Restaurant Development & Design

MAY-JUN 2017

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M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 7 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 5 5 I t can take some time for a restaurant to really find its identity or at least find a way to effectively communicate that identity to its customers. Two years ago, the leadership of Tampa, Fla.-based Burger 21 realized their company was facing that predica- ment, says Co-Founder and Vice Presi- dent of Concept Development Arlene Johnston. Founded in 2010, the chain stands out among better-burger concepts for the breadth of its menu, she says. The 21 in the concept's name refers to the 21 different types of burgers it offers — choices that include ground beef, ground chicken, shrimp, turkey, ahi tuna, and two types of veggie patties — alongside salads, chicken tenders and handcrafted shakes. The company also "went all the way on quality," says Mark Johnston, Burger 21's president (and Arlene's husband). The kitchen is largely a scratch operation. Its beef is never frozen and is seasoned and formed into patties in each of its 22 stores. Each store also grinds the proteins for both its chicken and shrimp burgers. Veggies like lettuce, onions and tomato are cut in house, while the ice cream used in Burger 21's shake bar is a custom recipe with a high butterfat content. While the Burger 21 team believes it offers a superior product, all this quality and variety was not being com- municated well to customers. Few guests knew what the 21 represented or under- stood how much effort the chain put into making a meal. As a result, the restau- rant's perceived value scores were lower than leadership felt they should be. This led directly to the decision to develop a new prototype that better com- municated the brand's most important elements, says Arlene Johnston. "We have high-quality ingredients and hand- crafted food. That was not there [in the legacy design.]" Show Some Personality The company hired Terrain Collective (then known as Brand Architecture) to help not only revamp Burger 21's looks but also to get to the heart of the brand. This included a "brand dig," in which the employees were asked a series of questions about the company, ranging from direct to more abstract — e.g., "If Burger 21 was a song, what song would it be?" This was followed by a series of meetings in which Terrain Collective honed the company's brand and key differentiators, eventually getting to the brand's essential elements: the qual- ity and variety of its food. Once those were set, the task became driving those aspects of the company home. Burger 21's quality and variety are showcased through its new interior design. These are addressed most directly through the chain's art package and wall- paper. The restaurant has three different types of wallpaper. Depending on the size of the store, one to three are used in a single store. The first is the "quality statement" wallpaper, which puts Burger 21's food quality front and center with a series of fun, catchy phrases, such as "BEST BUNS in the business with our exclusive brioche bun recipe," "We're thick, grab a spoon" and "Be the SAUCE BOSS with house-made B21 sauces." The second type of wallpaper is a collage of numbers up to 21 in different colors and fonts, emphasizing the res- taurant's food variety. The third consists of food photography with close-up shots of different menu items and specific ingredients highlighted by emphasizing their colors. Food quality is driven home further through posters that showcase the burgers and shakes and label each ingredient. In addition to reinforcing messages about its food, Burger 21's new design also provides guests with an elevated customer experience, says Mark Johnston. This is achieved through higher-quality finishes throughout the restaurant. In legacy Burger 21 stores, for instance, the chain used "hospital-like" white ceiling tiles at about 10 feet high. In the new design, tile was replaced with an open ceiling that can be painted black, gray or off-white. The height makes the restaurants feel bigger, while all three color options add warmth to the restaurant. Financially, this change was essentially a wash, Mark Johnston notes, Snapshot Headquarters: Tampa, Fla. Concept owners: Mark and Arlene Johnston Concept: Better-burger concept with an emphasis on menu variety Segment: Fast casual Average check: $11 Total unit count: 22 Size: 2,400–3,500 square feet Real estate: Retail center endcaps, freestanding Design highlights: The interior has been redesigned to create a more inviting space where guests would want to dine in. The chain has changed up the color, lighting and materials to create accent walls. Each of these pieces commu- nicates the brand's commitment to quality food and a broad menu. Project Team Project lead: Simone Sanguinette, Burger 21 construction and design manager Architect: David Hiatt, Hiatt Architecture Kitchen supplier: Johnson-Lancaster Interior design: Burger 21 Intl. Kitchen design: Johnson-Lancaster and Associates BY TOBY WEBER, Contributing Editor

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