#GlobalShop19: How fast food chain Chick-fil-A is helping customers slow down

US fast food chain Chick-fila-A is encouraging customers to slow down and spend time on themselves at one of its key branches.

Gwen Newland, who heads up restaurant development and design for the chain, joined forces with creative director Tom Ertler of design group Miller Zell to talk about the initiative at GlobalShop last week (24 June 2019). The pair presented a case study looking at the process of developing a key new branch format for the brand.

“When was the last time you had a moment for care?” Newland asked the audience at the event. Chick-fil-A’s management had noticed how busy the lives of their customers had become, and wanted to offer a remedy in its restaurants.

The company also needed to rebuild the restaurant on the site of its first branch. Originally known as the Dwarf Grill because it was so small - offering just 10 stools – the venue had become the nucleus of a large chain. Though redeveloped over the years, it was popular with customers, many of them long-term regulars, who feared losing a community resource.

The result is a large new branch that pays tribute to brand founder S. Truett Cathy and his values -and to the styles of the 1940s when the brand was founded – while encouraging modern consumers to take some time for themselves, and for simple family pleasures.

As well as offering takeaway food the Atlanta restaurant offers a full service dining room, and a drive-thru that encourages a more leisurely experience.

Numerous details have been included to entertain visitors of all ages, from a train set that runs above the dining room – and is started by a large red button which guests are invited to press –to wallpaper that features a pull-along wagon, inspired by the story of founder Cathy starting his career by selling Coca Cola from his own wagon as a child. Family booths feature the bespoke wallpaper, which includes details such as missing wheels and upside-down wagons so that waiting staff can encourage games of i-spy with younger customers.

Each table top features different graphics, to spark conversations with staff about what stories from the brand’s history the images represent.

Even the toy cars carried on the train set – miniature vintage Fords – reflect the fact that the original branch was founded opposite a Ford factory to feed hungry shift workers. Instead of a traditional play area outside, the branch offers a Hula Hoop centre to reflect the 1940s craze, while the original tiny red door of the original branch has been incorporated as a working novelty entrance – and one which many customers choose to use when entering. A statue of the founder is outside the branch, and has become a popular selfie spot for fans of its chicken dishes.

“These elements are like speed bumps for time,” Newland told the audience. “It’s about the moments and the minutes.”

“What kind of kid can resist a big red button?” asked Ertler.

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