Looking for a unique alternate to hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and pizza, UNC Charlotte decided to create a university-branded restaurant to drive food sales on campus. With space in the student center and an already established assortment of national brands, UNCC had the ideal venue for their own brand. We completed extensive customer analysis and target identity profiles to determine the specific demand across the market.

With a core customer base of 18- to- 27-year-old males, we were able to build a brand around this profile. Finally, the university needed to determine their ability to commit resources toward developing and sustaining a consistent brand. After assessing the capability of the food service provider, as well as the university, to maintain a new restaurant, the creation of Feisty’s was officially underway.

The overall brand combines the classic all-American spirit of hot dogs and the casual feeling of the little joint on the corner with a taste of boldness. The limited, yet creative menu offerings are complimented by the short-order cooking on display. The brand’s simplicity, boldness, and clever nature are part of what draw customers in for a truly delicious and devilish meal.

Environmental graphics are an important part of any restaurant, but with a space as limited as Feisty’s, we needed to go big or go home. Virtually every surface is plastered with the brand name. A fluorescent sign emblazed with “Feisty’s” hovers over the stainless-steel counter, beckoning university students and faculty alike. The retro hot dog stand theme is carried out with a custom mural painted below the counter, reminding the customer to “get a little feisty” during their visit. Reflecting their pride in fresh ingredients and loyal suppliers, a wall-montage was created to express the comfortably nostalgic nature of the brand. The design creatively, yet casually, displays labels from the medley of quality products used in the store. Additionally, the menu board and Orange Feisty drink prep area are designed to convey the cleverly naughty spirit of Feisty’s.

Since opening in 2011, Feisty’s has exceeded original expectations. With an estimated return on investment (ROI) in 2.5 years, there is a planned franchise expansion to other UNC system schools. At this time, UNC Charlotte receives a royalty percentage on gross sales, and will receive franchise fees in the future. Additionally, UNCC is not responsible for any of the operating costs. At 790 square feet, Feisty’s was a sound investment for the university. With the right guidance, college food service providers can put to work some of the successful practices of national restaurant chains. In doing so, they can offer credible and attractive food choices to a selective diner and keep profits to reinvest in university operations.

“Feisty’s was our first foray into self-branding. Working with the starrdesign team to develop the concept from scratch to operation was amazing. Their creative brief process generated ideas and transformed them into something with personality… it brought the concept to life. Our collaboration included developing the concept, name, physical design, menus, and much more.”
Keith N. Wassum, UNCC Associate Vice Chancellor