Times change, and brands need to evolve—but that doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch.

Developing strong brand assets can provide restaurants with a flexible foundation in which to successfully scale your experience. Leveraging this kit-of-parts approach allows brands to evolve and better address region-specific sites or changing consumer behaviors.

Now is the time for brands to reimagine their holistic portfolio of experiences – from prototype to new concept – to better address shifting guest needs. Innovation done right accelerates growth, captures consumer’s attention, and puts pressure on competitors to keep pace.

Partnering with long-standing client KFC, NELSON has helped the iconic brand grow their portfolio while scaling their experience. From airport kiosks to historic locations, consistent brand assets are leveraged to create a distinct destination, no matter the square footage.


Store of the Future: KFC Nex Gen

KFC new store rendering

In 2020, KFC unveiled its “Next Generation Prototype” concept that prioritizes a digital-forward experience to leverage the restaurant’s skyrocketing drive-thru sales. Our team partnered with the brand to design a destination that would streamline the process for drivers, will improving the speed of service, limiting contact, and preventing bottlenecks in the lobby as aggregators wait for orders to come out. The new concept includes dedicated parking spots for off-premise orders, a drive thru lane designed for mobile orders, and a designated pickup entry for online orders. The company plans to debut the next-generation restaurant later this year.

Brand Home: Harland Sanders Café & Museum

KFC Museum

The Harland Sanders Cafe is a historic restaurant and museum recognized as the birthplace of KFC. Operated by Colonel Harland Sanders in the 1940s, the site rose to prominence for the conception of the famous KFC secret recipe and has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Tasked with curating a guest experience spread across the entirety of the Colonel’s original campus, our team delivered a unique “Return to Roadside” design approach. To elevate the Sanders Cafe museum and exhibit experience, the design team integrated an engaging, low tech display with interactive overlays that enhance the KFC storyline. As guests make their way through the museum, artifacts have been arranged to celebrate the brand evolution and overall story.


Flagship: The Big Chicken

KFC The Big Chicken

When KFC was looking to renovate their iconic “Big Chicken” flagship store, they turned to us to provide a much-needed update. Located in the heart of Marietta, Georgia, the site offered us an ideal scenario to riff off the momentum of the brand’s current advertising campaign and dial up their irreverent, tongue-in-cheek feistiness of the Colonel to optimize their roadside beacon, which boasts an iconic 56-foot-tall chicken sculpture as its main architectural expression. Inside the store, new graphics brought the brand to life, while updated seating and fresh finishes gave the space an elevated new look, while celebrating the KFC legacy and honoring its Southern hospitality roots.  


New Concept: Drive-Thru Only (International)

KFC Drive-Thru

With a growing number of consumers ordering through online channels, the goal of the drive-thru only concept was to develop a more efficient operating model that celebrated this change in consumer behavior.  Located in Newcastle, Australia, the drive-thru has multiple lanes that allow customers to order and pay for a meal through the brand’s smartphone app or website, including designated lanes for more traditional, on-the-spot orders. With traditional restaurants, the building is the experience, but with this new concept it became a fixture – one element supporting the overall experience. Every touchpoint from the landscaping, signage, and architecture of the drive-thru portal comes together to create an elevated experience for guests.


Small Footprint: Urban Prototype

KFC The Bronx

The goal of the brand’s first-ever urban prototype, located in The Bronx, was to reflect the borough’s bold, fast-paced eclecticism with a little more spunk than the traditional KFC restaurant.  Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a larger than life Colonel Sanders wood focal wall and lively signage featuring the brand’s iconic “it’s finger-lickin’ good” expression. A brick accent wall brings in a piece of the Bronx’s grit and serves as a backdrop for the brand’s traditional bold red stripes. Seating arrangements and ordering options complement the on-the-go mentality of New Yorkers, offering bar seating for solo diners and a designated pick-up area for mobile and to-go orders. Blending warm wood accents and exposed brick and balancing crisp kitchen tile with metal trim and exposed welds contribute to the overall aesthetic.


Prototype: American Showman

KFC The Orignial Showman

When KFC celebrated its 75th anniversary, our team developed a cost-effective retrofit program to refresh the brand environment and create a modern design that celebrated the legacy of Colonel Sanders while also bringing his down-home values and showmanship to life. The new design is a return to the brand’s roots. The honest, crafted finishes combined with bold graphics serve as an allusion to the Colonel’s hard-working background and celebrate his infamous entrepreneurial spark. Paint, finishes, and cladding transform the interior space to reflect an updated brand positioning while creating focal points throughout the dining experience. The exterior is designed with bold color, shutters, and architectural elements to communicate the dramatic transformation from the outside, in.