Fast-Food Restaurants Serve Rebranding Lessons to Banks

Major fast-food chains routinely revamp their look and feel every seven years, and they know just painting the walls won't cut it. So why do banks and credit unions ignore the branch experience in their retail locations for decades at a time?

Financial institutions deal in deposits, payments, and loans. Fast-food restaurants serve burgers, pizza, salad, soda, and shakes. What could banks and credit unions possibly learn from the fast-food industry? The differences between the two business models are so vast, where’s the correlation?

Revamping your identity and the experience you deliver is how many retail brands remain relevant and increase revenues, especially in the fast-food sector. Whether it’s a restaurant or a financial institution’s branch, making a retail space look up-to-date — both inside and out — will inherently draw more attention and more customers into that location.

Key Question: Do banking consumers today want to walk into branches that still look like a cold and stuffy “Greek temples”? Or that shout “1980s”? Would you?

Update your look and people feel compelled to check out the new design. They’ll want to see what new gadgets you have in your lobby. They’ll be intrigued by new amenities. And they’d welcome an overall improved experience.

Fast-food chains remodel their restaurants about every seven years. Banks and credit unions should follow their lead. The reason? Simple: to increase business.

Popular fast-food chains have learned that when they remodel, people choose to dine-in rather than just hit the drive-through. Why should restaurant operators care how the food is delivered? Because people who eat inside tend to spend more. They linger and chat with each other. They are surrounded by more ordering options (think: “dessert”), and as a result diners and their friends or families drop more cash per visit.

Field & Main Bank gives visitors an experience that more says “upscale hotel lobby” than “bank.”

Banking providers will also find that people are more likely to step foot inside the branch if it’s recently remodeled, rather than using the drive-through teller lanes or ATMs. People naturally want to see things that are new, fresh, and inviting.

It makes sense. An inviting, attractive atmosphere is great for sales. The new, enticing environment creates an opportunity for engagement. It is no longer about transactions—it’s about interactions and meaningful encounters.

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Wendy’s Changes Its Look

Abigail Pringle, SVP at Wendy’s, told investors that their “‘Image Activation’ is more than a remodel” — but that the physical redesign and renovation of select Wendy’s locations are the first things that customers will notice.

Features such as fireplaces, lounge seating, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, digital menu boards, wooden laminate floors, and an overall modern look have been integrated into the redesign — and have all helped increase foot traffic inside their restaurants.

Any time a brand implements a new image through remodeling, consumers are apt to give a nod of approval (not always, but usually). Fast-food brands know they aren’t the only choice people have when they want a quick meal out, so they are constantly competing to be relevant and remain top-of-mind with their target audience. Sound familiar? It should, because banking consumers have just as many choices as fast-food customers do.

And it isn’t getting any easier either. Fast-food chains are increasingly competing with fast-casual chains, such as Panera, Starbucks and Chipotle — all of which offer much sleeker, more upscale designs than older fast-food joints. These days, consumers want to see comfortable wooden seats, not garish plastic chairs bolted to the floor. Similarly in the financial industry, new competitors like fintech disruptors are raising the bar. People’s experiences with online powerhouses like Amazon and Netflix also elevate people’s CX expectations.

Reality Check: People like what’s cool. “Old, dated and crusty” isn’t cool.

City & County Credit Union gave this branch a refresh. Now it looks more welcoming.

ROI on Rebranding Your Experience

Even if the food (or banking products) offered remains exactly the same as before, remodeling alone can make your brand more memorable and stand out from competitors.

For Wendy’s, sales at its newly renovated locations increased more than 25%, with a 43% lift in those who choose to dine in the restaurant. Even their drive-through business rose by 44%. The sleek, modern look of Wendy’s new locations encourage people to enjoy their meal there. More foot traffic and more time in the location translates to more spending while they are there.

New and improved experiences, environments, and engaging staff results in soaring sales. It’s time for banks and credit unions to up their game.

Bottom Line: Consumers don’t want average. Invest more in updating your design and expect a high return.

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