How fast-food chains are using design to go local

April 20, 2018 Sanjana Saluja

Restaurants from McDonald’s to KFC to Starbucks are rethinking their spaces inside and out. Curbed explores how fast-food brands are redesigning their space to stay competitive with the growing numbers of “fast-casual” restaurants. 

On a recent Saturday night, I invited a couple of friends out for dinner and drinks. We got in a car in Los Angeles, where we all live, and drove 40 miles south to Newport Beach, a pricey oceanfront Orange County city known for its nightlife. We had journeyed this obscene distance across multiple Southern California freeways to try a new restaurant. Its name is Taco Bell Cantina.

Yes, the restaurant is a part of the Taco Bell fast-food chain, which has more than 6,000 outposts in the U.S. serving a variety of Mexican and Mexican-ish foods. Taco Bell Cantina, unlike most of those 6,000, is a “concept” restaurant, one of about a dozen being rolled out across the country to test out a new permutation of the Taco Bell format. 

“What is different now from what we used to do is we are breaking away from a one-size-fits-all model and going to more flexibility, more variations, to end up with a more curated approach,” says Deborah Brand, Taco Bell’s vice president of development and design. Taco Bell has spent the past two years rethinking its restaurant design, and Taco Bell Cantina is just one result. “I think it’s a different approach to value,” Brand says. “We’ve always known that we have inexpensive food that is craveable, but we also look at value as serving the same food at the same price point in a potentially much more elevated dining environment.”

Click here, to explore how the fast-food restaurants of the near future may look like.

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