When it comes to fast food restaurants, there’s a preconceived notion that the design will often reflect the food. But, lately, these restaurants and well-known brands have taken a page from fast-casual brands like Chipotle or Shake Shack, seeking out acclaimed designers to craft clean, beautiful environments that are as satisfying as the guilty pleasures served.
What makes these high-end spaces stand out beyond the quick distribution of nuggets and a frosty is quite simple: They are designed with a guest in mind who is seeking an upscale yet accessible experience. If you’re making the time to enjoy a Big Mac, you can now enjoy it in style.
Some credit can be given to Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. In 2014, he took on the task of updating a Starbucks in Fukuoka, Japan for a truly unique, sophisticated coffee shop in the bustling area. The building is made of 2,000 wooden sticks woven together in a diagonal pattern to bring a sense of fluidity to the room, creating a warm, cave-like space for the coffee drinkers.
Consider the McDonald’s Glen Waverly in Melbourne, Australia from Juicy Design, which conceived it as an “Experience of the Future” for McDonald’s. Gone are the Golden Arches used to beckon you into the conventional environment. There are no hints of Ronald McDonald’s bright red hair here either. Instead, a muted color palette with wood accents and a bright aesthetic welcomes guests to the quintessential fast food restaurant with self-service touchscreens included to encourage a more individualized experience.
This isn’t a one-off for McDonald’s either. The company has been quietly experimenting with design in some of their global properties for a while, including Patrick Norguet’s design of the brand’s location on the tourist friendly Champs-Elysees in Paris. He mixed simple and high-quality materials with custom furniture, concrete, sheet metal, and metallic netting. To add a dash of color to the space, lightboxes that feature photos of Paris by Frank Hülsbömer span the walls and ceilings and are visible through an 82-foot picture window.
Last year, a Burger King in Helsinki, Finland opened an in-store spa and sauna, a staple of Finnish culture, from local designer Teuvo Loman. The familiar blue and red benches line the space against stark white walls for the 15-person sauna experience. Outside of the spa, the restaurant’s interiors offer a classic Finnish design with pops of red adding an alluring quality to the light wood cladding walls and booths.
Taco Bell has also been crafting new experiences for it’s dedicated clientele. Recently Brooklyn, New York SG Blocks, which specializes in container-based structures, created a California outpost from five cargo containers in part to help the brand focus on green principles. Modeled after a pop-up at South by Southwest, the first shipping container Taco Bell boasts outdoor seating with other trendy monikers to help usher the fast food eatery into the 21st century.