by Sanford Klanfer
In recent months, Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s overtook Burger King as the number two fast-food restaurant in America. It’s rise was aided by the introduction of new menu items, including its W cheeseburger and new chicken sandwiches. But now Wendy’s has created a “menu” of a different kind: four new up-to-date store design prototypes, which debuted last year. The initial ten prototypes will expand to 20 new restaurants and 50 remodeled restaurants later this year.
The designs were created in consultation with Tesser, a Big Picture Branding company based in San Francisco. Each design is the result of a three-year-long research process, including customer insight, internal management, leadership, and operations, and will, in turn, provide a wealth of data from which Wendy’s can learn more. “These restaurants allow us to compile vast amounts of research,” says Tré Musco, president and chief creative officer of Tesser. “With four dynamic designs, it’s four times the learning.” Wendy’s chose to implement the designs simultaneously, in four different markets, to best measure the operational efficiency and customer response.
“As part of our remodel effort—which we call Image Activation—we are working to enhance the entire customer experience, including the restaurant design, inside environment, elevated food preparation standards and higher customer service standards,” said Emil Brolick, Wendy’s president and CEO.
Each design emphasizes Wendy’s core brand, while also paying homage to the company’s founder. “All of the buildings push the brand forward and highlight the quality of the food, while staying true to the important brand values. We had to move Wendy’s forward with a contemporary edge without leaving the quality and tradition behind,” says Musco. The dining rooms include custom furniture, fireplaces, booths, and even free wi-fi and computer plug-ins.
The designs also seek to simplify the ordering experience: Queues now move through the restaurant from left to right, while preview menu screens de-stress the process of choosing a meal, and also encourage diners to try new items. Specialty beverages, along with an oven and a reach-in baked-goods case, are in customers’ line of sight. The idea, says Musco, is “to resonate with the way people live, work, and eat in today’s environment.” At the end of the process, Wendy’s will evaluate the four designs. “We’ll be able to select the designs that create the best possible customer experience,” says Musco.
The Contemporary design, used in Pittsburgh-area restaurants, features straight exterior angles, to give the store an updated look. The exterior features large floor-to-ceiling and side-to-side windows, with a splash of Wendy’s signature red. Inside, blonde wood finishes and a brick fireplace complement cozy red seats, metallic paneling, and walnut floors.
The Traditional design, found in Virginia Beach, features a brick facade with brick and wood finishes on the interior, with furnishings intended to make people feel at home. Musco says, “It has a very East Coast cafe feel.” It draws inspiration from stone water towers and East Coast farmlands. An outdoor seating patio is delineated by a fence with a W gate. Diners are greeted by a red entry wall, and a stone fireplace encourages them to stick around.
The Ultra Modern design, at restaurants in Columbus, OH, and Toronto, was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and midwestern contemporary architecture. It features a red blade element cutting through exterior and interior, 14-foot windows on the front, sleek and angular lines, and comfortable furnishings. The interiors feature limestone-like Silestone, reed-inspired 3Form, and wood-patterned floor tiles.
The Urban design, found in Phoenix, combines clean edges and rounded lines on the interior and exterior. It combines agricultural and industrial influences, including grain silos, concrete-like floors, steel slats, and ceramic wood tiles designed to resemble reclaimed barn wood. Furnishings incorporate stainless steel and pewter to provide a more polished look, while an LED light show behind a sheet of glass adds a glow to the seating area.
Since 1993, Tesser has been building powerful brands by focusing on the big picture: 360 degrees of uncompromised thinking on branding and integrated design. As strategic consultants, designers, and branding experts, Tesser helps clients create both long-term brand value and highly effective design programs. Tesser provides a unique mix of strategy, naming and verbal branding, corporate identity, retail design, merchandising, packaging design, and website design. Based in San Francisco, Tesser’s clients include Denny’s, KFC, Ben & Jerry’s, Chili’s, Del Taco, Williamson-Dickie (makers of Dickies workwear), Musco Family Olive Co., Popeyes and Baja Fresh.