Fast Feeders Go Comfy Chair Route
By George Anderson
Looking back on it, Monty Python was prescient about the future of fast food restaurants with its Spanish Inquisition sketch and the combination of comfortable seating with food
Cardinal Ximinez: So you think you are strong because you can survive the soft cushions. Well, we shall see. Biggles! Put her in the Comfy Chair!
(An old woman is pushed into the Comfy Chair.)
Ximinez: Now — you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunchtime, with only a cup of coffee at eleven.
(The woman finds this quite nice.)
Today, Monty Python sketches aside, a whole host of fast food operators, including the likes of Burger King and McDonald’s, are going from harsh interior colors and plastic seating
designed to move customers in and out of restaurants to more soothing colors and, dare we say, more comfortable seating.
Dave Chandler, president of Bennett Management Inc., which owns 31 Burger King restaurants, told the Toledo Blade. “Consumers’ expectations have been raised by chains
like Panera Bread and Starbucks that have provided that ambience of a fireplace or whatever. Those two have raised the bar.”
Denny Lynch, a spokesperson for Wendy’s International, said the chain is exploring a number of options to upgrade the interiors of its restaurants.
“We’re looking for lighting that isn’t florescent, wood works that aren’t necessarily veneer or laminated,” he said.
The fast food chain that may be undergoing the biggest change is McDonald’s. The company has recently moved into the premium coffee segment dominated by Starbucks and it is following
the coffee shop’s lead in other areas, as well.
McDonald’s is testing more comfortable seating, Wi-fi internet service, flat screen TVs and hanging lights, in some locations.
The upgrades, which cost about $300,000 per location, may be worth the investment.
Jim Yauger, vice president of Simrick, Inc., which owns five Taco Bell franchises said, “You do lose a lot of income when you have to close, (demolish), and rebuild. But then,
you usually get a nice little bump in sales once you reopen.”
Moderator’s Comment: Are the 30 to 40 percent of fast food consumers who eat inside the restaurant likely to spend more as interiors become more people
and family-friendly? Will upgraded interiors increase the numbers and/or percentage of consumers who eat inside fast food restaurants? –
George Anderson – Moderator