It's been said that upscale fast-casual and fancy chains are the future of dining — and with that in mind, how will down-and-dirty fast-food chains like McDonald's stay relevant? If the company's new one-off test concept in Hong Kong is any indication, the future of McDonald's includes fresher, healthier menu items (hello, quinoa and asparagus) and a stripped-down, hipped-up design.
As Fast Company points out, the interior of McDonald's Next is awfully reminiscent of reigning better burger king Shake Shack, complete with neutral-colored walls "adorned with spare line drawings of hamburgers," concrete tables, and atmospheric mood lighting. The slick, modern design comes courtesy of design firm Landini Associates; company founder and creative director Mark Landini tells Eater, "They are a truly iconic brand and we’ve always been a big fan of simplicity."
The restaurant also features table service in the evenings and both wired and wireless charging stations at each table — after all, Instagramming that fancy burger is practically a requirement for the millennials the store design is clearly aimed at. Per The Independent, said burgers — which can be customized via self-serve "Create Your Taste" touch-screens— are served up on wooden boards, flanked by fries mounded into mini fryer baskets. But fancy presentation alone won't save McDonald's burgers: Unless the chain steps up the quality of its subpar beef patties, it's hard to see it actually competing with the likes of Shake Shack.
Aside from build-your-own burgers, the Next menu also includes "a salad bar, waffles with berry compote and artisan coffees with themed coffee art," and an array of baked goods to rival any coffee shop.
It's not the first project Landini Associates has worked on for McDonald's: They also helped create the company's Australian test concept The Corner, a one-off restaurant prototype that launched in late 2014 serving a healthier menu with items such as tofu and rice boxes, craft sodas, and a fancy salad bar, not to mention heart-shaped latte art.
It's unclear if the McDonald's Next concept will ever land stateside, but more locations are in the works for China, Australia, and Singapore.