Burger King Tests Touchless Restaurant Design in Miami

A rendering of a Burger King for the "New Normal."
A rendering of a Burger King for the "New Normal." Photo courtesy of Restaurant Brands International
The year 2020 has been a challenging one for the restaurant industry. The coronavirus pandemic has compelled restaurants to change everything from interior design to menu options in order to keep up with safety requirements and consumer demand.

It's happening on a large scale, as well.

Miami-based fast-food giant Burger King is unveiling a completely new restaurant design that prepares the fast-food chain for our "New Normal." With more people demanding outdoor dining and contactless transactions, Burger King plans to test the design next year in Miami and several locations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Rapha Abreu, global head of design at Burger King parent Restaurant Brands International, tells New Times that Miami was chosen because it's the company's hometown. "As of today, we have plans to pilot one of these restaurants in Miami in 2021. Miami was chosen because is where our headquarters are based in and where we usually pilot innovative projects — our backyard."

The exact location and opening date of the new Burger King have yet to be announced.

“We designed the interior and exterior spaces like we had a blank sheet of paper, designing without preconceived notions of how a Burger King restaurant should look," Abreu says.

The new designs will implement some features already being rolled out in current Burger King locations, such as online ordering and curbside pickup. Some designs will be 100 percent touchless.

Abreu says the chain isn't ready to make its traditional restaurant obsolete. "These new designs are added to the collection of restaurant designs we have for Burger King," he says. "And both traditional dining-in restaurants and these new models will be built moving forward."

The designs are sleek and compact, occupying a footprint of about 60 percent of that of a traditional Burger King. The pint-sized restaurants come with a lot of features, however — including a Burger King ventanita where customers can walk up to a dedicated window and order for takeout.

Drive-thru lanes will offer digital menu boards and a "living wall" that allows guests to see into the restaurant's kitchen.

The new Burger King will offer a drive-in area where guests can park under solar-powered canopies and order via the BK app by scanning a QR code. Food will be delivered directly to the car.

The new location will also offer curbside delivery for orders placed in advance through the app. For even less human interaction, coded pick-up lockers will be available for customers who prefer to pick up pre-ordered food.

To accommodate on-premises dining, the new designs will include either a shaded patio area or an indoor/outdoor space suspended above the drive-thru entrance.

For decades, McDonald's has retained its title as America's fast-food giant. But the behemoth is probably hearing Burger King's heavy footsteps. Last year BK launched the Impossible Whopper to lure a growing market for meat-free meals. Now Burger King is testing out a pandemically inspired pivot. Is the King aiming to usurp the fast-food crown? 
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss