MARKETING | Staff Reporter, Australia

Designing a QSR: Conceptualizing design and construction challenges

From design to construction.

Three leading industry experts share their experience on coneptualizing design for a specific QSR and the challenges they encounter from the design to construction process.

Melissa Webber, Owner and Creative Director, Holy Cow! Design & Advertising:

The theme is determined entirely by the brand and most brands are centred around their ethnicity or their actual food and beverage offering, for example, Mad Mex and Batch Burgers & Espresso.

The main issue for us is usually around the allocation of designated signage areas which is often dictated by the tenancy's landlord or managing agent. The restrictions of these areas can often be a complete design challenge!

Mark McConnell, Director, Mima Design:

Most food offers have a place of origin, and you usually take some reference from these locations, but you have to be careful not to be too literal or align too closely with an existing concept out there. Very often it's just one simple feature that nobody has picked-up before that can help set a brand apart from it's competition. It takes a lot of work to find it though, and is probably the least tangible skill-set we possess that clients struggle understand how valuable this investment is.

The hardest issue is managing our client expectations and the major retail landlords (shopping centres). We find ourselves as the piggy in the middle, and often having to try and design a space with two clients each with opposite points of view. Budgets are never enough, so cost engineering is quite common. We aim for an ideal solution first, then cost engineer with a chosen builder after tender. Use of qualified engineers is becoming more common but not accounted for by clients as building codes, council requirements and landlords constantly demand increased certification. This puts more project management requirements onto us which we didn't need to do so much years ago. On a small tenancy, these extra consultant costs are hard for the client to comprehend, but they are more of a necessity now. All this bureaucracy can stifle creativity, so we have to work harder around the rules and regulations to get a good outcome. By the time you get to construction, working with good experienced builders is the key to a successful completion of a project.

Ed Kenny, Director, Giant Design Consultants:

The 'theme' word is probably a swear word to most designers as it conjures up images of Planet Hollywood and Las Vegas. I would say, what is the concept, the 'big idea'. Get a thorough understanding of what product the client is selling and build an environment that can communicate an essence of the food to customers without literally theming it to recreate that country.

Budgets are always the number one issue. Food construction is expensive. We are always realistic with clients as to how much it costs to build a restaurant / café. If they choose not to believe us it tends to come back to bite them in the end. If it's built too cheap with a cheap builder, corners have to be cut and something has to give. This is generally quality and if it starts to fall apart you can't function as a business. You don't have to go for the most expensive, you just have to pay what the market says.  

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