Restaurant Development & Design

JAN-FEB 2019

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

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9 • 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 9 VanDam's goal was to discover what emotional connection Long John Silver's had to its core, long-term repeat guests, "but also start drawing interest from new customers, and not through gimmicks but through reminding them who we are and validating that," she says. Her research led her to four es- sential elements that customers feel are core to Long John Silver's: exterior nautical light fixtures, wooden decks and posts on building exteriors, the captain's bell by the exit that customers ring to indicate they had good service, and a cupola on the roof of the Cape Cod-style buildings. VanDam wanted to keep the first three of these, but they needed updat- ing. She chose to move the nautical light fixtures to the inside of the restaurant because "although they are the same size as before, it reduced them to a more human scale." The wooden decks and posts she moved up to the exterior walls. The originals, she says, "did not provide a stable, firm and slip-resistant surface," but now, they "provide that opportunity for nostalgic connection with our guests upon their approach." The captain's bell was essential, VanDam says, "but we knew we had to update it, and it's taken on a more prominent role." The True North bell is real bronze and the latitude and longi- tude coordinates of the restaurant's lo- cation are etched into it. "It gives each restaurant a sense of place and that's imperative these days," she explains. "It's important to have something specific a store can own because in this industry, where replication and a sense of a brand's identity is so important to a brand's success, these little details set them apart and gives it a twist." She kept the bell in its place, just by the main entrance. She decided the cupola and the Cape Cod roof had had their day and chose to retire them. The main reason for this was that the cupolas were originally illuminated, but many weren't allowed to be illuminated anymore "so they were losing their original intent, to be a beacon," says VanDam. The cupola "was the most iconic architectural element distinctive to our Cape Cod design. Any attempts to force the cupola into our new restaurant design result in a bastardizing effect. It seems irreverent." Instead, she's added a sleek ship's rail and navigation lights — one green, one red — onto the buildings' parapets "so they draw your eye and act as a beacon with a more modern flair." They won't, she adds, be as obvious as the cupola, "and customers won't think of them for more than a split second; they will be more subtle." Subtle Is the Watchword Similar to VanDam's thinking, Wendy's, with its Smart 2.0 design, which it rolled out last spring, wanted to reveal its core values but in a much more restrained way than previous incarnations. Essential to Wendy's is its founder, Dave Thomas, who wanted guests to feel they were coming into his home when he opened his very first store in 1969. He wanted the stores to be warm, comfort- able and inviting. "About five years ago, we wanted to remind the consumer of those core values, so we were very literal about putting our values on the walls," says Barry Baughman, Wendy's manager of design. "We used Dave's quotes and his images to underscore that." Also important to Thomas was quality, but instead of stating that explicitly, Wendy's is now showing it through its artwork and material selection, including solid oak tables and seats, and wood paneling and trim. It's about putting quality "where it matters the most," Baughman says. "And we're being respectful of our consumer and doing it in a much more subtle way that connects with them emotionally." Another key element to Thomas was adoption, which he was passionate about. "We've always had artwork that talked about the Dave Thomas Founda- tion for Adoption and how we support kids," Baughman says, "but in the new design, instead of telling the stories, we do it through quotes and imagery of the adopted kids and their families." Now, the restaurants feature paintings that illustrate the story of a family or an adopted child. One, for example, fea- tures a quote from the adoptive mother of two children set against an image of the night sky. Underneath each paint- ing is a plaque that tells the story of the family and how Wendy's helped. Rather than describing the functions of the foundation, Baughman says it's better to make an emotional connection to guests through a true story. Long John Silver's moved its exterior nautical lighting elements indoors and updated its kitschy captain's bell to a real bronze bell with the restaurant's latitude and longitude coordinates etched into it. Image courtesy of Aerial State Media

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