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 4 • 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 solid surface material replaced wooden countertops in the legacy design, while hardwood floors were replaced by stained and sealed concrete. The latter change, says Jensen-Pitts, represented a major cost reduction — concrete is significantly cheaper than hardwood. More savings came from eliminat- ing video monitors in the dining area, which cycled images of the chain's food along with brand messages, and replacing digital menu boards, which the chain had been experimenting with, with static boards. Digital boards were both expensive and contrary to the chain's brand posi- tion. "They're just so fast-foodish," says Jensen-Pitts. "We have a singular menu item, which is chicken. It's not that com- plicated. We do a lot of great things with it. We just need a simple menu board." Reducing costs in those areas allowed the team to put more money into other key design elements. One of these design elements was the photo for the mural wall. The picture, taken by a photographer who specializes in western/cowboy imagery, shows a cowboy riding a horse across a hilly landscape. Cowboy Chicken bought unlimited usage rights to the photo, which is now featured prominently in the dining area. "We did a hand-stitching ef- fect on the border and an almost basket- weave texture, giving it a 3-D look," says Jensen-Pitts. "That was a big element that we created." Another centerpiece of the new design is the rotisserie oven. While it wasn't hidden in the legacy stores, it wasn't showcased, either. It now faces the dining area and is surrounded by a brick facade. A high-temperature sliding window provides a look inside. Recogniz- ing the appeal of this drama — and of seats near a wood-burning oven during the colder months of the year — the chain has placed a bar and barstools just in front of the rotisserie. Cowboy Chicken creates a "dinner and a show" experience by having team members load and unload chickens through the rotisserie's sliding win- dow, in full view of guests. "The [staff member has] his heavy-duty gloves on. He opens the sliding door, takes the spit out, places it on the cart and rolls it back to the kitchen to cut it up. There's something about when you see the chicken coming off the spit. It's glisten- ing and beautiful," says Jensen-Pitts. A National Platform While Cowboy Chicken's brand identity has now been translated into design, more changes to the concept's look and feel are almost certain. According to Kennedy, the concept's lighting package will probably be redesigned in the near future to help bring the space to life, both on the inside and out. The chain will also experiment with its furnishings. While it added booth and banquette seating in this new design, it will also explore the expanded use of community tables, which have already been rolled out in a handful of stores. Another likely change, says Jensen- Pitts, will involve reworking the concept's patio. Right now, the chain uses basic picnic tables. The concept is considering more comfortable seating as well as an awning or umbrellas. "That's obviously going to be an increased expense for the franchisees," she says, "but I think it will pay off with a lot more people hang- ing out on the patio, which expands your dollars per square foot." Any enhancements, though, will only add to an already successful redesign. Since the rollout of this first restaurant in May, several more Cowboy Chicken stores have opened with the new look — both brand-new and refurbished. The numbers for the new stores are ex- tremely impressive, with guest counts 30 percent higher in new stores compared with legacy stores in the same market. That sort of statistic, combined with solid feedback from customers old and new, has the company convinced it now has the final piece it needs to become a national brand, says Kennedy. "Before, we were focused on food and service. Now, we've got a 'cowboy cool' vibe to us," he explains. "This is the interior package and design that puts us on a national platform to compete with any other brand out there." + The chain's new design features wood and neutral tones with splashes of orange, representing its wood-fired rotisserie ovens.

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