Upgrading fast food restaurants is a step in the wrong direction – North Texas Daily

In recent years, fast food companies have been pushing to modernize their exteriors. By shedding image to appeal to a new era of consumers, what are companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King losing? Prominent and defining characteristics have differentiated fast food companies, but these original identities are fast fading.

Brightly colored restaurant designs are now being replaced by a stark, monochromatic aesthetic. The era of quirky, one-of-a-kind exteriors and interiors is over as businesses embrace “modernized architecture” and “bold” designs to stay alive in a modernized world.

Today’s fast food designs are noticeably different from their counterparts of the 80s and 90s. For McDonald’s, their once red and white mansard roof with painted brickwork has been replaced by flat roofs with golden curves. Sleek, clean, modern interiors with wood paneling and soft lighting reign as the business seeks to reinvent itself to appear as something more than fast food.

A fake five star restaurant – what the fast food chains are hoping to deliver with their sleek revamp. Drive-through restaurants may try to be a space for “real” food, but they fail in the areas that matter. Chick-Fil-A, Arby’s and Wendy’s and other fast food restaurants are changing everything but how they prepare their food.

Fast food companies know exactly what they are doing when they use modern design techniques to look stylish. Look at any Starbucks, Burger King or Taco Bell and the color scheme is nearly identical. They use gray to feel neutral and futuristic, yet ancient and distinguished. This design change can apparently be attributed to McDonald’s “Forever Young” redesign initiative.

“Forever Young” was launched in 2006 and sought to transform the playground vibe of McDonald’s into a café-style space. This resulted in a push towards a more contemporary aura accentuated by terracotta, olive and gray colors paired with wooden furniture. Of course, other fast food restaurants saw this change and followed suit.

In their rush to redesign and rebrand to appeal to the “fast-casual” consumer, fast food companies have begun to assimilate the same basic styles. Where there was once a menagerie of various colors and shapes, most places look largely identical save for one brand-specific accent color. Consumers want restaurants that offer fast service and higher quality food, usually at higher prices.

Instead of building on their strengths, fast food companies seek to copy others. Even from a business perspective, it’s a poor choice to make. Assimilation destroys their brand recognition and appears as a cheap way to appeal to the new consumer culture.

All of these elements combine to present an unrecognizable modern look of how these places were before the 2000s. This new branding is something fast food companies have accepted, in a race to grow or die that has little effect on profitability.

Of course, fast food is not on the verge of death. McDonald’s still remains in the lead, being the most profitable fast food chain in the world.

despite winning 112 billion dollars worldwide in 2021, McDonald’s didn’t succeed because of their new cafe-style design or faux leather chair, but because of their cheap food and dominance of fast food culture. It’s thanks to new technologies and innovations such as dual drive-thru, self-service kiosk and mobile app, not too fancy chairs.

One cannot help but miss the distinctiveness of fast food restaurants. Companies forget that people don’t walk into a Burger King and think about how modern it is, or linger and enjoy the vibe of beeping fryers. Even as they modernize their architecture, fast food companies forget about the food they sell.

In their quest to make consumers forget why they’re paying for a dry burger and fries, they’re backing out of their own brand. Sometimes the food can just be good – people don’t need high architecture and neutral gray to win them over.

Featured artwork by Erika Sevilla

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