Earlier this month, Papa Murphy's announced a new "CREATE" store prototype now in test in Austin, Texas. Plans call for two additional locations to open — in San Marcos, Texas and Phoenix — in October.
The new store features an open layout, digital menu boards, a grab-and-go "Murphy's Market" section and signage reinforcing the brand's positioning of "Always Fresh."
The model was designed by brand strategy/design firm Tesser, based out of San Francisco. Tesser is the brainchild behind other brand remodels, including Wendy's "A Cut Above" restaurants, introduced in late 2011.
Tré Musco, president and chief creative officer at Tesser, said the main objectives with Papa Murphy's upgrades are to reiterate the "perception and realization of product freshness," and to promote the idea of creating and personalization.
Also, the team has set out to rebrand the category of Take 'N Bake into "Create, Take and Bake."
"We wanted to distance ourselves from frozen Take 'N Bake that you find in grocery freezer aisles. Many of the frozen grocery brands have really upgraded their offerings in the past few years, and I think consumers were starting to get confused about the Take 'N Bake positioning," Musco said. "When you add 'Create' to the Take 'N Bake, it says 'hand-created, customized, personalized.' That rebranding was an important goal."
Different kind of store remodel
Brands from McDonald's to Dunkin' to Domino's are in the process of upgrading their store designs, but Papa Murphy's is different because it is a carryout model. Although consumers are in the store briefly, Tesser conducted consumer research to gain a broad sampling of perception and found the in-store experience didn't fully line up with how the brand wanted to be positioned within that space.
"Papa Murphy's is an anomoly; it's unique to the pizza category in that it doesn't have delivery or ovens. So they're innovative in bringing customers the freshest ingredients possible, but we found some disconnect in how the brand's overall image reinforced that," Musco said.
Tesser's priority was to build the entire design program around the ideas of "freshness" and "personalization," and hone in on the brand's differentiators. As Papa Murphy's explained on its Facebook page, the CREATE store allows for a better view of the pizza-making process.
"The brand has a 'Chipotle/Subway' effect and people really like that and want that more now," Musco said.
Two key design elements
Because Papa Murphy's is an "anomoly," some of the prototype's design elements fit better than they would at a different big pizza chain. Among them are digital menu boards.
"Everybody has to walk into Papa Murphy's. People are going in and making decisions live, so it makes a lot of sense from an investment perspective to have digital here than it would at a delivery brand," Musco said. "Digital has a great ability to manipulate and change to correspond with the fresh ingredients, and to have better vibrancy and imagery. Digital just says 'modern' to people."
Papa Murphy's Chief Development Officer Kevin King called the digital menu boards one of two key features of the store prototype. The other is the grab-and-go "Murphy's Market," added to showcase the brand's complete meal offerings such as salads, dessert pizzas and cookie dough. The custom cabinet includes the Mini Murph Make 'N Bake Kids Pizza Kit, cold beverages, gift items (branded pizza cutters, for example) and more.
"This (element) adds to the experience. You finish the pizza at home so we felt it was important and a good opportunity to provide consumers with this mini market that offered things that can go with their freshly-cooked pizza," Musco said.
Other aesthetic highlights
Other design elements include simple lines, wood and heavy metal framings, removed visual clutter, pin spotlights on the makeline and bold messaging.
"We're trying to find the best way for consumers to follow the making of their pizza and help them understand how fresh it is, that it's made to order and can be personalized," Musco said.
To do so, Tesser removed everything that wasn't a necessity in-between the customer and the food. Basically, there is just a sheet of glass present now, separating the ingredients and the customer.
The messaging has also shifted. For example, instead of "Order here," the new store messaging says "Start creating."
"Everything focuses on the 'create' concept. We want to inspire customers to branch out a bit and have it made the way they want it. That is a powerful idea tied to Papa Murphy's," Musco said.
Transparency is also an important theme within the new design. Each new prototype store spotlights the prep areas where customers can see pizza dough made from scratch, then topped with each chosen ingredient down the line. Such transparency, Musco said, is very much on trend in the restaurant space — not just in store design, but also in ingredient listings, social media, sustainability reports, etc.
"Some (Papa Murphy's) models, for example, are bringing the dough-making process to the front of the house. It's messy, but it's cooking. We have nothing to hide and we think such openness adds a better connection to the customer," Musco said.
Papa Murphy's plans to start with three CREATE store locations to pilot specific materials, design elements and customer flow. Future plans will also offer franchisee partners the opportunity to open new locations and remodel existing units with the new design.
Check out the new store design.
Read more about branding efforts.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.