Restaurant Development & Design

NOV-DEC 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 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 • 7 1 with baskets of fresh produce further brings home the plant-forward approach. Qwench Juice Bar in California uses a 20-foot-wide raised clear bin behind the serving counter to display its fresh fruits and veggies. A misting system helps the produce stay crisp and fresh as employ- ees grab pieces to blend. The Chipotle Effect has made its imprint on the smoothie bar segment as it has in the fast-casual realm; many newer smoothie bars go for the uber- transparent, low-set ordering counter with wide open sight lines to the prep areas and blenders. Some smoothie bars allow customers to customize their drinks. Even more established smoothie chains have switched to this model in their redesigns. Technology is an important piece of the modern smoothie bar puzzle. While some take the open-air, staff-driven or- dering route, like at fast casuals, others use kiosks where customers can input their orders while staff members blend and deliver them with a smile at the end of the line. Menu boards are also becoming more prevalent in smoothie bars. "We use a modular format for the menu boards, where we can change a single section of the menu without needing to replace the entire menu," says St. Clair. "This modular format allows us the most flexibility for innovation, which is an important part of how we grow with our customers' cravings, and we can also display our brand slogan." When it comes to seating, modern smoothie bars seem to offer a mix of more lounge-like, padded seats or chairs for hanging out along with communal ta- bles meant for groups and socialization. Some have bar-top seating and spaces to get work done, but overall, smoothies are still a mostly to-go affair. While most of these smoothie shops focus on beverage more than food, many offer retail snacks and other small bites that fit the vegan-friendly, minimally pro- cessed mold. Project Juice displays its snacks on tiered wooden shelves affixed to a chalkboard with little messages and arrows pointing to the different offerings scribbled on the wall. "Every decision we make is with the intention of fulfilling our brand's promise: to make people feel awesome. We aim to have a clean, warm and inviting environment where people can feel comfortable and hang out. We aim to be current, rather than trendy," says St. Clair. + Tropical Smoothie's Makeover Since introducing a new design prototype a couple years ago, Tropical Smoothie continues to expand and show strong per- formance; it reported positive comp sales of 4 percent in 2016 for an increase of more than 26 percent over the last three years, according to published reports. The franchise, established in 1997, has signed agreements to develop more than 160 new cafes across the U.S. in 2017. Walk into one of the newer stores, and the pastel green wall sconces, remi- niscent of modern kitchen cabinets, and wood-topped counter seating are meant to make customers feel like they're in some- one's comfortable, open-air kitchen. "We changed our legacy layout in our existing stores to more of a beach-house look," says Tom Plauche, the chain's director of design and construction. The majority of its existing stores have since been retrofitted with the new look to match newer units. The chain opened its 600th location this past summer. The new prototype also relies on plenty of natural and simulated natural lighting meant to evoke a sunny, coastal atmosphere. "We've moved away from the thatched roof and bamboo to a softer approach with pops of bright colors and muted photographs of beach scenes and huts," says Plauche. Back-of-the-house food prep has since been moved completely to the front in the customer's view to support a fresh, made-to-order approach. "Our smoothie bar is L-shaped and wraps around the pro- duction area so we have full transparency throughout the whole process," Plauche says. "This helps invite more interaction between our employees and customers. We wanted to show that we're using real fruits and vegetables in our smoothies, not syrups pulled out of a bag." When selecting the blenders, Plauche says some noise was acceptable, intended to inject more energy and antici- pation into the space but not loud enough to drown out the possibility for conversa- tion and clear ordering. Customers can pull up a stool at the actual smoothie bar — as if they were in someone's kitchen — or grab a seat at the mix of communal, high-top tables and banquettes throughout the space meant to cater to those looking to socialize with others or work alone. USB ports and outlets are integrated into the banquette seating to encourage customers to hang out as in a coffee shop, even if many customers still take their smoothies to go, Plauche says. At some of the newer stores, Tropi- cal Smoothie has begun to introduce a separate pickup station with cubbies, or open shelving, above the smoothie bar where customers can pick up smooth- ies they ordered online. The chain has also invested in steamers and high-speed ovens for an expanded food menu, which includes grain bowls, toasted wraps and all-day breakfast.

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