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Industry Spotlight: How digital technology is influencing fast food retail design…

Fast food is getting faster and good use of digital has become an essential component in growing and driving its success. Robert Rosser, creative director of retail design agency, Studio Tait, explains more

The fast food industry continues to flourish. With ever busier lifestyles, people are less willing to cook for themselves, and are attracted to fast food for its affordability. Meanwhile the quality and diversity of fast food keeps improving, with leading brands like McDonald’s adapting their offering to focus more on health and quality.

The gap is also closing between fast food and casual dining restaurants, following the growth of ‘fast casual’ brands like Five Guys, Wahaca and Leon.

With these changes, expectations have risen – customers want great service, quality food and a memorable experience in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Today, the design of fast food restaurants needs to achieve this while removing the perception of ‘fast and cheap’.

In this evolution, using technology to enhance the customer experience has been key, with almost every fast food brand embracing digital in some respect. Merging digital and physical worlds helps to strengthen branding and experience, while at a fast food outlet, but also interactions beyond that.

Choosing your destination and food before you go

You can now use your desktop or phone to locate your nearest preferred food outlet, and easily share details to meet up with friends. Websites and apps can also let you know about the latest daily specials or offers before you visit, starting the experience before you’ve even arrived.

Brands like Burger King and Subway have invested in pre-ordering services, where you can place your order via a phone app or online so the food is ready and waiting when you arrive. 

Improving the ordering process in store 

When inside the physical fast food outlet, you don’t just queue, order and collect your food in one go anymore. Instead there are fast lanes where you your order is taken as at a delicatessen. New digital terminals that combine ordering and payment are also making purchases more efficient and convenient. 

McDonald’s has introduced interactive self-serve kiosks, seen in the new London Oxford Street branch that opened this summer. These giant phone screen terminals allow you to place your order, and even customise your burger, while avoiding the queues. You can also explore more detailed information about calories, nutrition and ingredients. 

Personalised menus and offers here can also enhance the in-store experience. In France this can include placing your order using the kiosk, taking a ticket and your seat and waiting for your meal to be served direct to your table. 

Using digital signage to engage customers 

Whether it’s ordering at a kiosk or serving counter, diners needs to understand the offer immediately to order quickly and reduce dwell time. Use of effective communication graphics is key here, and digital signage is more engaging and flexible than static printed graphics.

In this fast-paced environment, menus change frequently so digital signage can keep information up to speed. It allows you to update content quickly and remotely at any time and promote new or change under-performing products on the fly. 

The high resolution screens make the branding and food images look more enticing, plus changing content or motion video on the display is more engaging, entertaining customers while they wait. Digital screens can also convey the readiness of the ordered food items in real time.

Creating a relaxed, welcoming environment

As much as speed and convenience are important to some diners, other consumers want a place to meet, chat and relax where food is just part of the experience. So fast food interior design is increasingly creating more warmth and integrity. From the wholesome looking greens and natural materials in McDonald’s to the eclectic interior design of independents such as Love Koffee who’ve used Indian bicycle wheels as light fittings and reclaimed doors used as wall coverings. 

Seating options are more varied and flexible, combining sofa lounge areas, high tables to perch on and intimate booths. Adjustable lighting and curated music playlists are digitally-led ways to adjust the mood to match certain times of the day. 

Providing the ability to charge your mobile phone, is another way Fast Food retailers are using everyday requirements to tempt customers into their stores and make a purchase, customers are now entering these dwell areas not even for the retailers primary or secondary offer but to ensure their mobiles are fully charged and they are able to stay online while on the move.

Keeping diners happy and entertained

As digital devices are increasingly present at home, so they are in restaurant spaces. Some of the latest fast food fit-outs have fixed tablet devices on tables, allowing diners to game, chat or read the news while they stop for a bite to eat.

For child-friendly outlets, colouring books are being replaced with electronic tablets, games or activities to keep families entertained. Play zones with interactive projections and screens keeping kids happy beyond the meal.

Free wifi is also a must and food retailers can use this service to collect consumer data that can then enhance their experience and attract diners back.

Exploring home delivery

In the fast-food world, the culture of take away and drive-through remains, but the desire for home delivery has increased dramatically with mobile apps enabling food to be ordered at the touch of a button. 

The rise of third-party online ordering portals such as Deliveroo and Just Eat, means fast food chains are exploring home delivery options. Burger King began trialling home delivery in 2015 with a national rollout expected, while Pizza Express is looking at opening 150 delivery sites over the next five years.

What’s clear is that whether it’s dining in, taking away or home delivery, fast food retail design needs to achieve a consistent and holistic experience with a high level of service. The use of various digital tools to help achieve that is only likely to increase.

If you would like to find out a little more about how we can help you improve your in-store customer experience, please give Studio Tait a call on 01582 460990 or visit


Robert Rosser is creative director at Tait working across retail, brand & hospitality design. He takes an innovative and commercial approach with clients to develop store concepts, from strategy, environment to communication. Robert works closely with teams to ensure successful interpretation of a client’s brief is delivered from concept to reality. His client list includes Topshop, Primark, The Crown Estate, Sainsbury’s, Harrods, River Island, John Lewis & Gap.

Guest Blog, Tom Mankin: The reality of working in a family retail business…

The differences between family and non-family retail businesses may seem subtle from a customer’s perspective. After all, both kinds strive to deliver quality products at a profit, and provide the best service they can in an effort to encourage customers to return. However, if you take a peek behind the scenes and examine how these companies are run from an employee’s perspective, a lot of the differences soon become clear.

Size is, perhaps, the most notable difference. For the most part, family businesses can be a lot smaller than their non-family counterparts. When working within a family-run business, this can serve as a double-edged sword in terms of career progression. You can’t deny that the number of job opportunities within a business correlates to its size, with larger companies being able to offer promotions more frequently. The downside to this, however, is that it can lead to employees feeling like they’re a cog in a machine. Whereas, with family-run businesses, everyone knows each other and senior managers can take the time to get to know those working for them. This is a huge plus for both employers and employees, as it creates an atmosphere that helps workers to feel appreciated, which can have a positive impact on their productivity and wellbeing.

Working within a smaller business also allows employees to demonstrate their skills to the key decision makers and, if they use this to their advantage, it can benefit them hugely when jobs open up. Although, vacancies do tend to be rare due to the typical size of family businesses, and the fact that people feel appreciated and don’t wish to leave.

When deciding to work for a family or non-family business, you need to consider what you want to get out of your working life. If you wish to gain a title and progress quickly through the ranks, a larger company is likely to suit you better. On the other hand, if you would rather be given the time to develop your skills and grow within a role that you can make your own, a family business is more likely to provide you with the means to do this.

While it may sound cliché, or even slightly obvious, family businesses do usually try to adopt a ‘family atmosphere’ within their company, which means they’re willing to invest in their workers and provide a solid support system for employees. This often leads to a lot of senior management positions being filled by people who joined as juniors and have gradually worked their way up the ladder, as these kinds of companies tend to recruit internally, before searching further afield for new team members. Of course this isn’t a tactic used exclusively by family-run businesses, but employees within these companies do have more of a chance to demonstrate their skills and get noticed.

There is usually a much greater sense of autonomy within family businesses, as the close proximity of staff to senior management allows for a lot more discussion about changes to policies and working practices. This, again, is an advantage for both sides of the table, as it encourages creativity and can stop restrictive one-size-fits-all policies, which are often an unnecessary evil within larger business models, from being implemented.

While family and non-family business are similar in many ways, employees of family-run companies often find that life behind their shop-front offers greater freedom and a warm environment where hard work is more likely to be noticed and rewarded. There’s pros and cons to working for both kinds of businesses — anyone looking for a new job just needs to consider what they want from their working life before choosing which is right for them.


Tom Mankin is the digital marketing administrator at Charles Clinkard. He joined the company part-time as a student and then the digital marketing team on a permanent basis after completing his master’s degree at Northumbria University.

Industry Spotlight: 5 benefits to embracing the pop-up shop trend…

In a literal sense, pop-up shops are popping up everywhere, and whilst it has been independent businesses and smaller retailers that have pioneered the concept, larger retailers are beginning to embrace this latest trend.

The temporary stores are mostly found in high footfall areas such as city centres, shopping malls and busy streets. The main purpose of a pop-up is to create an impact and attract customers with something exciting, exclusive and different. So, what benefits can established retailers expect to achieve by implementing the pop-up shop concept?


  1. Experimentation: Road testing a new business concept can be costly. A pop up shop provides retailers with the ultimate flexibility in test marketing new products, promotions or concepts, before going fully to market. This allows the retailer to gauge future demand and incite customer feedback without incurring the high set up costs associated with a fixed store.
  1. Flexibility: Responding quickly to trends is not always easy for larger retailers. The flexibility of a pop up shop allows brands to adapt quickly and be in the right place at the right time. The temporary nature of a pop up shop allows the retailer to locate to where the action is, set up shop for key moments and more importantly, move on when interest wanes.
  1. Brand awareness: The act of launching a pop up shop creates buzz and hype that consumers love. The short-term nature of a pop up shop creates a sense of urgency, which often attracts big crowds. By appearing in an unexpected location, retailers can both surprise existing customers and excite new ones. Plus people are more likely to visit when there’s a limited time scale – and this often leads to an increase in sales.
  1. Educate new customers: By trying something new, retailers can widen their customer base by reaching consumers that may only be aware of their traditional product lines. When Microsoft launched their RT Surface tablet they opened a host of pop up stores in locations where they didn’t have a permanent presence. This enabled them to increase public awareness and educate customers on the product.
  1. Unload old stock: The majority of sales are still completed offline and a pop up shop in the right location can be the ideal venue to host a flash sale. The temporary nature of a pop up shop creates a buzz and excitement because people are interested in the sudden existence of a new store, especially if they look unique.

Flexibility in times of uncertainty

It would be remiss of me to write a blog about retailing without mentioning Brexit. It would be hard to argue that the current situation hasn’t created a certain amount of uncertainty. However, I am a firm believer in seeing opportunity in any situation and the pop up shop concept is a perfect answer to retailers looking to expand without incurring too many costs. It offers the opportunity to take on a retail space and set up quickly without the long-term commitment.

In Summary

The retail landscape is evolving and for retailers that want to keep pace with trends, pop up shops offer the ultimate in flexibility and testing innovation. However, to maximise on the benefits retailers need to be able to set up till solutions quickly offering consumers the same transaction options they expect in fixed retail units. By investing in an electronic point of sale solution with remote capability, retailers ensure they have the flexibility required to scale their business operations and the reporting functionality to assess the success of their new business venture.


Words by Marcus Ardeman, sales executive at Eurostop

Marcus has over 25 years’ experience working with Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) systems.  Before joining Eurostop, Marcus’s experience includes training, implementation and sales roles within large established EPOS companies. His retail background, and deep understanding of the retail environment has enabled him to take a consultative approach, ensuring that customers get the most from their new retail management and EPOS solutions.