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Jul 1, 2015
Matt Ireton

In today’s busy world, dining options are constantly evolving.  While companies like McDonald’s and Burger King have controlled the fast food market in the past, a new hybrid has emerged on the scene in recent years called fast casual food.  According to The Washington Post, “The market for fast casual food, which is almost but not quite fast food, has grown by 550 percent since 1999, more than ten times the growth seen in the fast food industry over the same period.”  Fast casual dining aims to capture patrons who are looking for dining at similar price points as fast food but with better quality ingredients, more interesting options and unique, inviting spaces. Fastcasual.com makes the claim that “To keep up with fast-casual players, more quick-service restaurants are updating the look and feel of their interior and exterior design.”

Within the past year, K4 has been fortunate to partner with the up-and-coming local fast casual dining company Tom + Chee, that you may have seen on ABC’s Shark Tank.  We were hired to develop layouts for every new franchise location and have worked with them to provide the best space possible for more efficiently producing the variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup that they are famous for.  With the number of dining options on the market it is essential that Tom + Chee have the quickest systems available with interesting branding throughout their stores and seating options suitable to the clientele and flow of traffic.

In my experience developing a variety of store layouts; I’ve learned that every chair, every piece of equipment and every light fixture is absolutely critical.  One extra chair can add thousands of dollars in revenue.  Reducing the hood size over the grill can significantly save up front costs. We have worked with Tom + Chee to develop the best combination of equipment, seating, signage, drink stations and every other aspect of their interior.

As a specific example of enhancing the existing brand, K4 was called upon to layout and design not only the interior, but also the exterior storefront for a new mixed-use location in Richardson, TX just outside of Dallas.  The City Line Development will have a broad demographic, with 2.6 million sf of office space, 150 hotel rooms at Aloft hotel, 1,370 residential units and direct access to the DART rail line.  Robert LaGore, owner of the fast casual restaurant Burgers-N-Cream makes the point when discussing brand design that, “The brand has to work with the actual design.  It has to look like what they’re selling.  It has to be cohesive…your design is not going to bring people in the door, but it’s going to get them back.”

K4 Rendering of Tom + Chee Sidewalk View

K4 Rendering of Tom + Chee Sidewalk View

With this idea in mind, we choose to use a modern aesthetic with crisp lines of metal, glass, stone and tile while clearly emphasizing the brand colors of red and yellow.  Using Agrob Buchtal tiles imported from Germany, we were able to layout a geometric border of black and white ceramic tiles with a red and yellow center for their typical ‘Tom+Chee’ signage.  This concept of bright red and yellow branding with black and white borders directly mimics existing interior concepts.  Thus we were able to subtly blend the exterior and interior concepts. This unique, custom facade for Tom + Chee required a great deal of coordination from the engineers, the city of Richardson and the developer.  However once completed it will invite customers of all ages, while remaining complimentary to the brand’s original identity.

Photo by Rightway Facility Services

Photo by Rightway Facility Services