Design Critique: Chick-fil-A Tysons West

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Hey! I’m going to start posting design critiques of recently opened/ renovated local commercial spaces. After having my designs critiqued in class for the past few years, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables and share my thoughts on the design of area establishments. As an (almost–May 2015) interior designer, whenever I walk into a space, I am naturally critiquing the design. So I thought, heck, why don’t I share my thoughts. Maybe two or three people out there will care. Here goes! (In a rambling, ranting, stream-of-consciousness writing style, so bear with me.)
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Let me start by saying I am so frickin excited we FINALLY got a Chick-fil-A in Tysons. It’s about time. Currently the closest one is in Devil’s Armpit, Virginia (whoops, I mean Seven Corners. I loath Seven Corners, Virginia). Would have been nice if this new location a was drive-thru, but I guess it’s not hurting anyone to get off their tushes and walk inside. I’ve been saying for years (well, to myself, so no wonder no one was listening) that whoever puts a Chick-fil-A in Tysons is going to make bank. From the two times I have been there since it opened, it is clear that they are not hurting for business–there was a steady stream of customers both times. (And Tysons NEEDS more walkable lunch spots for the gazillions of people that work in the area. Tysons was designed as such an anti-pedestrian friendly neighborhood, so I’m glad that with the metro opening and therefore more businesses coming to the area, people are out walking more. Rant over.)

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I was nervous before going in that the space would follow suit with most fast food restaurants and have harsh, fluorescent lighting. Fast food restaurants do this on purpose–to get you in and out the door quick so the next person can take your spot (and therefore they make more money). I was happy to see that it was nicely lit–not McDonald’s bright, but not Starbucks soft. Great lighting for eating and conversation, but also if you want to chill and do some work and take advantage of their wifi.

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The bar height seating and the Tolix style bar stools were a nice touch. Various seating options (heights, configurations, etc) are great in restaurant design. Not only does it help a restaurant design not seem static, it’s just nice to have options.

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The countertops were a marble lookalike. Loved them, trying to figure out what material they are. I THINK they are Silestone, could be wrong though. The two times I have been in there I have been rubbing and knocking on the counters to see what it was, and I’m sure I looked like total freak.

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A subway tile backsplash always gets an A+ in my book. Brushed stainless is a good option for restaurant because duh, clean-ability. The larger white subway tile throughout the restaurant is nice as well. Plus they have a dark grout, which is always a good idea. I never understand why restaurants use a light colored grout–besides the fact that it tends to yellow with age, it just gets dirty.

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Wish I had a better picture of these lights, again I was trying to not look like a freak while snapping pictures. They added a vintage touch which was a nice contrast to the other more industrial fixtures.

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I loved this seating area. I’ve been seeing table height ‘bars’ (or maybe more appropriately a benching type of seating), more and more in cafe style restaurant design and I like it. Regular chair height seating (18″) is my preference above bar stools as not only am I short, I have freakishly short legs, so even regular height chairs often feel like high chairs. Again, love the Tolix style stools, and they look nice against the reddish-brownish Terrazzo counters. I’m always a fan of surfaces made from recycled materials. LEED points for sure (don’t know if they were going for LEED certification, but if so, recycled material countertops would count for credit).

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This wood-wrapped wall was a nice touch–it broke up the space and added visual interest. Not sure if they were going for the look of reclaimed wood throughout the space, that’s what it appeared to be between this wall and the bar height table. I doubt it was actually reclaimed, as wood used in commercial spaced has to be have proper fire resistance. (If you do use reclaimed wood in a commercial setting, make sure to get it treated for fire resistance.) Throughout the restaurant was laminate wood wainscoting in a gray-blue color, which I thought was lovely.

I didn’t snap a picture of the ceilings, but in addition to a dropped 2×2 ceiling they also had a lowered gypsum (drywall) ceiling above the middle of the restaurant. Changes in ceiling height help a space feel comfy and help zone off seating areas. If there is one thing I have learned in design school it is don’t forget about the ceilings! I’ve heard you loud and clear prof’s, and ceilings are always something I notice in spaces.

All in all, I think the designer did an awesome job! A nice blend of vintage and industrial FF&E. Welcome to Tysons, Chick-fil-A!

Psst–Chick-fil-A, would love it if you would open up another location closer to McLean and on 123–just a thought! Any location you put inside the beltway is going to make major bucks!

Thanks for reading! I hope I didn’t use too much designery jargon and the lay person will be understand this! Going to critique new Peet’s Coffee and Sweetgreen locations in my area next. Stay tuned!

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