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Seeking A Fresh Start Abroad, Burger King Channels A Family Barbecue

With natural, rustic materials and a communal vibe, this restaurant looks more like a vegetarian cafe than the home of the Whopper.

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Fast-food joints are embracing high design—especially abroad, where fast food is younger to the market and sometimes carries a premium halo. Consider that McDonald’s recently enlisted Patrick Noguet to trot out a new family-restaurant concept in France. And now Burger King is getting in on the act, with a garden-patio theme intended to appeal to both families and teens alike. "We noticed that one word that kept popping up was ‘flame grilled,’ and we used this clue as a starting point," writes the design team OutofStock. "From collective experiences, our mental picture of flame grilling is closely associated with garden barbecues and camping cook-outs."

So OutofStock brought the outside in, furnishing the restaurant with lounge-y seating upholstered in weatherproof fabrics and set against a collage wall of materials and textures, including everything from raw concrete and clay bricks to cork and copper. Traditional stick-backed chairs surround wooden metal-framed tabletops reminiscent of folding camping furniture. And a roof trellis serves to hide air-conditioning and heating ducts, while anchoring pendant lamps made from clay gardening pots. Other homey touches: wooden shelving for holding framed BK posters and potted plants along the window ledges. The overall atmosphere is more evocative of a college-town café serving heirloom-tomato salads than a burger-flipping fast-food chain.

BK corporate financed the "Garden Grill" and recently unveiled it to Asian franchisees during an Asian-Pacific conference in Singapore—no doubt as a way to gain a stronger foothold in the growing Asian market. The first concept store is now in full operation in Singapore; the next is set to crop up in Japan. "Changing the perception of fast food was one of targets," OutofStock’s Gabriel Tan tells Co.Design, "to become a place where people would want to sit for a while to enjoy the experience, rather than just to eat and go quickly."

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