicle showrooms have approached outlet or store design to deliver their brand. Luxury brands for example have always designed stores to captivate distinct segments of the market, yet maintained a sense of delivering individuality. Luxury stores almost distinctly appear to be lacking in the amount of merchandise that is displayed and in some cases maintain plain colours and simple soft furnishings to make customers feel at ease. Vehicle showrooms are an established example for retailing as they have mastered the buying and ongoing servicing needs of customers in a single outlet. The way that showrooms are designed, allows vehicle manufacturers to provide an environment which allows them to manage the flow or ‘journey’ from buying a new car, arranging finance, servicing and shopping for parts, while having pleasant and well stocked waiting areas. Both are examples of building outlets that manage distinct needs, encourage loyalty and provide a smooth journey from the initial desire to purchase to sealing the deal.

For architects and interior retail designers, fast food retail design poses a number of challenges that need to be addressed in order to reinforce the new brand challenges that retailers are faced with.

The following provides a summary of some of those challenges:

Food Preparation – Providing more visibility of food preparation areas, including open plan kitchen areas. This requires a practical but also visibly more pleasant food area which is well lit, well organised and efficient. Specialist kitchen design that takes into account the food cooking and preparation process is called for, requiring designers and architects to work closely with a retailer to create kitchen layout plans that allow the food preparation process to remain efficient while remaining visibly pleasing and pleasant for customer to see.

The Eating in Experience – The need to provide an efficient seating arrangement, with comfortable seats, while also paying close attention to retail lighting plans and retail flooring plans is so important as it allows customers to feel that they can stay for while, this is in sharp contrast to early fast food restaurants where seating was designed to become uncomfortable after fifteen minutes, encouraging people to leave the outlet.

Fixture and Fitting Selection – Interior retail designers also need to focus on other consumer needs such as power points, interactive devices for children and adding artwork that reinforces the message about the ‘fresh food element’ – all important elements that the brand is trying to deliver.

Interactive Ordering Solutions – Retailers are also incorporating electronic ordering stations into their layouts to allow customers to select and pay for their order without speaking to a member of staff. This requires less staff of course but it also calls for the need to design a retail layout that allows for interactive kiosks that are strategically located within the design of the outlet.

Improved Washroom Facilities – Retail designs and architects have to design washroom facilities that meet brand expectations. The facilities that they specify have to reinforce the brand while maintaining a high degree of cleanliness or even ‘self-cleaning’ facilities. The retail design drawings that they create for plumbing and waste have to take into account today’s environmentally.

Back of House and Waste – Customers are not happy enough with the experience that they can see and feel, they also want to know how fast food chains are managing their staff facilities, their food storage and their waste, including the customer’s own packaging waste. A store design is not complete without attention to how these aspects are added to the design of the outlet and how they are managed efficiently and fairly and therefore they are also an important part of the design team’s responsibilities.

The designers challenge is therefore vast and rather than allowing for the production of the design using traditional 2D plans and elevations. The only way to manage and communicate the design process as well as manage changes requested by stakeholders throughout the process, is to use modern design tools such as Revit Architecture to create retail BIM models so that they can create a design that is easily changeable and manageable. Retail BIM modelling also allows for the use and re-usability of Revit families and models that can be used for subsequent stores and therefore ensure some brand consistency as well as design efficiency. Once created, these retail BIM models will also allow the creation of 3d retail images and 3d rendered perspective for retail interiors as well as retail exteriors. These are an important and effective way of communicating the store or outlet design during the various design stages that a designer is responsible for.

Whilst the challenge for fast food retail is to provide food quicker and cheaper than other options, there is good reason to elevate the importance of the store design and how that will affect and ultimately promote the overall brand experience for fast food retail now and well into the future. Managing that design process and the multitude of design inputs is a collaborative and involved process and is one that is served by a designer that is prepared to use CAD and BIM technology as the backbone for delivering a design solution that is easy to create, manage, share and communicate.

Outsourcing Architectural Design Development

How common is outsourcing design development in architecture practices? We think it happens all the time, for big brand-names and small studios alike. It may not always be formal outsourcing, but it carries the same core principles. One way of basic outsourcing is using interns and graduates that work in temporary roles but handling much of the design development work and less of the more demanding creative and conceptual design work. One more sophisticated and organized form of outsourcing is hiring an outside firm, either local or international. Such a firm effectively becomes a design partner, seamlessly integrating in the company’s architectural design team.

A company abroad, for instance, would handle all the drawing/modeling tasks but is not usually in direct contact with the client, nor is it present in meetings and basically works hard to deliver on the lead architect’s requirements. That’s why using “outsourcing” as a term to describe working with interns and graduates is warranted, but as we’ll see, it may often not be the best approach.

Almost all companies fit in one of the two categories above as a natural market adaptation to reduce costs with tasks that, by their nature, are fairly easy to delegate. This is a common practice nowadays and it is a perfectly fine approach, especially when there are proper communication channels in place between the low level and high level staff. Managing an office and/or a suite of projects is a task in and of itself, leaving little room for the drafting or modeling work.

So the question now becomes which one of these work forms is the most optimal? The short answer would be that each company has specific needs and a specific culture, but if we look closely we can easily determine a general trend. Whilst the use of interns and graduates may solve a problem in the short term, the need to constantly re-hire and retain them can be a major distraction. Instead, using outsourcing firms for the architectural design development phase means that you are partnering up with highly skilled professionals, with zero overhead costs. Such firms are often specialized in specific domains where they’ve honed in-house systems that allow them to work extremely fast, relying heavily on advanced BIM solutions. Outsourcing firms can also guarantee on schedule delivery since they typically have buffer resources and larger numbers of employees.

When looking at outsourcing firms, there is little to no distinction between the interaction workflow you will have with local versus international companies. The problem can arise when you limit yourself to a small market, the local one, and you end up constantly swapping providers of outsourcing services and thus rely on new firms to pick up where the previous ones left. The solution is to tap into the international market and chose a quality, reliable partner for long term collaboration. Looking broader as opposed to narrower has the added advantage that you will likely find providers with lower production/management costs that will translate in a much better pricing and therefore a more competitive offering.

In today’s hyper-connected global economy, communication is a non-issue and offshore collaborations become opportunities instead of challenges, allowing design leads to focus on the core aspects of their businesses.

The 101 on Architects and What They Do As Explained by an Architecture Firm in Chennai

Few genuinely understand who an architect is and what their responsibilities are. To this end, an architecture firm in Chennai answers some of the commonly asked questions.

What is architecture?

An art and a science, architecture is the field that designs buildings and places where individuals can work, live, play, and eat.

Who is an architect?

A person trained to plan and design spaces that can be occupied by people is an architect. They are also licensed to create functional areas. Generally, their work encompasses everything, i.e., creating the concept of the building to constructing the design into reality. The principal role of an architect is to bring to life the vision or dream of a client while ensuring the requirements of those who will occupy the space.

On what projects can an architect work?

An architect can design and build anything, including:

  1. A small room addition to a home
  2. A massive hospital
  3. A college campus
  4. A residential complex
  5. A commercial building

Do architects have construction knowledge?

One of the obligations of an architect is to keep the well-being and safety of occupants a priority which means a rudimentary knowledge of construction is vital. Because an architect participates in all phases of building, i.e., from conception to opening, they require practical information on construction. Though it should be noted that architects are not meant to be experts on building, it is why complex projects necessitate collaborations between architects and engineers.

A quick method to finding out if a person is an architect or not is to find out if they have construction knowledge – those who don’t are most often designers and artists.

What are the roles of an architect?

As stated above, the job of an architect is all-encompassing. They play a crucial role in each period of the project’s construction. From the time pen is put to paper to draw the building till the time the ribbon is cut, architects oversee the project. Sometimes, even after completion architects continue to work on the project. This is usually to develop the area surrounding the building or to keep it in good repair.

The key responsibilities of an architect can be divided into three legs:

  • Design:

This phase initiates when a client hires an architect to create drawings of an idea they have and want to turn into reality. Designing requires:

  1. Creativity on the part of the architect
  2. Immense technical knowledge
  3. Responsibility to achieve both

While designing, the architect has to keep in mind:

  1. Compliance with building regulations and safety rules
  2. Local planning and construction restrictions
  3. Laws connected to preserving historical buildings or local environment

Continuous meetings with the client occur during this stage and the architect calls on board engineers, designers and financiers for further planning.

  • Documentation

There are three subdivisions of this stage:

  1. Capture the design of the building on paper
  2. Create detailed drawings of the project that showcase every inch of the building
  3. Test the feasibility and practicality of the model utilising software such as CAD

This step of the job requires constant revisions and redrawing because:

  1. The client might ask for changes
  2. The first design is beyond the budget
  3. Regulations require tweaks to the design
  4. The proposal shows practical problems

After the design documentations have been finalised, a second set is created. These are known as construction documents and are used by builders and contractors during the construction. Construction documents include:

  1. Instructions to workers
  2. Technical specifications
  • Construction

This leg of the project is the actual building part. The role of the architect, at this point, entails:

  1. Site visits to oversee the construction
  2. Signing off tasks and works
  3. Negotiating with contractors for best deals
  4. Finding a solution to any issues that come up

Differentiating between civil engineer, architectural engineer and an architect

  • A Civil Engineer & Architect

A civil engineer is also included in the planning and designing of a building, but their work is to concentrate on majorly:

  1. Ensuring that the structure is safe for people
  2. Guarantee that the building can weather extreme conditions
  3. Make certain that it can endure every-day wear and tear

In comparison, the architect focuses on:

  1. The aesthetics of the structural work
  2. How the building looks
  3. How it feels
  4. How it functions.

Once the architect has produced the structure of the building, it is the job of the civil engineer to analyse the integrity of it. If there are issues, the civil engineer advised on modifications that make the design more plausible and practical.

  • An Architectural Designer & Architect

An architect has to pass a registration exam to be licensed to work. It is similar to a bar exam that lawyers need to clear. An architectural designer doesn’t need to pass the same registration test. Therefore, an architectural designer is not licensed and deals with just the design end and not the construction side of the project.