In the restaurant world, it’s vital to remain active and growing. Without an ongoing corporate culture focused on expansion, you’ll quickly get outpaced. But as restaurants expand, executives are forced to address the problem of limited A-list real estate options. This means operators will continue to enter non-restaurant ready or non-traditional spaces as a way to increase brand awareness.

When entering into non-traditional restaurant formats like food courts, universities & airports, re-developing a concept to fit these new operational structures is no easy task, although it can be done and with great success. Here is what operators should keep in mind in order to master and succeed in non-traditional formats.

1. Make the necessary operational and service model changes.

In a traditional format, you typically have a complete and discreet operation dedicated just to your concept. Everything you need is in your space. While you may have a separate servery and cookline in a non-traditional format, other operational processes can be allocated to shared space. These can range from coolers and storage, to prep facilities and ware-washing. Other operational changes may also be required based on the new format. For example, stores that traditionally have food runners or wait staff may eliminate that position altogether, as customers often pick up their food from the window or counter.

Restaurant operators should come up with a separate established playbook for these non-traditional locations. It’s typical for each new location to require its own operations manual so the owners can maintain operational control and consistency from one location to another.Keep in mind these non-traditional formats may also create unique franchise relationships because they are often run through contract service providers rather than individual franchisees. This can lead to added complexities and opportunities, so give these agreements and locations more thought and planning on the front end.

2. Maximize your opportunities for clear brand expression.

This is big from a design standpoint because your brand communications will be based on the size and format of the available non-traditional space and may well be subject to the overall facility’s design requirements. While this is a more subtle change than the operational ones, it is an important one. What you choose to communicate will affect your overall brand equity and awareness so make sure toselect the most important messaging points tied to your brand. In a non-traditional space, your guests are only exposed to a snippet of your intended customer experience. Not only are there fewer direct interactions with diners, there is significantly less square footage in the space. So make sure what you say, and where, has significant impact. Brand expressions should be evident in the materials and forms you choose you’re your counters and transactions spaces as well as  on point-of-purchase signage, menus and menu boards. Where and how you position your marketing collateral should be clearly laid out in the beginning, so every moment in the space is intentionally designed.

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