Restaurant Mashup: 2’s Better than 1

Unlocking Innovation and Excitement in the Restaurant World

Restaurant Mashup: 2’s Better than 1

Estimated Read Time: 2 - 3 Minutes

In a world reshaped by the pandemic, the restaurant industry has faced unprecedented challenges. The rollercoaster relationship between consumers and restaurants of every stripe was remarkable. From fighting to stay open in the early days, to embracing new delivery and dine-in models, to reengaging and rethinking their entire operations, to labor shortages and supply chain struggles, the restaurant world has been tumultuous to say the least. Today, as restaurants grapple with labor shortages and supply chain disruptions, it’s clear that they must explore innovative ways to stay relevant and exciting.

At WD, we’ve provided forward-thinking and astute predictions about efficiency, formats, and functions. We’ve studied the category and applied hard-earned and valuable insights to help restaurant brands navigate serious, of-the-moment challenges. However, there is one intriguing avenue ripe for examination. That is, ways in which a big idea, blue sky, conceptual, capital “D” design might be a catalyst for restaurateurs to consider in planning what’s next for their businesses. Understandable, the focus has been on maintenance and survival. But where’s the excitement? The passion? The “OMG-can-you-believe-this-place” factor that inspires rave reviews, social buzz, and word-of-mouth zeitgeist?

Strange Bedfellows (or “Kitchenfellows”)

Perhaps it’s time to break free from the monotonous routine of the same old dining experiences. Let’s not be satisfied with the same meal and same experience every time we go out in the world. Let’s break out of the humdrum, same old take-out orders on all those delivery apps. Let’s reignite the public’s appetite for exceptional dining. It’s time to craft some sensational mash-up magic!

The experience economy is already blending offerings from various service sectors, and restaurants can get in on the action. While combo restaurants like KFC + Taco Bell + Pizza Hut or Dunkin’ + Baskin-Robbins are familiar, they’re a challenge from an operations standpoint. Some retail brands have made interesting extensions of their brand with food offers, from IKEA’s comfort food cafeterias to Restoration Hardware’s glamorous, in-store, full-service, showroom restaurants. But maybe there are other “combo meals” that can surprise and delight customers. By harnessing the wealth of data and consumer insights available, we might strike gold with crazy new concepts that nobody considered and satisfies customer expectations and demand in brilliant new ways.

Read: Why Dual Branding in QSRs is Making a Comeback

Ingredients for Our Hybrid Recipes

So what are the ingredients for our new hybrid recipes? Some ways to consider the possibilities of new concepts with endless design opportunities include:

1. Restaurant + Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG):

Combining local flavor and national brand power for authenticity

Localization is on everyone’s mind. Instead of competing, maybe there are some surprising marriages that can benefit all parties. Perhaps a pop-up experience that highlights that neighborhood sandwich shop alongside a powerful CPG favorite? A delicious artisan Cubano served up with an LTO flavor of Doritos and a frosty pint from a favorite local microbrew – all in one unique location

2. Restaurant and Service Provider

Drive-Up / Drive-In / Drive-Thru

Is your stomach growling while waiting in line at the car wash? Wish you had a snack or a coffee during those interminable visits to the DMV? *Enter café* Let’s replace the mindless scrolling on our phones with a more productive and fulfilling use of our time. No need to hit the drive-thru after and wait in yet another line. It’s about meeting the consumer where they already are.

3. Restaurant and Retail

Brand Right Retail Meets Brand Right Food

Utilizing dining is a genius way for retailers (especially in the home goods biz) to showcase a collection of products and extend their brand beyond its usual goods. Retailers should see opportunity in the consumer’s love of experiences. What’s more “on brand” for Crate & Barrel than shopping their latest kitchenware while enjoying a hot latte and beautifully plated avocado toast? Not to mention, a shopper with a satisfied appetite = a happy shopper.

4. Restaurant and Influencer

Embracing Pop Culture

You pull up to a drive-thru and order a Charli D’Amelio cold brew and a MrBeast burger. These new options make your same old, go-to order seem dull. A menu dictated by Tiktok influencers is a dream come true. There’s a sense of comfort and familiarity in combining the foods we eat with the names we know, making the ordinary extraordinary.

In each case, the design brief should focus on creating fun and unexpected combinations that give diners fresh perspectives on what a restaurant can be. What brands would you like to see show up together? Who can fulfill unmet needs and bring joy to your dining experience? It’s a fun brainstorm, and one that designers and creatives could seriously sink their teeth into.

About Wayfind

Lost and in need of guidance? That’s why we created Wayfind—the WD blog designed to be your beacon in this rapidly evolving world. In these short, thought-provoking reads, you’ll discover insights into the minds of your consumers and be inspired to go out into the world to create your own extraordinary experiences.

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