#RetailEXPO19: Remain original with standardised design

"Locally relevant, globally aware," - this is the motto Yum! Brands KFC says it uses to solve the tricky problem of designing its restaurants in a way that meet both the different cultural and developmental needs of different countries, while also staying true to its 'Always Original' traditional brand values.

Speaking to delegates on day two of Retail Expo, Natalia Baldizzoni, Yum!'s senior design and construction manager says that operating in 136 countries creates unique problems, and to meet them, the only sensible course of action is to use standardised 'design packs' - but which can then be interpreted regionally to meet the needs of local markets.

"We have two main packs - 'handmade' and 'kitchen-table' - which hark to two of our founder's core USPs," says Baldizzoni. "Kitchen table tends to get used for more mature countries, while our hand-made assets are currently being used to expand our offering in central and Eastern Europe - our key growth area."

According to Baldizzoni - who wants to double the number of new global store openings from 1,000 in 2018 to 2,000 for 2019 - the skill is to choose the assets that most relate to restaurants on the ground - but it's not always the case that the same assets always work. 

She says: "In Kosovo, we were recently the very first major brand restaurant opening the country had ever seen, so it had to do more than resemble a locally-made, hand-made restaurant. It required having real impact - customers needed to feel like they were sitting in a small piece of America, but in their own country."

In other countries though, she admits that the design needs to be much more discrete. 

"The differences that exist between countries are far more subtle than just flags and language," she says. "There are cultural nuances, even variations in behaviours. This all has to be thought about."

Because 98% of YUM! businesses are owned by franchisees, Baldizzoni said she has to respect what local business owners on the ground want. She says: "You can't tell businesses how to do the very small details. But what you do need to do is give them as much education about the assets as possible, so they know how to use them for their own location."

Where consistency can be added, she says it is, like having stools, wooden tables, and seating booths. She also says there tends to be three different types [or levels] of restaurant: the 'mastery of basics' one - where the basic brand elements of KFC are applied; the 'effectively different' restaurant, which brings in additional details and refinements; and the 'game changer' restaurant - one that acts as a flagship, and has all the bells and whistles.

Even here, she adds that it's simply not possible for store designers to work removed from the story of the business. She says: "The first thing I always say to my architects is this - 'if you don't know the story [of Colonel Sanders] you can't design its restaurants'. The two are inextricably linked. You can't do one without the other."