Franchise Architecture

Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop interior02

Good design is good business. That’s why you need to think strategically

about how it can help you create a unique and consistent customer experience.

By Greg Terry

Is the design of your franchise business attractive to your customers? Does it make them want to come in and stay awhile? If you hesitate in answering these questions, you need to take a hard look at your architecture and design.

The design of your franchise buildings is an integral part of your overall franchise brand. Smart franchise owners are thinking strategically and innovatively about design for a unique and consistent customer experience throughout the franchise system.

Franchise Relationships

When designing a new franchise facility, balancing the values of the corporate office with the needs of the franchisee can be a challenge.

Because people often associate certain franchises with certain design elements (think golden arches), your building should be similar to its franchise counterparts. But while the brand cannot change, flexibility can be built into the plan. For instance, if you’re in the middle of a college town with a big-time football team, it may be appropriate to decorate accordingly.

Experienced designers can offer plans that remain consistent with the brand but also provide room for unique finishes and fixtures. By offering solutions at various budget levels, a design firm can help a franchisee be unique yet true to its corporate brand, while making both sides feel their needs are being met.

Start at the Beginning

Each project starts with a deep dive to understand the brand beyond just a visual style. If you devolve into just what materials look good or are cost-effective, you’re not capturing the authenticity of the company.

When designing your buildings, put a premium on your employees’ satisfaction and comfort. They should be as highly regarded as customers, because there’s a direct correlation between how happy your employees are and how well your business does. If your workers are happy and smiling, customers will feel it. So, make sure employees have comfortable places to work and train, top-flight technology, good break rooms and comfortable restrooms. Invest in good ergonomic chairs and work stations. This will pay off in fewer medical issues.

Pay attention to anything that relates to the customer experience and how they interact and communicate with the brand. For example, a very efficient back of house in some brands is more important than anything else, because it’s all about the drive-thru. In others, the goal is to invite people to come in and stay as long as they like.

Be Creative

Creativity trumps money, because someone else can always out-spend you. A distinctive element that wows customers will also be remembered. First impressions are all-important – your building must catch their attention.

You’re looking to combine architecture and interior design while also incorporating elements of graphic design, product display, functionality and point-of-sale advertising. In retail businesses, especially, the spaces must be designed in ways that promote an enjoyable, hassle-free shopping experience. Your design draws customers in and invites them to discover your brand. A positive user experience builds a positive brand perception, which turns consumers into repeat and loyal customers.

Your design should also be consistent with your website, so pay attention to both.

Lighting Matters

As the customer journeys through your space, your success depends largely upon architectural lighting design. Lighting can serve to set the customer’s mood, create hierarchy among an array of products, and create beautiful displays that showcase what various products can do.

This begins before the customer sets foot into the building. The journey from their car, through the parking lot and along the sidewalk needs to set the stage for entering your building.

Think about all areas within the building, including fitting rooms and employee-only areas.

Even though customers do not usually go into back rooms, it’s important that these areas are functional and easy to use.

Imagine a shoe store where the staff goes into the back room to get a certain shoe size for a customer. Proper lighting will ensure that staff can see clearly as they quickly and accurately select their customers’ wanted item. And don’t forget the payment experience – it should be easy and hassle-free.

The Overall Experience

Above all, never lose sight of the overall experience. What do you want your customer to feel when they leave your space?

You’re creating a space where you and your customers want to be. Back it up with a great product and service and you’ll keep the customers coming back.

Greg Terry, AIA, NCARB, is the design director for Studio Four Design, a Knoxville, Tenn., architecture firm specializing in franchise and retail design. To view some recent franchise designs, visit or contact Terry at


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