Behind the Scenes of Boston Pizza’s New Design
That is why we sat down with Boston Pizza‘s Paulo Ferreira, Senior Director of Design, to discuss the restaurant’s new design and digital integration at their flagship Toronto location. Boston Pizza was trying to get Millennials off their phones and engaged in their new immersive dining experience.
Paulo and Richard Dirstein, Principal and EVP, Creative & Innovation of Shikatani Lacroix, sat down for a 30-minute webinar with a live Q&A session to discover the strategy behind Boston Pizza’s new restaurant design.
In this webinar, you will learn:
- How digital was used to communicate brand story and engage consumers along their path to purchase
- The opportunities and challenges of implementing a digital brand experience
- How the new design and digital strategy strengthened Boston Pizza’s position
Who: Paulo Ferreira, Senior Director of Design at Boston Pizza and Richard Dirstein, Principal and EVP, Creative & Innovation at Shikatani Lacroix
What: Behind the Scenes of Boston Pizza’s New Design
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Richard: Good morning. I’m Richard Dirstein, and today we’re at the brand-new Boston Pizza at Front & John. I’m joined today by Paulo Ferreira, Senior Director of Design for Boston Pizza. Welcome, Paulo.
Paulo: Thank you, Richard. Thanks for having me.
Richard: I’m going to have questions for you to talk about this great space and the process that you’ve gone through to create it. So first and foremost, what were the key elements of the redesign that you needed to address in this process?
Paulo: Well, overall, our main goal is really to elevate the brand experience and the overall design. So, it’s something a little bit more fun and contemporary. We wanted to make our interiors come to life and really support our development path, which is more of an urban strategy to become more appealing for our developers and landlords, and get our franchisees really excited about the future.
Richard: So, how have you leveraged and design, and the digital experience throughout to really help tell that Boston Pizza brand story?
Paulo: As part of the overall new design concept, we integrated a lot of our food creds and our history of the brand into the architectural elements. As you will see throughout the restaurant, we have some subtle messaging located in different areas of the restaurant that communicate our history, who we are, what we are, about food, about sports. And then obviously, with the digital platform, allowing us a lot of flexibility to really communicate more of the brand strategy, about our products and what we do in the community. So, it’s allowed us a lot of flexibility to set us up for now and the future.
Richard: You’ve got a great neighborhood here right where, the X&Y intersection of the stadium where the Jays play. So how did the location strategy come into play here for this new concept?
Paulo: Oh, this location we’re pretty fortunate to have this in our arsenal. We took it over as a corporate location because we thought this was a great opportunity for a flagship location downtown core urban strategy and really introduced a new concept, very unique space with two-storey allowed us a lot of flexibility on design in creating some very memorable elements as part of the overall design. So I’m very excited to have this as our sort of first flagship location with the new concept.
Richard: That’s great. And obviously, a great place to come before, during, and after the game to celebrate the Jays and celebrate the team.
Paulo: Yes! This location is obviously very centrally located to the SkyDome…sorry, Rogers Center and the ACC. The aquarium obviously us being not just a sports bar, but a family restaurant side as well. So being close to the aquarium allows us a lot of exposure to our guests.
Richard: Paulo, earlier, you talked about how we’ve integrated the digital experience throughout and integrated that with the design and the design layout. Maybe we could talk a little bit more specifically on the different zones within your space and how digital has been leveraged, right from when you come in the front door to even when you’re sitting in the dining room, or the restaurant, or the bar area.
Paulo: As you said, we try to create a digital experience throughout the whole restaurant starting from the moment you walk through the doors. So, behind the hostess stand, we have a large two-by-two matrix that will allow us the flexibility to really promote some of the community work that we’re doing, or welcoming some teams that are coming in to celebrate a memorable moment, or just come celebrate in general, any meetings or corporate events that are taking place, or allows us, as a venue, to really communicate and thank them for coming in to our restaurant.
And then we also have a touchscreen that’s part of the waiting area. So, if we do have lineups or we have some time that you’re sitting in the foyer, there is an interactive screen that allows you to navigate through the screen in the menu or the feature could be about what’s happening in the community, so there’s a lot of flexibility there. And then as you walk in through the bar, we have the digital scoreboards throughout the bar area, which really are meant to complement the game that’s happening on the screen. It allows our guests to not constantly look at their mobile devices to get highlights or leaderboards. So it’s right in their face, it’s everything that they need to really watch the game, and also look at stats as they’re watching the game. It allows that flexibility. And then in our TOD area (Take-Out and Delivery), we also continued that digital strategy in there as well. We have a digital screen that also loops through some of our products, our menu, but it also allows a touchscreen capability for down the road if we ever want to use that technology.
Richard: So, Paulo, how has the digital experience strengthened Boston Pizza’s experience as a restaurant and sports bar?
Paulo: Well, just like other brands, historically, you would have static POP throughout the restaurant. With the digital platform, obviously, it’s allowing us to have more relevant information and keep it constantly updated so that our guests are always looking at something that’s relevant to today or to what’s happening in regards to sports or what’s happening in the community, what’s happening in the restaurant itself. So, it allowed us to stay relevant and obviously with the guests that we have today, Millennials and Gen Z’s, they’re all about technology, and they’re used to looking at technology with the Twitter feeds and all that. All that now is available at the restaurant. They don’t have to look at their device, it’s all front and center.
Richard: Paulo, so what are the biggest challenges that you face when you’re implementing a digital strategy of this nature and size?
Paulo: Well, obviously, the biggest would be cost and getting a return on investment on doing something like this. And when you weigh the pros and cons of both obviously digital allows us a lot of flexibility, sets us up for the future and obviously allows us to stay relevant in regards to the content that’s playing in our restaurants. You know, learning and understanding all the integral pieces that come together is a challenge. It’s obviously a learning curve for that, so I recommend obviously making sure that you partner up with agencies or partners that understand implementing digital strategies because there is a lot to understand and learn.
So, we’re fortunate to have Shikatani Lacroix assist us and putting that all together, and also connecting with proper integrators, and program management suppliers to ensure that we’re obviously set up for success. And obviously the ongoing costs. So trying to leverage some of our marketing dollars and sort of offset those from the static that we used to implement and roll out into the restaurants, and really taking some of those costs, and then bring them into the digital strategy to offset the ongoing monthly fees to our franchisees. Obviously that’s critical because like any program, if it costs too much money to implement, then you’re not gonna get that much adoption into the system. So for us is really trying to level set the costs and then obviously get something into the field that’s affordable for our franchisees to execute across the board.
Richard: So what were the biggest challenges you faced with your new urban design concept in this location and as you move it forward?
Paulo: Well, our goal was always about the guest experience first. So, you know, it’s coming up with the best overall look and feel of the restaurant that is fun, contemporary, yet vibrant still it’s alive, the restaurant has to be alive, and then seamlessly, integrating the digital technology into the overall design so it’s not something that was just bolted on, so it’s part of the architectural elements. And then obviously, is balancing budget to that. Obviously, you need to make sure this is something that we can repeat and build across the board. Sometimes it becomes a balance between, the nice-to-haves and what we can afford to execute across the board. And then operationally, obviously, it needs to function like a restaurant. We need to make sure that it’s still building the flexibility for our different party sizes, and obviously, are different with the bar side versus the family side.
Richard: Paulo, what aspects of the final design, this new digital design experience do you love? I mean what are your favorite elements in this base?
Paulo: There’s so many. But I’m just gonna highlight a few. On the design side, I think the archway on the exterior is a big one for us. And the why I say it’s big for us from a street side, obviously, it’s memorable, it’s iconic. You can identify the Boston Pizza with that branding, the red arch that we have, and it’s something we can replicate across the chain. So we think that’s a big win for us on the exterior. On the interior, it’s the authentic materials that were selected as part of the overall design. The natural brick really brings some of that authenticity into the overall design and fill the restaurant. And then the digital side really, in this particular location, because the two-storey very unique location, we have this beautiful matrix that’s running up the staircase. The content that’s on there is phenomenal, really promotes the local teams, and also promotes the area that we’re in. We have a nice custom digital graphic on the 416. Paying homage to the location that we’re in. So I think that’s a beautiful element. And then in the bar itself, just the leader scoreboards, are very impactful. I think they’re phenomenal addition to our raw brand experience.
Richard: Just to build on what you’re saying. You know, the finishing and materials that were used on the interior, there was a real effort and in the audits that we had done across North America, a lot of restaurants, a lot of chains were going dark and rich, and really heavy spaces. And there was a real opportunity to add some lightness, some brightness to still make this family-focused and not be this cavernous dungeon. And I’d agree that the digital vertical boards that you talked about on the staircase do a great job of overcoming the challenge in this space of uniting not only the bar area, but with the restaurant area on the upper floor. It’s a great connector piece that helps tie the two areas together when they are sitting, you know, stacked on top of each other. Those are great choices.
Paulo: Yeah, thank you.
Richard: Paulo, how did you develop your digital strategy?
Paulo: Well, obviously, it’s a collaborative effort. You and your team obviously played a critical role in helping us establish a process to get through the strategy, the digital strategy we want with our marketing group, and obviously, with us in regards to the design and the layout placement of the screens. So it’s important that, you know, we understand what we wanna do with the digital, and then have somebody that can guide us on how to…what’s the path, the critical path to get to the end result that we’re looking for.
Richard: So how will you take this Front & John location, and its design and its success of integrating digital and design together, and move that out into the other franchisee locations across the country?
Paulo: Well, this obviously was our first prototype that we wanted to work out the details. And right from the onset, our goal was to make sure whatever design we came up with from a digital or a design architectural standpoint, that it was scalable, something that we can adapt across the board for our new development program, but also our renovation strategy. So proving obviously this location being more complex built where it’s two levels, we prove that we can scale this up or down. We’re currently working on a renovation program that’s adapting some of the key elements. Obviously, you’re not gonna blow up the whole restaurant, but you’re gonna add those elements that we can carry for the overall design and the digital strategy.
Obviously with the digital strategy, we’re also looking at creating some localized messaging that can adapt into site-specific locations. So allowing the lubra of flexibility so it’s not all cookie cutter on the digital side, but that’s the beauty of digital. It allows you that flexibility to really cater to the communities that we’re in. So we’re excited about how we’re gonna roll this out for the future, and so are our franchisees, which is great to see.
Richard: So, Paulo, what elements of the design are location-specific or are they?
Paulo: So, our strategy was obviously to have a kid of parts that our goal is to try to implement as much as possible into all our locations. Obviously, this particular location is a large footprint or just over 11,000 square feet. We don’t have that luxury in all our brand or all our footprints. So what we’ll do is we’ll create that kid of parts on regards to the critical elements and carry that forward for all locations. So we’re hoping that we’re able to keep most of the key elements in all our designs. So you have things consistency across the board.
Richard: I don’t know how revealing you can be here, but we always ask our clients, you know, how have you been performing? And has the store seeing a lift or that customers coming in, you know, by the thousands to see the new experience?
Paulo: Well, in regard to a lift, it’s a little early for us to measure that at this point. But from a guest experience, our guests are obviously are taking notice of the screen, and we are getting a lot of feedback on the screen, the fact they love that it’s there when they’re watching team playing and showing the highlights that they’re not looking at their mobile devices. And from our franchisees themselves, when they come visit the restaurant, they’re over the top in regards to those digital screens that we have in the restaurant. And each of them are all itching to put that into their restaurant. So from that perspective, we’re excited about the feedback that we’re getting so far. And obviously, that’s leading us to hopefully be able to adapt that across the board to the rest of our chain.
Richard: That’s great. I’d like to thank Paulo for joining us today. It’s been a very insightful discussion.
Paulo: Thank you, Richard.
Richard: Thank you, Paulo.