One of the latest Frankie & Benny’s restaurants in Liverpool, saw the trialling of a new concept design for the chain by turnerbates
By Toby Maxwell
Signalling the beginning of a large-scale investment in its UK-wide chain of restaurants, Frankie & Benny’s flagship branch at Edge Lane in Liverpool was designed by design and architecture firm Turnerbates. The space covers a total of total of 418 sq m (including a 46 sq m external seating area) and can accommodate 187 internal covers as well as 84 external covers.
Following a successful design pitch in September last year, Turnerbates has since designed two sites for the brand, including this Liverpool location. It has also undertaken a refurbishment programme which has so far seen 10 sites updated with potential for another 20 to come.
The Liverpool flagship site saw the trial of the new design vision for the Frankie & Benny’s brand. The company’s low to mid-market restaurant concept started in 1985 and had stuck to some of its key branding ideas ever since, but of course today’s flooded market for dining-out options has seen some major players – such as Nandos and Wagamama – enter the market in the intervening period.
Howard Bates, director at Turnerbates, says: ‘We’ve worked with a branding agency [venturethree] to look at
a multitude of aspects such as the menu design, tweaking the logo – basically reviewing all of the brand touchpoints. ’This included looking at aspects of the existing decor that included black and white photographs on the wall of historic figures which, while conveying the brand’s heritage, perhaps does not resonate particularly well with millennials. ‘Some of us are old enough to remember the likes of Laurel and Hardy but for many potential customers these will be non-referential. So we cleared all of that out and renewed the focus on this being a family restaurant, all the while still touching on the American/Italian styling, which is part of the overall experience.”
‘We’ve retained the booths, which remain a very popular part of the dining experience, but at the same time working in more flexible seating areas to cater for larger groups and parties. The overall palette though remains true to the essence of what the brand was about in the past but with a more modern take on it.’
Over time, the needs of the space itself has evolved too, with operators within this part of the market seeing growing business from takeaway and delivery food through channels such as Just Eat and Deliveroo. Bates points out: ‘These trends mean that you have to carefully consider areas such as the bar and waiting areas for customers coming
to collect takeaways. This is something that was not really a factor when many of these restaurants were first laid out and is an issue many brands are having to address.’
Creating a functional and eye-catching design concept is just one part of a much more complicated equation however. ‘As designers, we can only create the space,’ explains Bates. ‘Ultimately, a good restaurant experience is down to the food, customer service and atmosphere. All we can do is set the stage for the first two and then people will vote with their feet as to whether it works.
‘The early signs are that it has been very well received – and by that I’m not just talking about positive feedback but also money in tills, and that counts for an awful lot within what is a very crowded and challenging market.’