Restaurant Development & Design

January-February 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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5 2 • 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 • J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 COWBOY CHICKEN GOES FROM KITSCH TO COOL spatially with the way the tables were laid out. There were wooden floors and a wooden counter, ketchup and mustard colors, and a hand-drawn logo. There just wasn't a cohesive look and feel that would reflect how high-quality the concept really was." Developing a Design To create a more polished look, Cowboy Chicken worked with Los Angeles-based design firm Propaganda, Inc. to develop the interior design. According to Jensen- Pitts, the brand architecture was essen- tial in that it provided clear criteria for evaluating both new and legacy design elements. "Once we had the data and the groundwork, it was easy to say what fits and what doesn't," she states. Once the new design was com- pleted, the challenge became finding the right place to build the first store with the new look. According to Kennedy, at the time the interior design was completed, the chain did not have any corporate stores in development. There was, however, a new franchised location in Texas that was ready to go. This was the first Cowboy Chicken in the Houston area, which presented the company and the franchisee with a choice, says Kennedy. "Do we build one old prototype and all the other stores will look different, or do we build them all in Houston with the same look?" Fortunately, the franchisee was an experienced operator. After being presented with the design plans, he understood what the company was trying to accomplish and agreed to have his store serve as the proving ground for the new look. According to Jensen-Pitts, since there was no company-owned prototype to work from, many design and con- struction decisions had to be made on the fly. At the same time, since they were building a franchised location with a franchisee's money, everyone was especially sensitive to cost. According to Kennedy, the designers, franchisee, company executives and contractors stayed in constant contact with each other throughout the build, with particu- lar attention paid to the franchisee and his concerns and questions. That's the Look While making decisions on the fly could lead to a disjointed look, the new Cow- boy Chicken is anything but. Entering the new store, customers encounter neutral grays and browns with pops of orange, a nod to the wood-burn- ing rotisserie. These colors can be found in elements that reinforce the "cowboy cool" theme, such as a Howdy sign — the greeting has long been a signature of the Cowboy Chicken experience — written out in rope on a wooden plank located near the drink station. More "cowboy cool" can be found on the brand wall, which is covered with pieces of artwork that drive home the company's key brand messages in a modern way. These include photographs of chicken just out of the rotisserie, a picture of concept founder Phil Sand- ers at the oven and canvas pieces that encourage diners to "respect the fire." Ideally, the brand wall will occupy an uninterrupted space in each store. In this first restaurant, notes Jensen- Pitts, the brand wall is broken up by the entryway to the restrooms. This was one of the only significant design challenges presented by the restau- rant's physical space, which is part of a brand-new development. As should be expected for a con- cept built around wood-burning rotis- serie chicken, many design elements use wood directly or as inspiration. These include doorframes and the bar- rier that separates the queue from the dining area. The restaurant also features a wall that is made up of chunks of locally sourced wood. A space has been cut in the middle of this wall for shelves holding jars of spices used on the chain's signature rotisserie chicken. This feature, says Jensen-Pitts, drives home the authenticity of the food the restaurant serves. While wood is a key element, the designers didn't want to overwhelm the space with it. In fact, the new design actually minimized the use of wood in some highly visible ways. A The wood wall with a spice rack emphasizes Cowboy Chicken's authentic cooking methods. The first Cowboy Chicken built with the new design opened in suburban Houston in May.

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