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GIO Looks at Restaurant Design Trends: Quick Service Brands are Getting Makeovers

Good design is an imperative in today’s restaurant climate and the quick-serve sector is increasingly attuned to this reality.

Old Mcdonalds
McDonald’s when it looked like McDonald’s.

With baby boomers reporting an 18% decrease in fast food (quick-serve) restaurant visits and a 20% increase in visits to fast-causal restaurants, many quick service restaurant brands are getting makeovers–for their menus and their in-store designs. The quick-serve brands can no longer compete on cost and speed alone. Just as food offerings are evolving for today’s discerning customers, quick-serve executives are acknowledging that restaurant aesthetics are just as important. Design plays as much of a role in showcasing food as the menu board.

Quick-serve ambience has been focused on function, with plastic seating and table tops, fluorescent lighting and the chains’ branded graphics. The “get them in, get them out” mentality has reigned, but a new shift in the quick serve industry is encouraging guests to linger.  Quick service chains are are paying closer attention to design and architecture and are beginning to adopt the upscale decor of its casual-dining competitors.

Take the updated McDonald’s stores, for example:  gone are the fiberglass tables, industrial steel chairs and neon interiors. The new McDonald’s interior boasts wooden tables, plush faux leather club chairs arranged in conversation areas and muted colors replace the bright red and yellows we have come to associate with “McDonald’s.” The chain no longer wants to rush you in and out; it wants you to stick around and watch TV or tap into free Wi-Fi service as you sip a cappuccino or have a Snack Wrap. The company even ditched the hallmark double-sloped Mansard roof for a more modern look.

New McDonald's interior
Comfortable club chairs arranged in conversation areas encourage guests to linger longer.
Mcdonalds exterior
Just a suggestion of an arch graces the flat roof at the new McDonald’s.

Captain D’s is another player in the quick-serve arena that has realized they’ve really got to up their look to lead in the game.  Updated stores have a more beach-like feel, with surfboards hanging as wall art, communal seating, and bright colors and materials.  With a revamped menu and free wi-fi with additional outlets for laptops, the brand is aiming at recruiting new customers who like to be connected wherever they dine.

Captain Ds seafood restaurant interior 03
Captain D’s new look focuses on creating a vibrant coastal experience and welcoming atmosphere.


Captain Ds seafood restaurant night exterior
The inviting new restaurant exterior combines some of the traditional design elements with a blend of new features.

Across the spectrum, quick-serve restaurants are putting more weight on design because it’s become a necessary competitive advantage. Customers today are more sophisticated and have higher expectations–-and the environment where they get their food says a lot about what they’re eating.


Tile Can Play a Vital Role

Tile is a premium material for both its look and its performance. As quick-service restaurants transform interior design to be increasingly appealing to modern guests, tile’s prominence in these environments is poised to grow. Contact GIO for ideas about how tile can update your restaurant space stylishly.


GIO brings you a carefully curated selection of tile and stone products developed expressly for your commercial design projects.  Our looks cover a range of styles to transform commercial spaces. From retail and restaurants to hospitals and hospitality, we’ve assembled an assortment of collections in styles befitting the gamut of spaces you may be called to design.