My QuickPicks
Register now to activate

Contents At A Glance

Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2003 — July — Restauratour

Curve Appeal
Carl's Jr. jazzes up a cityscape with its contemporary glass-and-metal prototype.

If you cruise down Firestone Boulevard in Downey, Calif., looking for the new Carl’s Jr. restaurant, you won’t find it. But if you keep your eyes peeled for a building that looks like, say, an art museum, you will.

Take a photographic tour of Carl's Jr.

That’s because the burger chain’s new prototype looks nothing like a quick-service restaurant. Free from fast food’s iconic bright colors, mansard roofs and brick exteriors, the triangular glass-and-metal building juts out of the cityscape. By day its abundance of glass and steel reflect the Southern California sunshine. At night, the well-lighted structure glows, exterior lights casting stars on its metal skin.

The interior, laden with industrial finishes, is as contemporary as the exterior. Glass windows are sheathed in metal frames. Exposed ductwork and halogen lamps hover overhead. Metal-backed chairs are stamped with the Carl’s Jr. star logo. Bright-blue counters, red condiment shakers, a mustard circle poured into the gray concrete floor and mustard booth fabric lend spots of color.

The avant-garde design didn’t come about by accident. When they sat down to discuss a new prototype, as they do every five years, executives decided they wanted a building as high-profile as its Famous Star burger, says Andrew Puzder, president and CEO of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants Inc.

“This time, we wanted to get out ahead of the competition and distinguish ourselves from the competition,” Puzder says. “And we wanted to move away from fast food and more into a fast-casual feeling.”

To achieve that feeling, the company hired Los Angeles-based Rothenberg Sawasy Architects, a firm known for everything but its work in quick-service.

Indoor, Outdoor
Aside from the “what’s that?” curb appeal of the building, the new prototype has two main virtues, according to Carl’s Jr. executives and the building’s architects.

The first is that it visually integrates the drive-thru and dine-in experiences, crucial because half the restaurant’s transactions are done through the drive-thru. The drive-thru lane snakes along the building, enabling drivers to see the action inside.

Meanwhile, booths edging the interior give dine-in customers a comfortable perch from which to watch the drive-thru scene.

Apparently, customers love the ringside seats. “We’re getting positive feedback,” says Jim McGrory, director of design and construction for Carl’s Jr. “People like to watch the cars go by.”

The drive-thru itself has been widened to accommodate SUVs, and the service yard and its less-than-attractive components are hidden by a high wall. Thanks to the wall, customers don’t pick up their food and then drive by a yard full of Dumpsters and recycling bins, says Mitchell E. Sawasy, principal at Rothenberg Sawasy.

A Touch of Green
Another point of difference: The building meets so many green-building standards that Carl’s Jr. is applying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.

High-efficiency glass, energy-efficient lighting, an upgraded HVAC system, lamps, wainscoting and other components made of 80 percent recycled material, the concrete floor and touch-free bathroom sinks all contribute. Carl’s executives, though, didn’t set out to build green, Puzder says. “It wasn’t an objective going into it, but it became part of the design,” he says.

The green initiative will continue as Carl’s Jr. expands the prototype, this year to another California and a Utah location. Within four or five years, the prototype will become Carl’s Jr.’s standard building, but there’s some work to do first, executives say.

Cutting Costs
McGrory wants to cut building costs by 20 percent and shave 10 or 15 days from the 80-day building timeframe. A “scrub” of the building in late February yielded a few cost-cutting measures, such as abandoning wallpaper for cheaper, easier-to-clean paint, and making outside metal canopies out of thinner, lighter material.

Then there’s the matter of finding communities receptive to such an avant-garde building. “We can’t retrofit for community standards; we can’t put red tile on the roof,” explains Sawasy. “We have to go to city planners and say, ‘this is what we want.’”

Indeed, Carl’s Jr. chose Downey as the site for the first prototype because of a favorable response from city managers.

“They picked us,” McGrory says. “Everyone was pleased a fast-food chain would build something special, not a standard rectangle.” Downey’s mayor even attended the grand opening, Puzder adds.

You may also like...
Warming Trend
- October 1, 2005
Extreme Makeover
- August 1, 2005
Kitchen Remodel
- July 1, 2005
Clutter Free
- June 1, 2005
Courting Customers
- April 1, 2005
Mi Casa, Su Casa
- January 1, 2005
Selling the Sizzle
- November 1, 2004
People’s Choice
- October 1, 2004
Real Simple
- April 1, 2004
Light Moves
- October 1, 2003
Copyright© 1999-2006 Reed Business Information, a division of
The Reed Business logo, Restaurants & Institutions, R&I, Chain Leader, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies and FE&S are registered trademarks. All rights reserved.
Use of this web site is subject to its Terms and Conditions of Use. View our Privacy Policy. .