Wendy’s Interior Design Review by Nice Branding Agency
Not too long ago, I took a chance on trying a Wendy’s burger for the first time in my adult life. Let me just say, not only was I pleasantly surprised by the taste of the burger, but the restaurant design in the fast-food burger joint spoke words of love to me.
It prompted me to want to take a deeper dive into what Wendy’s was doing with their environmental branding and interior design, and review how different touchpoints within the restaurant’s interior jumped out and connected to me.
As I researched, I found this was all part of Wendy’s ongoing new restaurant design strategy.
According to an article found on Skift Table:
Several years ago, Wendy’s laid out a mission to start remaking its restaurants for the future. The plan involved a top-to-bottom reimagining of how restaurant design affects all parts of Wendy’s operation. Like the competition, Wendy’s is perpetually focused on driving success in a number of key ways, including increasing food sales and restaurant traffic and opening new locations. Store design affects those measures of success just as much as introducing a 50-cent Frosty to the menu.
Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s Chief Development Officer, is responsible for Wendy’s current new restaurant development and existing restaurant remodeling. The initial design overhaul started several years ago with an “image activation” initiative to remodel existing Wendy’s restaurants.
WENDY’S INTERIOR DESIGN
Here are a few thoughts I had as I sat and enjoyed my burger, quietly observing the restaurant design.
Wendy’s Interior Design: Interior Finishes
Overall, the finishes that were chosen for the interior simply felt elevated. They seemed more high-end than what I typically experience in fast-food concepts and were just better than what I expected from Wendy’s. From the wall tile to the faux wood flooring, to the table tops and the lighting fixture, the selected finishes seemed just a bit more modern and present day than most fast-food interiors. Even the booth backs spoke to me, and they are usually screaming at me to stay away!
I’ve always wondered why finishes have to fall flat. Owners always blame it on budget, but that’s baloney. The way I see it, you’re paying for the finish anyway. In this day in age, there are plenty of economical, aesthetically pleasing options available.
Wendy’s proved the point that even when you don’t have the budget of a fine-dining, high-end restaurant, you still can have a presentable interior.
Wendy’s Interior Design: Barstool Seating
There’s not too much to say about the barstool seating that was in the concept I visited, except that they had a simple interest which I paid attention to. They weren’t the typical stools that are left messy and unattended that have to be touched before sitting, but instead they were stylized stools with a leather/vinyl covering that mounted to the ground. The design wasn’t typical, and that’s why I feel like it provided another point of interest.
Wendy’s Interior Design: Interior Signs
Throughout Wendy’s interior design, the style of the signage was simple yet sophisticated. It was nothing extravagant or pricey, but it was done in a very tasteful way, from the actual structure and materials of the signage, to what the signs communicated.
As I entered, I was welcomed by a sign that connected me to where I was, not only the concept but the community. The sign construction was die-cut raised lettering that was mounted to a tile wall. Overall, the harmony of the color, the design, and the varying textures appeared seamless, and I appreciated the simplistic beauty as I entered the dining room.
Then there was that Wendy’s icon that is nothing short of iconic. The illustrative style of the updated logo icon is soft and friendly. Seeing that emblazoned on the wall above the digital menu boards was music to my ears and candy to my eyes. I like that the company chose to keep it monotone in color so as to not distract me from my order options, but subtly reminded me of where I was and deepened my connection to the brand.
That icon didn’t become iconic on its own. Wendy’s has been subtly putting that thing in front of us for years upon years. They know.
Throughout the burger-concept’s dining room, the signage continued in the same manner as described above. Nothing too elite or over the top, but providing me directives as I continued on my burger journey in a way that felt comfortable, clean, and modern.
Wendy’s Interior Design: Structural Finishes
Some of the structural finishes I saw in Wendy’s interior design were surprising, but once again in a good way.
The ceiling was a modern mix of steel and wood. The design was just enough to evoke interest, but not overdone. More than that, I appreciated not seeing dusty ducts or dirty, broken ceiling panels. What I imagine to be intentionally designed, the continued nature of the horizontal joist took my eye on a ride that landed right back on that iconic logo icon.
As I explored more of the restaurant, I noticed doors that were on sliding hardware. You know, nothing monumental here, but just another detail that seemed modern and unique for a fast-food restaurant.
Wendy’s Interior Design: Bonus Points
Two other things that I thought were interesting and front runners for a fast-food concept were counter seating with a kitchen view and easy charging outlets at almost every dining table.
I have never seen a fast-food chain restaurant implement an open-kitchen concept. We have seen this in fast-casual concepts, but I think Wendy’s might be a pioneer of something we may see more of.
And, let’s face it, life these days requires charging, and as this is common to see in eateries that are fast-casual or airport-based, it’s not super common in the fast-food space. After all, it’s fast food; get it and go. Don’t sit around and charge your device.
THE NOT SO GOOD
There was very, very little within the new Wendy’s interior design that felt out of place; however, I’d like to point out two things that did feel a little off base.
Grass Glass Panels
Between tables within the dining room, there were some glass panels with grass graphics on them. My guess is these grass glass panels were implemented to provide privacy to diners at different tables. Although they did achieve the practical need, the grass graphic seemed out of place.
Additionally, there was an electric fireplace with a TV above it, surrounded by furniture that mimicked a mix of what you might find in Panera and Starbucks. Clearly, from the above dialogue, I can appreciate Wendy’s pushing the limits on restaurant design, especially within the fast-food space; however, this felt too far away from who they are.
“We are trying to think differently and be creative in looking at where the communities are that we want to operate,” Pringle explained. “We want to figure out how to design for that opportunity, rather than saying, ‘Well, here’s Wendy’s, this is what we look like, and where can we fit?'”
The team at Nice Branding Agency always encourages our restaurant clients to push the limits, but with that encouragement comes the warning to stay true to who you are, and do not try and be someone you are not.
WENDY’S INTERIOR DESIGN WINS!
Overall, as I looked around and analyzed the dining area, it felt more like a nice fast-casual concept rather than the fast-food burger joint I remembered when I was a child. As noted, I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant design, as well as the goodness I found wrapped in that shiny silver foil.
As I continued documenting thoughts of Wendy’s interior design, it dawned on me that almost all my descriptions could be summed up in one word: fresh.
The finishes were fresh. The interior signage was fresh. The seating options were fresh. You do know what Wendy’s motto is, right? Always Fresh. Never Frozen.
And just one more thing: Can we please bring back the Wendy’s hot bar?
“All of Wendy’s spins off of one word — FRESH.”
Great job, Abigail and team! You nailed driving your motto home throughout every customer touchpoint within your branded environment.