McDonald’s franchises aren’t exactly known for their upscale interiors, but every once in a while a McD’s gets a showy redesign that’s a cut above the rest. There’s the swank, golden McDonald’s in Rotterdam designed by Mei Architects, for example, and the Art Deco restaurant in Victoria, Australia. A fresh redesign of a branch in Hong Kong takes a decidedly less flashy approach: the designers are calling the open, minimalist interior an “experiment in non-design.”
Designed by Sydney-based branding consultancy Landini Associates, the restaurant features long tables made of concrete and oak, wireframe stools, warm lighting and, significantly, an open kitchen where customers can watch their food being prepared. A pair of golden arches on the front window is all that remains of the bright, colorful graphics found in your typical McDonald’s. Instead, taupe walls are adorned with spare line drawings of hamburgers and other food items that look awfully similar to the Shake Shack branding.
That Shake Shack-esq decor, as minuscule as it may seem, is indicative of a shift in competition that’s been driving McDonald’s to recalibrate its business model (well, that and falling sales). People today have more choice than ever. For McDonald’s, that means it’s no longer just about beating out Burger King and Wendy’s, but also keeping up with Chipotle, Panera Bread, and even hipper, more upscale chains like Shake Shack. According to the New York Times, McDonald’s Corporation CEO Steve Easterbrook told investors in November that the restaurant has put too much emphasis on the “transactional, less emotional aspects of our brand,” and are now working to change that.
Easterbrook took the helm of McDonald’s eight months ago, and has since undertaken efforts to simplify the menu and serve better, more consistent food. The Hong Kong franchise’s pared-down aesthetic matches this new direction. Still, no modern redesign–not even a “non-design” redesign–can mask what you’re actually putting into your body when you order from McDonald’s.