Burger King - real sign - © 2014 Burger King

Next Gen Fast Food Outlet: ‘Back To The Future’?

Burger King has released some artists’ concept pictures of what its new store designs will look like – and it appears that the new designs focus on incorporating permanently some of the central ideas behind the hastily-concocted contact-free anti-COVID-19 features now in use to beat the pandemic…

The New Burger King look - © 2020 Burger KingUp to 60 percent smaller footprint; double the order/fulfillment options.
Lots of Drive-around lanes, little parking. Pylons (right) are for
curbside pick-ups. Minimal indoor seating second level…

You’ll recall when we reported that some of the main Fast Food chains were strongly considering maintaining the anti-COVID-19 minimal- or no-contact service protocols now in use after the pandemic is over. These would include minimal-contact between employees and customers, masking of all employees, and a greater emphasis on take-away (as opposed to dine-in) service. Well, the new BK concept has folded all that and more into its clean, crisp look and fast service model.

Old idea, new look…

The teaser, ‘Back To The Future’ in today’s headline primarily refers to the uncanny resemblance between the new BK look and functionality plan and the old, 1950s Drive-in Burger joint business model. Two similar concepts minimalise parking on the lot and promote the smooth movement of vehicles and pedestrians through a maze of driving, walking and cycling lanes. All the currently-familiar modes of ordering and delivery are implemented, from smart phone app ordering (complemented by secure, contact-free ‘locker’ pickup); to nostalgic in-car service, drive-through and curbside pick-up; to limited more-or-less conventional eat-in seating.

BK New Restos Concept - © 2020 Burger KingMost of the lot space is for drive-thru/around lanes. In-car service strip at
right, under solar canopy. Many colour-coded lane lines to
guide you to ordering/fulfillment stations…

New ideas, too…

One new idea that customers have been wanting for years is dedicated walk-up windows for pedestrian traffic (also cyclists). And a few locations will also offer special dedicated motorcyclist windows (these principally in Asian, European and other regions where motor bikes and scooters are ubiquitous).

BK is also looking at installing conveyor bets to move completed food orders from kitchen to customer. Sorry, Dad (rest your soul), no short-skirted, teenaged girls whooshing around the parking lot on roller skates! But that seems a small thing to give up compared to all the advantages the new regime is intended to offer.

Some of the new BK outlets will be as much as 60 percent smaller than today’s traditional BK locations, a big saving for the company and franchisees on taxes, utility bills and maintenance costs.

Potential drawbacks?

I’m wondering… What happens when a vehicle beaks down blocking traffic in the drive-thru, -up and -around lanes? What if a conveyor belt breaks down? On entering the location, traffic will be split up into different streams depending on what kind of delivery you’ve selected and what kinds of vehicle you’re driving: how will the BK plan efficiently merge them all back into one for exiting the lot? How will BK’s traffic design ensure that the new locations will remain safe for pedestrians and cyclists? With all the carefully conceived mechanisms for avoiding contact between customers and staff, will folks who get an incorrect order go about complaining and having their order corrected?

I’m sure there are other issues that will have to be ironed out – probably with the smart-device and kiosk-based ordering and payment systems.

And finally, what about washrooms?

My take

Based on what we’ve heard from other big Fast Food Chains, I think it’s safe to predict that they’ll be following suit along the lines of BK’s basic example. Between all of the mega-brands, I’m sure they’ll eventually get all the issues ironed out. Alas! For kids of my generation who invented hanging out at the Burger Joint, that tradition will be gone. And how will customers adjust permanently to having direct, personal contact with resto staff? As Jeff Goldbloom’s character says  somewhere in every installment of Jurassic Park: “Nature always finds a way…”

~ Maggie J.

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