Last year, McDonald’s unveiled its flagship branch at Sydney International Airport’s Terminal 1, where Big Macs and Double Cheeseburgers are transported to customers via a conveyer belt from a glowing yellow glass box located above the tills. Landini Associates, who were enlisted to design the restaurant, certainly met the brief: to create ‘an iconic, memorable customer experience, like nothing seen before.’
The fast food flagship has since become one of the most Instagrammed places at Sydney Airport. And why wouldn’t it, asked general manager of retail Glyn Williams just after it opened. “It’s a piece of theatre, full of colour, movement and surprises,” he said. “People have started arriving early for their flights just to see it.”
Quadrupling customer spending
McDonald’s isn’t alone in pouring investment into experiential design concepts that are worthy of the ‘gram, which is hardly surprising given that 30% of Millennial diners say they wouldn’t go to a restaurant with a weak Instagram presence.
Starbucks’ first location in Italy – the Milan Roastery – houses a 22-foot tall bronze roasting cask, which gives customers a glimpse into the coffee-making process, while the menu features rare, exotic coffees from 30 countries, fresh baked artisanal food from a local baker, alcoholic beverages including more than 100 cocktails and pizza.
Like the coffee giant’s other roasteries in Seattle, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo and Chicago, the Milan venue’s design was inspired by its locale, just one factor that contributes to customers typically spending four times more in Starbucks Roasteries than they do in a regular Starbucks.
Standing out from the competition
According to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, these one-of-a-kind stores have also come to represent “a pipeline for innovation” for the company. “Drinks like Cold Brew, Nitro, and Cold Foam all originated in the Roastery,” he told CNBC.
It’s a similar story at McDonald’s. The design of the Sydney International Airport T1 restaurant follows the Ray Concept by Landini Associates and can be seen in a number of McDonald’s outlets around Australia, including the recently-opened Norwest restaurant.
Meanwhile in the US, McDonald’s already has around 5,000 ‘Experience of the Future’ restaurants, which feature technologies such as self-service kiosks and mobile payment designed to dramatically enhance the customer experience with more convenience, personalisation and choice. They plan to transform all freestanding restaurants to this model by 2020.
Says Andrew Swaney, national head of design and head of construction for NSW/ACT at McDonald’s Australia, “In a world where brands are constantly competing with each other for consumers, anything you can do to stand out helps. The nature in which we unlocked the real estate potential at Sydney International Airport created a new industry precedent for the quick service restaurant sector and the broader retail market. The combination of both an iconic design and brand projection with an innovative operational solution has gained attention worldwide for the McDonald’s business and challenged the industry to consider its preconceived ideas around how space can be activated and how potential can be unlocked.”