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Seeking A Fresh Start Abroad, Burger King Channels A Family Barbecue

With natural, rustic materials and a communal vibe, this restaurant looks more like a vegetarian cafe than the home of the Whopper.

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Fast-food joints are embracing high design–especially abroad, where fast food is younger to the market and sometimes carries a premium halo. Consider that McDonald’s recently enlisted Patrick Noguet to trot out a new family-restaurant concept in France. And now Burger King is getting in on the act, with a garden-patio theme intended to appeal to both families and teens alike. “We noticed that one word that kept popping up was ‘flame grilled,’ and we used this clue as a starting point,” writes the design team OutofStock. “From collective experiences, our mental picture of flame grilling is closely associated with garden barbecues and camping cook-outs.”

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So OutofStock brought the outside in, furnishing the restaurant with lounge-y seating upholstered in weatherproof fabrics and set against a collage wall of materials and textures, including everything from raw concrete and clay bricks to cork and copper. Traditional stick-backed chairs surround wooden metal-framed tabletops reminiscent of folding camping furniture. And a roof trellis serves to hide air-conditioning and heating ducts, while anchoring pendant lamps made from clay gardening pots. Other homey touches: wooden shelving for holding framed BK posters and potted plants along the window ledges. The overall atmosphere is more evocative of a college-town café serving heirloom-tomato salads than a burger-flipping fast-food chain.

BK corporate financed the “Garden Grill” and recently unveiled it to Asian franchisees during an Asian-Pacific conference in Singapore–no doubt as a way to gain a stronger foothold in the growing Asian market. The first concept store is now in full operation in Singapore; the next is set to crop up in Japan. “Changing the perception of fast food was one of targets,” OutofStock’s Gabriel Tan tells Co.Design, “to become a place where people would want to sit for a while to enjoy the experience, rather than just to eat and go quickly.”

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About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.

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