INSIGHTS

Fast Food Restaurant Interior Design for Growing Brands

Entrepreneur standing in front of his fast food restaurant
Entrepreneurs launching new QSR brands should invest in smart fast food restaurant interior design.

American consumers have a seemingly endless appetite for new fast food brands. Entrepreneurial quick service restaurants with a unique niche, including new regional and ethnic fast food startups, are coming on strong. Founders aspire to be the next Shake Shack or Habit Burger Grill, the Southern California company acquired by Yum! Brands in 2020. There are few business models where “form follows function” so closely. Here’s what to keep in mind when planning your fast food restaurant interior design. 

The pandemic permanently changed QSR design 

In a little over a year, consumers have come to expect contactless order fulfillment from fast food restaurants. Increasingly, it appears this will be the new normal, as Covid lingers and continued social distancing is desired (or required). 

As most of us know from first-hand experience, many restaurants were not prepared for the surge of demand for customer pickup, as well as the onslaught of third-party delivery pickups by the likes of DoorDash, GrubHub, and Uber Eats. Quick service restaurants struggled to manage the scrum. 

New fast food brands have the opportunity to design features that established brands are trying to add in their Covid-driven retrofits. 

Order pickup zones

An efficient new fast food restaurant design should offer a separate, easily accessed order collection area. Divert disruptive foot traffic to a separate area of the store with its own clearly signed entrance. This will prevent collection activities from interfering with in-store ordering as well as the dine-in experience.

Order kiosks

While not new, order kiosks have grown in popularity as people minimize face-to-face interactions. New fast-food concepts should ensure that kiosks are an obvious, appealing option for guests. Wendy’s has included kiosks in their Smart 2.0 store prototypes. The company discovered from customer feedback that restaurants with kiosk ordering as an option had higher satisfaction ratings than those without. 

Walk-up order windows

Shake Shack has revived the walk-up window at eight of its locations. The simple yet practical customer interface is perfect for the customer who doesn’t want to dine in and may not order online (aka not a smartphone user). It’s also well-suited for locations where drive-through isn’t feasible. 

Food lockers

Food lockers are another “new” method of contactless food delivery experiencing a surge in popularity. Burger King, KFC and Smashburger have added food lockers to their new store designs. Utilizing a touch screen, pinpad, or even text messaging and QR codes, the customer opens their locker and retrieves their food. Some lockers are chilled, others are hot; some utilize UV light to kill bacteria.

Lockers were considered by fast food brands prior to the pandemic, a strategy to increase service speed while lowering payroll expense. Dunkin explored the concept in 2018, seeking to accelerate service in its busiest locations. In 2019 Wingstop announced it planned to use lockers to cut labor costs, because 75% of its transactions were collection. Another pandemic-related benefit: food lockers can help companies weather the chronic labor shortages that have hit the food and beverage sector hard. 

Digital menu boards

Digital menu boards are another way to intensify the customer/brand interface and even boost orders. Panera has implemented digital screens for drive-through and in-store menus. The screens, linked to the company’s loyalty program,  display recent orders and favorite selections. Customers can place an order from their phones, regardless of whether they’re using rapid pickup, drive-through, delivery or even dine-in. They receive notifications on their phone when their order is ready.

Doubling down on drive-through

2020 was the year everyone learned to love drive-through, but even that format has undergone an evolution. Many new fast food restaurants now have double lane drive throughs. At Shake Shack’s “Shake Track”, one lane is for placing orders and another lane is for online order pickup, which facilitates more efficient service. Even Panera Bread has added fast food style double drive throughs to its new, streamlined, fast casual restaurants. 

Years ago, Dutch Brothers drive-throughs began sending employees outside to take orders from customers idling in long lineups. This improvised workaround has become commonplace: fast food restaurants now dispatch employees with tablets to expedite ordering. New QSR designs should prioritize worker visibility and safety, and ensure ease of access between interior and exterior. 

Dialing in dine-in

With all the emphasis on contactless collection, it might seem that dine-in is dwindling in importance. But fast food restaurants are now looking at dine-in as an opportunity to enhance the guest experience and tell their brand story. A customer who chooses to dine in, despite faster and more convenient options, is taking a break. They’re getting out of their own environment, and hoping to relax a bit. Another demographic taking advantage of dine-in is young people looking for a place to gather. 

Even as Panera reduces the size of their new concept restaurants by 25%, the company is showcasing the core of their brand identity (baking fresh bread in-house) by making the interior of their ovens visible to diners. Wendy’s new interior design places sinks outside the restrooms, enabling guests to wash their hands without entering the restroom. The company believes this customer touchpoint subtly reinforces Wendy’s core value of “freshness”. Wendy’s interior design updates also include gas and electric fireplaces and faux wood flooring. Chick-fil-A is also upgrading its interiors with higher-end finishes.

In the McDonald’s redesign of 7000 US and UK restaurants, natural materials have replaced plastic finishes, and lighting is softer. There’s a new “linger” area with armchairs, sofas and Wi-Fi connections, as well as a solo diner zone with TVs that’s more like a bar, and a colorful “family zone” area offering flexible seating for different sized groups, with fabric cushions. As these trends take hold, the fast food design standard of allocating ten square feet per diner may evolve, too.

While QSR design doesn’t need to emulate an upscale restaurant—no customer comes to a fast food restaurant expecting gracious dining—the dine-in guest has made a conscious choice to spend time in the space, and well-designed interiors can reward that impulse with a richer experience. 

Fast food restaurant interior design: It’s outside, too

Fast food restaurant customers desire outdoor dining options.

Increasingly, a QSR interior is outside, too. Outdoor dining has become a comfort zone for customers who are reluctant to congregate indoors with others. Al fresco dining areas also make your restaurant more visible, especially if they include colorful umbrellas or awnings. In climates where outdoor dining is possible for most of the year, outdoor dining can significantly boost sales. Outdoor dining pods designed to carry through your brand story are another opportunity to provide a memorable dine-in guest experience, and help increase capacity in areas where sunshine isn’t as reliable.

Orange you glad you came?

“We eat with our eyes.” So says the International Association of Color Consultants & Designers. The fast-food space is keenly tuned into the psychology of color

Psychology tells us that red, the most commonly used color in fast food, stimulates the appetite and can aid in increasing food sales. (Red table tops are believed to increase the amount of food consumed by diners.) Red is attention-getting and effective in signage for that reason. Orange increases impulsivity, and is associated with a mood of energy, fun and optimism. Yellow is the easiest color in the visible spectrum to see, which is why it’s often used in signage. It’s no surprise that the red and yellow color combination is a classic duo in the fast food world. These stimulating, active colors have also been used to keep diners moving quickly through fast food restaurants. 

Green evokes nature and relaxation, so QSRs offering healthy, natural fare often employ it. Starbucks has made green the signature color of its coffee shops, using it to suggest a place to slow down and relax. Blue, despite being America’s favorite hue, is actually an appetite suppressant. And despite recent trends toward light colors in interior design, warm and earthy colors remain the standard for fast food restaurants—icons like McDonalds and Burger King still rely on them. These may feel like overly familiar design tropes for a new brand, but they’ve survived the test of time. 

Creating an adaptable fast food restaurant interior design

Your interior design solution should be able to adapt to the location of the restaurant, both from a physical footprint and building configuration standpoint, but also to carry the brand to different cities and regions in a consistent and relevant way. New QSR brands will find that their restaurant FF & E package may need to be tailored to appeal to unique communities or to leverage changing demographics in new markets.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all design package, QSRs can adopt a curated approach that retains the core of the restaurant branding, offering an overall common look while tailoring it to specific settings. For example, types of interior finishes and materials may vary while maintaining brand colors and iconography. And while it may no longer be necessary to specify, say, the same flooring for every restaurant, strong brand elements like interior signs should maintain a high level of consistency. 

Designing modular interior components can help the same pieces work in small restaurants and larger ones. Today’s nimble fast food startups can take many forms. Outlets might include a 3,000 square foot restaurant, a food court, and a kiosk. Because settings can vary from airports to malls to main streets, your brand must have a clear and expressive visual shorthand that customers can instantly recognize. Creating versatile modular designs can reduce cost and complexity when you’re scaling quickly. 

Designing and selecting FF & E for your fast food restaurant layout often means balancing budget against durability. Because service areas in a QSR receive so much use (not to mention abuse!) you’ll want to ensure that your decor doesn’t wear out before it’s time for an update. This doesn’t necessarily require high-end materials and finishes, but they should be selected carefully. Don’t sacrifice durability of material; it has a big impact on your ongoing operational costs, such as maintenance and cleaning. 

Keeping it fresh

Restaurant consultants recommend a revamp and refresh of QSRs every 3-5 years, with a full redesign every ten years. We’re in an extremely design-conscious era. Trends cycle ever-faster and restaurants vie to create bold, eye-catching backdrops for customer’s Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok social media feeds. 

With this in mind, a fast food restaurant designer should be judicious when specifying finishes like tile walls and floors, which will remain in place for long periods; a crisp, streamlined, neutral envelope can be continuously updated with new decor, fixtures and furnishings—even light fixtures. 

The good news for QSR innovators: fast food interior design inspiration and practical, actionable ideas are literally everywhere. Large fast food corporations spend millions on R & D every year. There’s never been a better time for QSR startups to learn from their innovations—after all, their secret sauce doesn’t stay secret for long. 

Ready to refresh your QSR? Let’s get started.

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Sustainable Grocery Stores: 7 Priorities for Greener Grocers

Whole Foods uses engaging signage to educate shoppers about sustainable choices.
Whole Foods uses engaging signage to educate shoppers about sustainable choices.

How can supermarkets be more environmentally friendly? 

There are few places where a consumer’s environmental footprint is more apparent than at the grocery store. Consumers shop for groceries twice a week on average, and close to 80% of those consumers are now interested in the environmental impact of their choices, creating new opportunities for sustainable grocery stores.

Today’s shopper wants to patronize stores that make it easier for them to practice a sustainable lifestyle. The grocery industry has been slow to respond to this need, perhaps because of the misapprehension that sustainability is expensive. In fact, sustainable store strategies can add significantly to the bottom line, while increasing customer loyalty and competitive advantage.   

Sustainable operations drive grocery store design decisions

When considering the environmental impact of your store, it helps to think about these key sustainable operations objectives:

  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Switch to renewable energy sources
  • Reduce emissions of super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from refrigeration systems
  • Reduce packaging
  • Encourage recycling and reuse 
  • Reduce food waste
  • Source products locally
  • Emphasize plant-based foods

Consider the activities and workflow needed to achieve these goals and how a grocery store design or remodel could support that effort. For example, if recycling and composting will be a more important part of your operations, think about how your physical plant could better enable easy transport, handling, storage, and removal of those materials.  

Setting these 7 strategic priorities will make your grocery store more sustainable. 

Priority 1: Choose sustainable refrigeration systems

Some of the most environmentally destructive technologies at use today are refrigeration systems that use Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are greenhouse gases with global warming potentials (GWP) vastly greater than carbon dioxide. They’re the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Per the EPA, a typical food retail store’s refrigeration system leaks about one-quarter of its refrigerant charge each year, which is not just environmentally destructive but expensive.

According to ClimateFriendlySupermarkets.org, the average grocery store emits 875 pounds of HFCs per year–the equivalent of 336 cars. With 38,000 supermarkets all pumping HFCs into the environment, it’s the equivalent of burning 49 billion pounds of coal a year.

Alternative refrigerants include carbon dioxide, propane, isobutene and ammonia, all of which have Global Warming Potential ratings lower than 10 (Less than 150 GWP is considered best in class.) Aldi and new Whole Foods stores are utilizing the alternative refrigerant Transcritical C02.

The EPA has created a Green Chill Certification program to recognize stores that have adopted sustainable refrigeration systems. The program is open to any food retail store in the US, and there is no fee to apply for certification.

Installing refrigeration systems and air conditioners that utilize non-HFC refrigerants will produce some of the greatest environmental benefits of any grocery store design decision you make. 

Priority 2: Think sustainable from the outside In

The lowest-impact “new” store is a remodel. But if the goal is to build a new, eco-friendly grocery store, sustainability begins with site selection. Building on previously undeveloped land creates a greater environmental impact and can reduce the likelihood of access to public transportation. 

When selecting builders, look for a company that has a track record of mitigating construction site pollution. When remodeling, have your architect and builder assess the existing building with an eye toward recycling and/or salvaging building materials. 

Other sustainable design strategies for the exterior of your grocery store:

  • Design your site to capture and even store stormwater runoff, which can be substantial from large store grocery roofs. Utilize pervious pavements (which permit water to re-enter the soil beneath)
  • Emphasize native and drought-tolerant plants, while providing ample shade to counteract the “heat island” effects of parking lots. 
  • Heat absorption can be reduced by utilizing reflective roofing and paving materials. 
  • Manage light pollution through mindful interior and exterior lighting design choices. 
  • Provide EV charging stations and preferred parking areas for hybrid and EV vehicles to support shoppers’ own sustainability choices. Amenities like bicycle storage and showers in restrooms encourage employees to adopt sustainable commute practices. 

Priority 3: Increase energy efficiency

Grocery stores use more energy per square foot than any other business. With razor-thin profit margins, grocery stores who increase their energy efficiency can see a significant impact on their bottom line.

Solar Energy

Thanks to grocery stores’ large rooftops, solar power is an ideal alternative energy source. Parking lot shade canopies offer another excellent opportunity for installing solar panels. As battery storage systems become more efficient, solar power may ultimately enable stores to become virtually energy-independent and more resilient.

Natural light

When designing and remodeling grocery stores, utilize natural light in your design from windows and skylights. Clerestory windows can be placed well above store fixtures to provide more natural light.

Not only will it reduce energy costs, but natural light improves mood and enhances productivity. 

One study of the effect of natural light on consumer behavior discovered that checkout stands located under skylights recorded sales that were 40% higher than those lit with artificial light. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology conducted a study that showed employees who worked in natural light reported higher energy levels. 

Make sure refrigerated produce displays are functioning

Spending a few minutes a day moving produce off the air curtain can result in tens of thousands of dollars of savings in energy per year in a large supermarket. (It also makes the produce section more comfortable for customers, rather than spewing cold air onto them.) 

Switch ice-bed seafood displays to refrigerated cases

Produce shopper

Opting for refrigerated cases instead of ice displays will have a significant impact on energy use in a grocery store. Producing ice with electricity is extremely expensive. A refrigerated seafood display uses $5,000 less energy per year than an iced seafood display, and saves 100,000 gallons of water annually.

Switch to LED lighting

LED lights reduce energy costs dramatically over conventional fluorescents. Even though they are initially more expensive, thanks to their long lifespan, LEDs reduce maintenance costs and disruption to store operations for change-outs. In parking lots, they provide brighter, more even, and safer lighting at lower cost.

Realistic lighting from LEDs reproduces the wavelength of natural light customers experience outside. In produce sections, realistic lighting has been proven to increase sales. The specific wavelength of agricultural lighting stimulates plant growth and slows deterioration, which keeps produce looking fresh longer. It’s estimated that prolonging shelf life of fresh produce by just one day could reduce the cost of waste by almost one-third. 

Renewables and Carbon offsets

Stores committed to carbon-neutral operations can purchase energy from renewable sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal. Maryland’s Mom’s Organic Market supplies 25% of its stores’ power with solar energy generated by a Maryland solar farm. In addition, the company offsets its energy consumption through wind power energy credits. Festival Foods in Wisconsin recycles heat from refrigeration units to warm its stores during winter months. 

Along with reducing your emissions, Carbon offsets are another way to reduce a store’s environmental footprint. When you purchase offsets, the funds are used for projects that sequester carbon or restore carbon-absorbing habitat like forests, wetlands and marine ecosystems. 

Uncover inefficiencies—and profit

To implement a serious energy efficiency program across multiple store locations, Taper, a B-Corp subsidiary of Ecology Action, specializes in scalable building efficiency. The company operates as a consulting partner and general contractor to help businesses achieve massive greenhouse gas reductions and operational savings–quickly. 

Priority 4: Pare down packaging

Favoring products with minimal and no packaging has a tremendous impact on the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Zero waste has become a goal for many grocery store brands. Food Lion has set a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. By 2025, 100% of the company’s plastic packaging will be reused, recycled or composted. Aldi has committed to make all of their packaging “reusable, recyclable, or compostable” by 2025, as well. 

Make recycling easier

Recycling is confusing to many consumers. How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system that clearly explains how an item should be recycled. Companies adopting these labels include Kraft/Heinz, Amy’s, General Mills, and Nestle. How2Recycle has also partnered with Walmart, Aldi and Target to ensure that their private brand products will include the labels. Stores can take this a step further by educating consumers about how to properly recycle different materials. 

A sustainable grocery store should make recycling and reuse simple, convenient and even fun. Stores can employ engaging, interactive designs that even “gamify” recycling and re-use for shoppers and their kids. 

Reduce plastic waste

Today’s shoppers are familiar with the gruesome statistics about plastic. Microplastics have entered our food chain through seafood. Ocean debris kills over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals annually. According to EcoWatch, in the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day. Recent revelations about how little plastic sent for recycling actually gets recycled has made reducing the use of plastic an even more urgent priority. Yet the convenience of plastic makes it hard to avoid.

Perhaps the biggest no-brainer of sustainability is eliminating single-use plastic bags, which spend an average of 12 minutes in use and up to 1,000 years in the environment. In August, 2021, CVS Health, Target, and Walmart began testing alternatives to the single-use plastic shopping bag as part of the 3-year-long “Beyond the Bag Initiative”, a challenge created by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. 

In the produce department, compostable produce bags have become more common; Trader Joes began offering them in 2018. Stores still need to help consumers understand what to do with those bags to ensure they end up in the correct waste stream. Paper bags have made a comeback at some grocers. Reusable mesh bags are the most sustainable approach and can be merchandised in the produce department. 

Oranges in Mesh Bag
Merchandising mesh bags in your produce section encourages their use

Stores can also teach shoppers they have the option of not putting most produce into bags at all, since they’ll wash it before eating. Eco-friendly grocer Elroy’s Market in Monterey, California provides small produce baskets to assist shoppers in gathering items in their produce department, further reducing the need for bags. Once home, produce can be stored in reusable containers. Offering these new ways of shopping to customers takes effort and education in the form of signage.

Many grocers have also reduced or eliminated the use of plastic clamshells for certain produce food items, switching to cardboard-and-cellophane boxes.  

When choosing products to carry, consider recyclability or re-use programs that will help make your store’s offerings more sustainable. Some stores have stopped carrying beverages packaged in single-serving, virgin plastic containers. 

Encourage Bulk Food Sales

“Bring your own container” discounts for bulk food purchases can encourage consumers to buy more food that is package-free. Upgrading the design of bulk food bins and bulk food sections can help customers who’ve rarely used this option to explore the possibilities. Merchandising your own branded, refillable bulk containers and jars in the bulk food section can streamline the weighing process without the use of bags. 

House brands can reduce waste

The Aldi grocery store chain predominantly sells its own house brands, giving it maximum control of the packaging used. This strategy has helped win it recognition as one of the most eco-friendly grocery store chains. Target promises that, by 2040, “we plan for 100% of our owned brand products to be designed for a circular future. We will continue designing to eliminate waste, using materials that are regenerative, recycled or sourced sustainably, to create products that are more durable, easily repaired or recyclable.”

Priority 5: Reduce food waste

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 31 percent of the food supply purchased by stores and restaurants ends up in the landfill. Grocery stores may be responsible for 10% of all the waste in landfills. Food waste also contributes to greenhouse gases; if the U.S. can reduce its food waste by 50% it will eliminate 75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, too. 

Food waste has become an important issue for consumers and the subject of new government regulation. The EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy provides retailers with a road map for the prevention of waste and the management of inedible food waste. 

The hierarchy ranks food waste management activities, from best to worst:

1. Source Reduction: reduce the amount of surplus food generated
2. Feed Hungry People: donate to food banks, shelters, soup kitchens
3. Feed animals: divert scraps to animal food
4. Industrial uses: extract oil for fuel, generate energy from waste
5. Composting
6. Landfill/Incineration

Food waste reduction also pays off on the bottom line. A 2017 report from the World Resources Institute debunked the notion that food waste is an inevitable cost of doing business. Food retailers in one study earned an 8:1 ROI (for every dollar invested in waste reduction, eight dollars were earned.) But another experiment in Great Britain found that the ultimate payoff, when private and public costs were fully considered, was 94:1.

Some grocery stores now assemble boxes of imperfect produce to sell at a discount, as the UK’s Lidl does in its “Too Good to Waste” box. 

Understanding these priorities can inform the design and remodeling of stores, as well as operations, to support waste-reduction functions. Most grocery stores send food waste to outside composters, and some even sell the compost that’s created. Sustainable store design should take into consideration how best to collect, store, and move food waste.

Priority 6: Emphasize plant-based foods and humanely-produced animal products

Meat production has a negative impact on climate, as does deforestation for agriculture. A UN-backed research report concluded that the global food system is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and of that, animals produce more than half. It notes that our current system of food production depends on “inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, energy, land, and water, and on unsustainable practices such as mono-cropping and heavy tilling.” Such practices have “reduced the variety of landscapes and habitats” which have led to the extinction of native plants and animals.

Moving toward sustainably farmed, plant-based diets dramatically reduces the amount of land required to produce food and the environmentally harmful inputs. Even when plant-based proteins are substituted for animal proteins, the impact is dramatic, because so much land is required to grow animal feedstock.

Stores committed to sustainability can reduce the amount of animal products sold and ensure that their eggs, dairy, and meats are from sources that produce humanely. Most savvy consumers insist on sustainable seafood and want to understand its source. Use displays and signage to make sure you tell the sustainability story for these products.

Education and awareness are key

Sustainable grocery stores can use in-store signage, discounts, and sampling to highlight and increase awareness of the most sustainable choices. By thinking in terms of “proteins” versus “meats” a sustainable store can help shoppers understand how to incorporate grains, seeds, and nuts into their diet. 

Plant-based diets rely less on processed foods, and for time-pressed consumers, this loss of convenience can be off-putting. However, it’s an excellent opportunity for the sustainable store to teach shoppers how to use whole, organic foods free of chemicals and pesticides—not just highly processed meat substitutes. Classes and vendor events at in-store teaching kitchens can help shoppers learn to create easy, appealing, healthy meals and to prepare less-familiar foods.

Priority 7: Favor local food

A centerpiece of sustainable grocery stores is local produce. In some regions, local offerings go beyond fresh fruits and vegetables to include locally grown grains and flours, eggs, and meats. 

By reducing the amount of transportation (and refrigeration) required to get their produce to the store, the carbon footprint of food can be lowered dramatically. Most sustainable grocery stores prioritize offerings from local farmers. The definition of “local” varies widely. The 2008 Farm Bill considers a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” to be one transported up to 400 miles from its origin. However, a 2010 study by the USDA found no consistently accepted definition. 

Some sustainable grocers share the names and locations of their producers to enable shoppers to make their own, informed choices. Others provide a “local” section, or even a store-within-a-store.

Not every market area has traditionally had access to local produce, especially cities. Canadian retailer Sobeys recently partnered with Infarm, a Berlin-based ag tech company that produces food indoors, in “vertical farms”, for urban markets. The vertical farming units can grow the same amount of produce as 100,000 square feet of land. 

“Smart” greenhouses and farms housed in shipping containers are another highly efficient way to intensively grow fresh produce in areas where traditional agriculture isn’t possible, or where land is too costly. One Canadian grocery store, IGA in Montreal, grows vegetables on its 25,000 square foot green roof. Green roofs can manage rainwater runoff and are increasingly being used for hydroponic farming in urban settings.

Local food production also contributes to economic sustainability and public health, according to a 2017 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The study, Harvesting The Power of Regional Food System: Investments Opportunity to Transform Communities, found “the development of regional food systems not only contribute(s) direct economic benefits to the community, but can also open the door for improved access to healthy food and other positive outcomes that could result in improved community health and a more productive workforce.” 

Take action

It’s essential that stores communicate their sustainability efforts, while partnering with consumers on theirs. Telling your story authentically, effectively, and consistently is key. Passive communication, through displays and signage, is one important method. Is it easy for consumers to locate organic, local, humanely raised, green certified, and fair trade products in your store?

It’s equally important to make sure your employees understand your sustainability efforts and and can communicate them with confidence and ease to customers.

For companies trying to build or remodel a sustainable grocery store, or planning to make existing stores more environmentally friendly, the Grocery Stewardship Certification program can help bring that vision to reality. It was developed to provide food retailers with a comprehensive sustainability program that also reduces costs and increases revenue. 

It turns out, sustainable grocery stores can be good for the planet and profit. 

Ready to Discuss Your Sustainable Grocery Store Project? Let’s Talk!

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C-Store Design: Convenience Stores Go Upscale

Grocery brands like Albertson’s are innovating in the c-store space

New c-store design trends have yielded upmarket convenience stores featuring organic and better-for-you options, artisan coffee, craft beer and kombucha on tap.

Though convenience stores were once the last place you’d find healthy or locally produced food, this rebellious breed of neo-convenience stores is on the move throughout the US, with products updated for discerning, health-conscious consumers on the go.

Like a traditional c-store design, the footprint of this new model is small enough for urban centers or gas stations. Some neo-convenience stores are large enough to include an on-site coffee bar, bakery, cafe, or grill. Nearly all offer appealing, healthy grab-and-go food. Along with organic produce and meat, artisan cheeses, premium wines, and better-for-you options, they stock errand staples like eggs, milk, toilet paper. And you’ll find plenty of the most frequently purchased c-store item, beer. (Think craft brews, merchandised in beer caves.)

Most neo-convenience stores emphasize healthy ingredients and sustainability, which come with a higher price point. While some take a purist’s approach, others aim for “crossover” appeal, stocking traditional c-store products as well. But while these upscale upstarts don’t sell cigarettes, sugary beverages, and lottery tickets, they don’t neglect that sacred c-store staple: snack foods. The Goods Mart motto is “snack good, feel good, do good.” (The company is known for its guest-curated snack boxes, which benefit a variety of charitable and social causes.) 

Because of their small size, virtually every indy c-store brand touts a “curated” inventory. For customers overwhelmed at the prospect of wading into a 70,000 square foot supermarket to pick up a few items, the small footprint has enormous appeal. Shoppers can get in and out quickly, with just what they need, but without sacrificing quality. 

C-Stores that “Think Local” 

Portland-based Green Zebra markets were some of the first neo-convenience stores to open, in 2013

Many founders cite mom-and-pop corner stores and neighborhood bodegas as inspiration. Foxtrot Delivery Markets call themselves the “next generation corner store” and identify walkable urban corridors for their locations, which perform double duty as markets and distribution centers for their delivery business.

Portland’s Green Zebra serves “the 20-minute neighborhood” around its stores, improving access to healthy food for local shoppers. Its community-centric approach is the brainchild of its founder and CEO, natural food veteran Lisa Sedlar, the former President and CEO of New Seasons Market, an Oregon-based natural grocery store chain. 

Neo-convenience stores often cite “local-first” criteria for the products that go on their shelves. They retail locally grown fresh produce and locally made foods. Some promote the products of marginalized groups or showcase local cottage food producers. Many have a give-back strategy to support local nonprofits. 

C-store Design that Delivers Distinctive Customer Experiences

Traditional c-store interiors were designed to help customers find things fast and get on their way while maximizing impulse purchases; they resembled fast-food franchises. Neo-convenience stores use design to build their brands and tell stories. From store fixtures to signage to merchandising methods, most express a distinct point of view.  

Denver-based Choice Market, which sells fuel, employs a simple aesthetic at its four locations. With sans-serif signage, subway tile, and functional fixtures, the stores’ designs appeal to minimalism-loving Millennials. 

Foxtrot Markets evoke the cozy, hang-out vibe of a coffeehouse. Store designs feature airy spaces, good-mood playlists, and furniture that encourages lingering–despite the fact that delivery accounts for half its revenues. The company is not afraid to experiment with formats; Foxtrot’s Lincoln Park location is a hybrid corner store and ice cream shop that showcases Jeni’s, a local-favorite brand.

Green Zebra store formats employ a warm, unpretentious aesthetic and earthy materials like wood and colorful ceramic tile to deliver a friendly and welcoming feel to its Portland neighborhoods.

The Other C-store Fuel: Coffee

An excellent coffee program attracts a daily following, and many neo-c-stores have taken a page from the specialty coffee shop industry. A popular offering is an in-store coffee bar, replete with free wi-fi. 

Alltown Fresh touts its Swiss-made bean-to-cup machines, as well as its organic, fair trade coffee, single-origin coffees, and small-batch roasting. Tennessee c-store chain Twice Daily is making a move toward neo-convenience, rolling out a White Bison-branded specialty coffee bar with sleek, state-of-the-art Modbar under-counter machines. 

Sheetz exhorts customers to “Ditch the Coffee Shop” and features hand-made espresso beverages created on Italian espresso machines, made in the store, to order.

Choice Markets feature a Method coffee bar. At The Goods Mart in New York, which describes itself as “a better-for-you, socially conscious neighborhood convenience store”, the vision is to “make the store accessible to everyone by democratizing the products we carry.” The store offers a $1.25 cup of gourmet coffee. 

Niche to Mass Market

But the neo-convenience phenomenon is not limited to independent, boutique brands. Alltown Fresh is actually a new concept from Global Partners, a $12.6 billion public company that owns close to 300 c-stores, and owns or leases 1,600 gas stations. Its portfolio of traditional convenience store brands includes Xtra Mart, Honey Farms, T Bird, and Jiffy Mart. 

Global Partners CEO Eric Slifka realized his healthy lifestyle and plant-based food choices were not available in the convenience sector, so the company developed a new concept. Alltown Fresh describes itself as a “chef-driven, handcrafted kitchen and local market.” Though fresh food normally comprises just 10% of c-store sales, at Alltown Fresh it drives 75% of revenues. For the customer who dashes in for a soda and a bag of chips, standard packaged fare is still on offer. 

Alltown Fresh stores are co-located with gas stations and designed to appeal to travelers and people on the move. Offerings include fresh blended smoothies, kombucha on tap, and fair trade specialty “bean to cup” coffee. The chef-driven menu caters to a wide range of dietary needs and includes many plant-based options. Healthy breakfast sandwiches and fresh salads are some of its most popular choices. Meal kits and catering are part of the lineup, expanding the definition of what makes a c-store “convenient.” The company has rolled out over 70 stores, all on the East Coast. 

800-store Wawa, which has an extensive restaurant program, is now augmenting it with healthier and premium offerings. Sheetz and Casey’s offer fresh options along with made-to-order hot food and in-store dining. Chevron’s Extra Mile has developed an updated store format that includes healthier options like kombucha and fresh grab-and-go selections.

Grocery brands are also entering the c-store space. Boise-based Albertsons has opened seven fuel-driven Albertsons Express markets with updated c-store offerings, including premium wines and a beer cave. 

Grocery giant Hyvee has entered the c-store fray with Fast & Fresh. These stores have a larger footprint than most c-stores. The layout features traditional convenience products on the left; on the right is a dizzying array of fresh offerings. 

Befitting its mission as a “mealtime solution store,” there are abundant grab-and-go options, including chef-prepared meals from its in-house Commissary, meal kits, a “take and bake” section, and a “short cut” section with prepped ingredients. The company’s Mia Pizza anchors the center rear of the store, offering freshly-baked, customizable 6-minute pizzas, with dough made each day in-store. Fast & Fresh locations are often co-located with a Starbucks, but the stores sell coffee too. And drawing on its core competency in the grocery sector, “Aisles on Line” enables customers to place online orders for groceries from Hyvee that are delivered to lockers inside the Fast & Fresh. 

7-Eleven is poised to attract affluent, environmentally-conscious customers with the installation of 500 new charging stations for electric vehicles. The convenience store chain has developed a 6,000-square-foot concept called  7-Eleven Lab Store, which includes a Laredo Taco Company serving up freshly prepared salsas, carne guisada, carnitas, and even house-made tortillas. It also offers kombucha, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, and organic groceries.

No discussion of c-store disruption would be complete without the mention of Amazon Go c-stores. The company claims its small-footprint urban stores offer “true grab-and-go”, thanks to Amazon’s frictionless, cashierless Just Walk Out technology. There are 30 stores with locations open or announced in New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and London. 

The Future of Convenience

The neo-convenience sector is still a fertile zone for startups. Whether rural, suburban, or urban, most communities throughout the US are still without enough options for healthy, convenient food. Entrepreneurs with a unique vision can take advantage of the relatively small footprint of these stores to pilot unique concepts and roll them out quickly. 

But one of the most intriguing opportunities lies in rethinking how fuel and food are combined as a retail offering. The immense “installed base” of existing convenience stores offers a remarkable opportunity to attract new, upscale customers–and improve the quality of life for the communities these brands serve.

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The technology eliminating grocery store checkout lines

A smartphone displaying the Scan and Go app from Futureproof Retail
The Scan and Go app from Futureproof Retail

The pandemic pushed more consumers than ever into the online shopping pool, as even technology-resistant customers adopted and then embraced new tools. Rather than a reflexive return to old behaviors, shoppers are integrating new habits and applying new standards to their brick-and-mortar shopping experience. 

Retailers are scrambling to innovate, seeking to deliver the “frictionless” customer journey provided by e-commerce behemoths like Amazon and WalMart.

According to a poll by rewards app Shopkick, 60% of consumers believe that the pandemic has changed their shopping behavior permanently. That same poll confirmed that many shoppers continue to be concerned about safety while shopping in-store. 

BOPIS (Buy online, pick up in store) exploded during the pandemic, with 85% of consumers reporting increased use of this option. The idea of standing in a queue to purchase groceries seems antiquated to many shoppers. 

Contactless shopping has its limits; with 20% of in-store grocery sales made on impulse, getting consumers back inside is a top priority. 

As well, grocery stores are still trying to work out a way to pick and pack customer orders that doesn’t disrupt the in-store customer experience (or the bottom line). Some, like Kroger’s, have set up “dark” stores that function as customer-free mini-warehouses, to keep employees (and workers from outside services like InstaCart) from congesting the aisles of their stores. 

The checkout line choke point 

Patience is in short supply as the economy re-opens, with social media awash in videos of customers behaving badly. Stick points that were once a grudgingly-accepted part of the in-store shopping experience are creating unexpected, outsize frustrations and reducing customer satisfaction. 

Even pre-pandemic, according to a 2018 study by payment platform Adyen, long checkout lines were costing US retailers $37.7M annually in lost sales. The checkout experience, the least enjoyable part of virtually any customer journey, continues to be a ripe target for innovation

High touch retail stores like Apple and Bonobos have led the way in eliminating the traditional checkstand by bringing the POS system to the customer. (You may have to stand in line to check in to an Apple store, but you won’t have to stand in long lines to check out.) 

Ayden offers a single payments platform that enables retailers to accept payments anywhere, on any device, including web browsers, mobile devices and cash register systems. This permits retailers to offer an “on demand” POS at the optimal point in a customer journey, and to enable more store employees to function as cashiers. 

As retailers go omnichannel, systems like this can also smoothly integrate online and offline shopping experiences within a brand. 

Going cashierless: a tale of two technologies

While contactless payments and mobile wallets are now standard, true cashierless transactions are still in their infancy. 

Amazon threw down the cashierless checkout gauntlet when they introduced their Amazon Go convenience stores in 2017. The company’s Just Walk Out system leverages advanced technology used in autonomous vehicles, including, per Amazon, “sensor fusion, computer vision and deep learning”. 

Customers don’t need to download an app or have an Amazon account to use Just Walk Out to buy groceries. As they enter the store their method of payment is scanned; as they shop, items taken from the shelves are added to their virtual cart. If an item is returned to the shelf, it’s removed from the shopper’s cart. To exit, shoppers must re-scan their QR code, their palm, or the card used at entry. 

But Just Walk Out has not been without its detractors. “Computer vision” was quickly understood to mean “lots of high-resolution surveillance cameras”, and Amazon faced a backlash from consumers who felt the system posed a threat to their privacy. 

On June 17, 2021, Amazon premiered its first Fresh full-size grocery store that utilizes both traditional payment and the Just Walk Out technology at The Marketplace at Factoria in Bellevue, Washington. 

In 2020, Amazon also opened a full-size Fresh store in California that employs Amazon’s Dash Cart technology. Dash Cart enables shoppers to bypass checkout lines when buying up to two bags of groceries. 

Just Walk Out technology is not limited to Amazon, and is being licensed to other retailers as well. Installing the technology in an existing store can take several weeks. For new store construction or remodels, that company recommends that Just Walk Out be integrated into grocers’ store design. 

Future proof your business

Store signage for self checkout at Quarry Park Market
Self-checkout areas deserve an upgrade

For retailers who’d like the benefits of self-service, cashierless checkout but are reluctant to adopt expensive, infrastructure-intensive technology, FutureProof Retail offers the Scan & Go solution. Future Proof Retail collaborated with SIRL, leveraging the company’s proprietary indoor GPS technology to produce a “last foot” shopping solution for use with smartphones. 

The Scan & Go app integrates with virtually any standard point of sale technology and enables shoppers to scan and bag items as they move through the store, view a running total–including discounts–and check out, using their phone. In-store kiosks are an additional option for providing a seamless customer experience. There is a multi-layered loss prevention system, and the app can also make “smart” recommendations, based on the customer’s purchases. For example, someone purchasing tortilla chips may receive a recommendation for the store’s house-brand salsa, a high-margin item. 

Scan & Go includes a final scan of a QR code at the store’s self-checkout area to finalize payment and receive an “exit pass”. At this self-checkout counter, consumers can utilize any method of payment, including credit cards, debit cards, or cash; paper receipts or digital receipts can be issued. The exit pass process enables random auditing of bags, alcohol ID check, and interactions with staff. (Stores have the option of eliminating this step for true instantaneous checkout.) Even with human interaction required, wait time can be reduced.

Scan & Go can be integrated into a convenience store in its “Compact” solution for $75 per month per location plus 1.5% per transaction. The recommended “Standard” solution for grocery stores is $250 per month per location plus a maximum of .22% per transaction; the percentage drops with volume. The Standard solution includes white label customization and API access options as well as full deployment assistance and a dedicated Adoption Success Manager. 

Scan & Go is being utilized by a variety of retailers, and a version has been implemented at WalMart as part of its subscription WalMart+ program. Traditional cashier checkout and Scan & Go was recently compared in a review by Business Insider. The reviewer concluded that traditional cashier checkout was faster when the store wasn’t busy, when purchases included produce that needed to be weighed, or when customers purchased alcohol, which requires an ID check. 

While the review was based on the experiences of one shopper making just two identical purchases, it did highlight an inescapable reality of DIY barcode scanning: the shopping experience slows somewhat even as the checkout experience accelerates. 

But because long checkout lines produce such powerful negative emotions in consumers, this “redistribution” of time spent in-store can still yield higher customer satisfaction. As well, the increased interactivity and personalization provided by the app can produce higher totals at checkout. 

While Scan & Go effectively turns customers into cashiers by having them scan barcodes themselves, Just Walk Out is a faster, virtually frictionless solution. Speed and ease come at a price of course, and retailers will have to determine which type of approach delivers the best ROI for their business model. 

Rethinking checkout will change new store design and store remodels

By reducing the square footage of their store dedicated to checkout stands, retailers can win back valuable selling space, and potentially create a more compelling entry experience for their customers. 

One downside: checkout stand impulse purchases, especially the “power categories” of beverages, magazines and confectionery, are a significant driver of store sales and profit, and ensuring that those buying opportunities still exist is a cashier-less grocery store design imperative. 

Consumers who are no longer idling in a traditional checkstand line may actually avail themselves of impulse purchases that they might not have made under the gaze of their fellow shoppers, provided those items are placed in the flow of their newly streamlined shopping experience. 

King Retail Solutions recently developed a new self-checkout design for a major retailer and a CPG company that leverages this very opportunity. The engaging self-checkout pod created by the KRS design team provides impulse sales opportunities but also offers more privacy than standard self-checkout stations.

“We developed these new store fixtures to transform the final touchpoint in the customer journey to something experiential, rather than transactional,” notes Farrah Potter, EVP of Creative Services for KRS. “But they still ensure the most efficient use of floor space and labor. It’s a win-win.” 

As the cashierless trend takes hold, the look and feel of Checkout 2.0 will continue to evolve.  One thing is certain: the frictionless shopping experience consumers enjoy online will continue to drive innovation in brick-and-mortar store design. 

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Will Ghost Kitchens Replace Grocery Store Self-Serve?

Kitchen inside of a grocery store.

As part of their grab-and-go offerings, many grocery stores offer shoppers hot food counters and salad bars. Yet with continuously evolving consumer needs and preferences, this might be a thing of the past.

Of course, people still want the convenience of prepared food, but self-serve models may no longer be the preferred choice for consumers. So, what’s next? Some signs point to ghost kitchens. The grocery store design consultants at King Retail Solutions are here to offer helpful insight into this trend.

What Is a Ghost Kitchen?

A ghost kitchen is essentially a facility where food is prepped and cooked for paying customers (not unlike a restaurant kitchen). Unlike restaurants, food carts, and drive-thrus, most ghost kitchens don’t have a dining area, takeout window, or storefront. Customers never see the inside because they only offer delivered food.

Why Some Supermarkets Are Implementing Ghost Kitchens

Since a ghost kitchen isn’t supposed to be seen by customers, it could theoretically go anywhere, including inside a supermarket. As grocery store layouts adjust to the changing demands (and appetites) of shoppers, many owners are considering implementing on-premise ghost kitchens. What’s in it for them? There are a few reasons why grocers are embracing the trend.

-Supermarket owners can charge rent for the space used by restaurants.

-Store owners can continue profiting off of hot food sales, even if the kitchen is branded as something else.

Deli counter inside of grocery store.

-Kitchens are inclined to buy ingredients and supplies from the grocery store.

It’s not just the grocery stores that profit, either. Building ghost kitchens inside grocery stores is a win-win, providing ample benefits to restaurant owners.

-By cooking food in densely populated markets, cafes are likely to see a spike in delivery orders.

-Forgoing a storefront and dining room means eateries can save money on renting or buying real estate in a popular area.

-Catering to the demands of modern consumers and saving money on real estate puts restaurants in a good position to expand.

While it’s tough to predict exactly where food trends are going, ghost kitchens seem to be a safe bet for grocers and restaurants, especially with flexible agreements.

What This Means for Grocery Store Design

Pivoting to a ghost kitchen model might seem simple enough—people were already cooking back there, after all. However, successfully implementing the change will require some critical thinking and the careful planning of the grocery store’s layout and design.

Textbook Ghost Kitchen

You can choose to take a straightforward approach in which customers order food from the ghost kitchen just like they would any other restaurant. In that case, you’d rely on meal delivery apps or an internal team to get the food to people’s doorsteps.

Integrated Approach

Alternatively, you could integrate the service by way of a one-stop-shop model. Whether on their smartphones or through a strategically placed kiosk, shoppers can order food from the ghost kitchen and bring their takeout home. For this model, you’d need to have some sort of pickup window.

In any case, the concept should be thoroughly fleshed out to ensure it’ll be profitable for all parties involved. KRS has a keen understanding of the continuously blurring lines between grocery and prepared food services, and we can help you connect the dots.

KRS: Your Resource for Grocery Store Design, Layout, and Planning Services

Overhauling your store (or even a portion of your store) calls for custom retail interior design. The team at KRS can help your supermarket create a layout that works for the unique needs of your business, as well as nearby consumers and any restaurants involved. From design and planning to fabrication, installation, and retail decor, we do it all.

Contact us at King Retail Solutions to learn more about what we can do for your supermarket or restaurant.

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This is Why Checkout Lines Need to Be on the Move

Self service checkout

Technology is continuously changing the way people buy food and other everyday goods. Digital advancements make transactions not only faster but also more accessible from remote locations. Shoppers feel the need for speed and have come to expect quick transactions.

The checkout stand, in particular, appears to be a point of frustration for the modern consumer. According to a survey, almost half of shoppers will abandon their purchase and leave a store after waiting in line for just 30 seconds. These behavioral shifts have an immense impact on how c-stores and supermarkets operate.

Here’s what owners should know to protect their bottom lines, including what to expect from the future of c-store layout design and grocery store space planning.

Why the Hurry?

As consumerism has largely moved online, people are used to being able to find and purchase items with a few clicks. As e-commerce evolves, consumers are presented with new ways to shop nearly every day.

While many grocery and convenience stores only sell partially online (or not at all), their tech-focused customers still expect a modernized, efficient, continuously optimized experience. If people can buy the same or similar items faster somewhere else (including on their smartphones), there’s a good chance they’ll do it. The digital world moves quickly, and stores have to keep up to stay afloat

How Retail Store Space Planning Optimizes the In-Store Experience

So, what can store owners do? Most importantly, they should amp up the brick-and-mortar checkout experience. Space planning can go a long way in minimizing waits, which can encourage shoppers to stay in line.

The Shift to Self-Checkout

Self-checkout isn’t exactly a new technology, but it’s becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, nearly 60% of shoppers said they’d remain in line and finish their purchase if there was a self-checkout option.

It’s important to note, though, that younger customers are more inclined to utilize self-checkout, whereas older shoppers prefer traditional employee-led transactions. 

At this point, it’s a good idea to keep some traditional checkout stations to accommodate older customers. Plus, self-checkout lines can get notably long, too, which might lead to resentful shoppers. It’s all about finding the right ratio for your layout and implementing an adaptive design.

The Future of C-Store Design

  • What’s in store for the convenience market in the near future? The trends we’re seeing include:
  • Contactless payment to accommodate customers who prefer a touchless shopping experience
  • Curbside pickup to accommodate shoppers who want to order online and remain outside
  • Integrated drive-thrus for online orders, hot food, and grab-and-go items
  • Partnering with delivery apps like Uber Eats and GrubHub to offer remote fulfillment

Creating innovative c-store designs is what we do best here at King Retail Solutions. Our knowledgeable team can evaluate your short- and long-term goals to come up with a plan that meets your needs while taking into account the evolving demands of your customers.

The Future of Grocery Store Design

If there’s one thing most supermarkets struggle with today, it’s slow checkout lines. However, many are remedying the issue by embracing technology. Here’s what we can expect from grocery stores in the near future:

  • Modular layouts that adapt to the evolving needs and demands of shoppers, such as portable checkout stations and moveable kiosks
  • Expanded grab-and-go offerings in checkout lines and on aisle caps to compete with c-stores
  • Minimized employee-led and increased customer-led checkout offerings
  • Curbside pickup for customers who want to order online and stay outside
  • In-store smartphone purchases to eliminate the checkout line altogether

KRS offers a wide range of innovative grocery store design solutions that balance the real-world needs of consumers with your bottom line.

Retail Store Interior Design and Planning from KRS

Traditional checkout counters aren’t quite obsolete, and yet they may not need to take up as much space as they once did. If you’re ready to modernize your store with an adaptable layout, the custom retail interior design specialists at KRS are at your service.

With a finger on the pulse of c-store and supermarket trends, we know what goes into effective, profitable convenience and grocery store layouts. From planning and design to fabrication and implementation, we do it all.

Contact KRS to learn more about what we do and find out how we can optimize your in-store design.

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What Does it Take for C-Stores to Successfully Implement a Drive-Thru?

Albertsons Express Store Front

Convenience stores and drive-thrus have been a staple of American food service for well over half a century. However, combining the two is a relatively new concept that’s taken off recently, in part because of the ways consumerism has evolved.

When people think of c-stores, they don’t typically imagine drive-up windows. Yet in today’s world—with curbside pickup, delivery, and other modern amenities—drive-thru c-stores make a lot of sense. Consumers appreciate the convenience of not having to get out of their cars or even park to pick up food and other essentials. After all, what are convenient stores, if not convenient?

The addition can be incredibly profitable for owners too. It makes c-stores stand out in an increasingly competitive market and can boost revenue by making it easier for people to buy food. So, what does it take to implement drive-thru services at your c-store? The concept and design experts at King Retail Solutions are here to break it down for you.

Site Surveying

At first glance, a drive-thru window might seem like a small addition, but it’s actually a relatively major overhaul to a convenience store. For this reason, site surveying is a crucial first step. A site survey involves mapping, measuring, and recording all interior and exterior aspects of a space. 

Photos will be taken during a walk-through, and a planning team will review the original blueprints of the site, plus any previous updates. Since site surveying can be a complex process, we recommend partnering with an experienced firm like KRS.

Updated Indoor/Outdoor Layout

Interior Layout of Jacksons Convenience Store

Drive-thrus rely on both interior and exterior components to make their services run smoothly and successfully. You have to implement changes on the outside of your store to allow traffic to move through your drive-up lane. On top of that, your indoor setup has to accommodate the update while ensuring efficiency.

While some models work better than others, there’s no one-size-fits-all layout for drive-thru convenience stores. Whether you’re offering hot food, coffee, snacks, drinks, or all of the above, your space will need to account for these offerings while saving time and keeping the line moving. KRS will work with you on updating your interior layout and design in a way that makes sense for your business.

Signage and Menus

Signage and menus are essential. If you’re thinking of including fast-food offerings or implementing a drive-up service for convenience store items.

This includes exterior signs to coax customers in and direct the flow of traffic, as well as bright and visible menus displaying all your offerings. LED signs, digital displays, window clings, and banners are great, too, as they help with attracting people and directing them on where to go.

KRS can assist with all aspects of signage and menu design for your c-store drive-thru. We’ll integrate branding opportunities at every point of your customer’s experience: before they pull in, as they’re driving up, while they order, and on the way out.

Partner with an Award-Winning C-Store Retail Store Layout & Design Company

Working with an expert c-store design firm is key in successfully implementing a drive-thru. At KRS, we take care of many aspects of your project under one roof, streamlining the process and ensuring seamless execution.

We help convenience store owners adapt to the continuously evolving needs and desires of shoppers. Our knowledgeable and experienced team can help you plan, design, and implement an innovative interior design that will support your drive-thru needs. 

Contact King Retail Solutions today to find out what we can do for your c-store design.

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5 Ways C-Store Design is Meeting the Needs of Grocery Shoppers

Convenience store exterior view

While the coronavirus pandemic has changed some aspects of retailing, grocery access remains essential. As shoppers try to limit the time they spend in crowded public spaces, they’ve turned to convenience stores to fill some of their needs.

With this in mind, c-store owners are rethinking their layouts and offerings to align with consumers’ changing behaviors and desires. Read on for a breakdown of the best convenience store design strategies for competing in an ever-evolving market.

Convenience Store Design Trends for 2021 and Beyond

King Retail Solutions specializes in optimized convenience store layouts, fixtures, and concepts that combine the best of both grocery and c-store environments. Some of the most effective retail trends in c-store design include touchless shopping, curbside pickup, drive-thrus, elevated food offerings, and delivery services. Here’s what you should know about adopting these ideas.

Touchless Shopping

Contactless services were a cornerstone of retailing in 2020. Touchless shopping experiences are a big part of this trend, and modern convenience store design is smart to embrace it. Adopting the strategy might involve motion-activated entrances, foot pulls for refrigerator doors, and contactless payment options, all of which KRS can help you design.

Curbside Pickup

C-stores have always filled in the gaps for grocery store offerings. However, as we mentioned, the current market has supermarkets competing with c-stores more than ever before.

In addition, many convenience stores are now offering curbside pickup to accommodate the needs of shoppers who may wish to remain outside. Whether for safety or convenience, consumers appreciate the option to purchase items online and pick them up without getting out of their cars.

Drive-Thru Services

Drive-thrus accounted for a striking 42% of all restaurant visits in 2020. Realizing drive-up windows don’t have to be limited to fast food and pharmacy services, some c-stores are implementing the concept into their layouts.

Your convenient store drive-thru can include pickup services for online orders. Customers can also pull up and request grab-and-go items without ordering ahead. KRS is seasoned in convenience store design, and we can help you strategize and create a drive-thru to meet the needs of shoppers and encourage repeat visits.

Elevated Food Offerings

Convenience store specialty food area

While some restaurants closed in 2020, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic heightened the desire for comfort food. People cooked more at home, but it didn’t erase the need for premade hot meals.

Aside from convenience and safety, this might have something to do with the uptick in drive-thru visits. C-stores have elevated their hot food offerings to meet increased demands for ready-made or ready-to-cook meals.

KRS has experience designing compelling convenience stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. Additionally, we’re well-versed in blurring the lines between these categories. Our award-winning c-store concepts include optimized hot food sections, refrigerated offerings with meal kits and ready-to-bake foods, and connected eateries for a one-stop-shop experience.

Delivery

In 2021, consumers want convenience. Though curbside pickup and drive-thrus help meet this need, what’s more convenient than having an order delivered right to your door? 

In line with grocery stores and fast-food chains, many c-stores are introducing delivery services. Partnering with apps like GrubHub and UberEats is a great way to evolve with the changing market. KRS can help you design a store that accommodates both shoppers and delivery drivers for safe, convenient, and efficient fulfillment.

Optimized C-Store Design from King Retail Solutions

King Retail Solutions is proud to offer innovative C-store solutions that account for the continuously changing real-world needs of shoppers. Our experienced and knowledgeable team can help you meet your short- and long-term goals while adhering to your budget and driving sales.

Unlike many other convenience store design companies, we can assist with every step of your project. From conceptualization and design to manufacturing and installation, our services cover all components of your reimagined interior and exterior layout.

Contact KRS today to find out how we can optimize your c-store design.

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4 Purchasing Behaviors Retailers Must Adapt to in 2021

Woman Stressed While Grocery Shopping

Consumer purchasing patterns continue to evolve and retailers must be poised to pivot and meet the needs of their clientele. What’s trending now? Purchasing patterns show a need for convenience, an uptick in impulse buying, an increased appetite for comfort food, and a desire for safety.

Purchasing Patterns to Look Out for in 2021

Here’s what c-store and supermarket owners should know about these changes and what adjustments they can make to accommodate shoppers’ wants and needs.

Coveted Convenience

In order to feel safe when buying food and other necessities, consumers need convenience. They don’t want to spend a lot of time inside stores—that is, if they enter at all—and are seeking alternative ways to acquire their meals and groceries.

Impulse Buying

Though a lot of shoppers want to get in and get out as quickly as possible, heightened anxiety might also make them more prone to impulse buying. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that making purchases can actually alleviate feelings of sadness. In today’s world, a majority of “retail therapy” occurs online, but stressed consumers also make impulse purchases in person, often at grocery stores and c-stores.

An Appetite for Comfort Food

It’s called “comfort food” for a reason. Many eateries closed in 2020, and a call for social distancing led more people to cook meals at home. However, widespread feelings of uncertainty may have increased people’s appetites for warm, tasty, prepared food.

A Desire for Safety

The word most often used to describe the coronavirus pandemic is “uncertainty.” For many, the future of work, school, and housing are ambiguous. Many people have lingering anxiety and depression regarding social gathering restrictions and, of course, the fear of contracting the virus.

All this uneasiness has contributed to a few notable changes in consumer behaviors over the past year. After all, what we buy, save, eat, and stash away is closely related to our current emotional state and feelings about the future.

Writing for Psychology Today, Utpal Dholakia Ph.D. explains, “When we are anxious, we naturally seek comfort and control over the situation.” The coronavirus has not only spiked stress levels but also presented consumers with very real health dangers. Understandably, this combination has led to an increased desire for safety at all times, including when shopping for essentials.

Whole Foods Personal Care Aisle

Address Consumer Needs With Your Retail Store’s Layout Design

So, what can store owners do to make shoppers feel safer and more comfortable while taking into account their increased yearnings for convenience and comfort food? Aside from enhanced food offerings, it comes down to providing consumers with more ways to shop and adjusting store layouts to optimize these features. 

More Ways to Shop

Modern retail space planning should allow for multiple ways to buy food. This includes traditional shopping and buying goods inside a store, as well as curbside pickup and delivery options.

Efficient In-Store Experiences

Offering consumers more ways to shop addresses the desire for both safety and convenience. Store owners can take this a step further by creating a more efficient in-store experience.

This might involve optimizing traffic flow, implementing easy-access areas with essentials, and honing in on self-checkout options. The right retail decor and signage can guide these features and help shoppers feel more comfortable in the store.

C-Stores and Grocery Stores Turn to KRS for Innovative Solutions

At KRS, we’re seasoned in planning and implementing innovative solutions for supermarkets and convenience stores. Not only that, but we have substantial experience blurring the lines between the two while incorporating other aspects, like drive-thrus, outdoor eating areas, and ready-to-bake food sections. Our team knows the ins and outs of retail decor too. From design to fabrication and installation, we do it all.

Get in touch with us at KRS to find out how we can optimize your supermarket or c-store design.

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How is Technology Affecting Store Design in 2021?

Smiling man using a mobile phone.

Technology is constantly changing the way people shop, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. These shifts in consumer behavior are having a profound effect on grocery and c-stores. 

Adaptable retailers stand to reap long-term benefits. Layout and design changes can make a significant impact on shopping behavior and your store’s bottom line. These adjustments don’t have to be dramatic to be effective. Learn how retailers can implement tech-informed design changes to help their stores thrive in 2021 and beyond.

E-Commerce Brings Focus to Store Exteriors

Due to the growth of e-commerce during the coronavirus pandemic, a good first step is to rethink the areas outside your store. Look to carve out ample space for motorists and pedestrians to pick up online orders. This could mean blocking out additional room for drivers to retrieve their orders and creating a designated section for people to queue up on foot. 

What’s more, technology now allows for even more creativity in the BOPIS realm. Retailers can build high-tech, high-volume pickup stations near their storefronts. These include staging facilities, walls of lockers, order retrieval towers that function like vending machines, and drive-throughs. 

In fact, pandemic-fueled online shopping is turning the drive-through window into a design staple. Retailers can add these low-contact pickup points to fulfill almost any kind of online order. A pharmacy window might multitask fulfilling BOPIS grocery and sundry orders. Grocers may even consider building an additional window to meet this increase in atypical drive-through demand. 

Don’t forget that your storefront encourages people to come inside to shop, and that still matters. Exterior design elements like lighting, graphics, visual merchandising, and custom displays around the exterior and at the entrance enhance curb appeal and can help inform shoppers of sales and more, encouraging in-store shopping.

Signage, both exterior and interior, plays a key role in helping pandemic shoppers navigate your retail space and feel safe as they do so. Customer path revisions may need to start outside the store, and lead the way inside.

How Tech Trends Influence Retail Interiors 

A drone used for retail design.

Interior design in 2021 is all about enhancing the “click and mortar” experience for your customers. E-commerce has become the norm and shoppers demand its convenience even in retail settings. Here are some ways you can use tech-informed design to meet these shifting consumer needs.

Apps

Retailers like Walmart use store decor to reinforce their apps. Signage incorporates the app’s logo, typeface, and colors. Store section signs reflect the simple navigation cues seen on a mobile device. All of this reminds shoppers to download and utilize the retailer’s app.

Bots and Drones

Drones fly overhead and assess inventory. Chatbots direct in-store shoppers to find desired items. Data from these devices can be analyzed to reveal what items consumers want most, in a process known as machine learning. Retailers can use this information to display those high-demand products in parts of their stores where they gain more visibility and thus increase sales. 

Shelving

Sensors and RFID tags can detect when shoppers pick up an item off a store shelf. This helps retailers track inventory and keep high-demand products in stock. Those same shelves might also feature electronic LED displays along their edges, scrolling user reviews and other product information that influences shopping decisions. Grocery and c-store retailers can add these features to existing store shelves, bumping up the value of a potentially overlooked space.

How Important is Contactless Checkout at Grocery and C-Stores?

Due to the pandemic, 87% of shoppers prefer stores with contactless or self-checkout options. Retailers can adapt store layouts to meet these demands. For instance, removing checkout lines that require cashiers and baggers and replacing them with self-checkout stations helps your store appeal to customers wary about the safety of face-to-face interactions. Customer path adjustments help them find their way to these new options while remaining socially distanced.

Some stores are going one step further and offering mobile self-checkout, so shoppers can pay using their phone as they leave the store. Walmart and Target employ sales staff to manage sales on the floor. Employees carry handheld scanners so shoppers can checkout wherever and whenever they’re ready. 

These changes are leading to store designs with less emphasis on traditional checkout, instead shifting toward digital payments. An experienced environmental design firm can help you seamlessly implement interior and exterior design solutions that support tech-influenced shopping behaviors. 

King Retail Solutions Provides Tech-Informed Retail Design

Look to King Retail Solutions to handle every step of your project. From design to fabrication to installation, we are your full-service retail interior and exterior experts. Check out our work and contact us to see how we can help your store adapt to meet new buying behaviors.

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