New Burger King owner aims to bring ‘restaurant of tomorrow’ to W. MI

Kent County

An image of the sign for Burger King as photographed on March 16, 2020 in Wantagh, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The new owner of dozens of Burger King restaurants wants to build the brand’s “restaurant of tomorrow” in West Michigan.

Chicago-based Factorial Holdings plans to invest several million dollars to build 10 more Burger Kings in the “thriving” Grand Rapids area. That’s in addition to an “aggressive remodeling” plan for the 26 restaurants it just purchased, which are scattered from Holland east to Ionia and Saugatuck north to Belding.

“That’s exciting to us… we want to be part of that economic engine,” said Michael Stanley, managing partner of Factorial Holdings.

INSIDE THE ‘RESTAURANT OF TOMORROW’

If approved by Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International, the new restaurants would be among the first in West Michigan to deliver Burger King’s “restaurant of tomorrow” vision, which includes a smaller building footprint with a stronger focus on the drive-thru, curbside pickup and delivery experience.

Mandated dining room closures during the pandemic is one of the reasons the company is investing in improving the drive-thru experience, according to Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil.

Drive-thrus and delivery service have become more popular during the pandemic. While indoor dining is closed under the current order by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Burger King’s drive-thrus are open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Burger King is also considering other contactless order options. Stanley says that includes a model similar to Sonic, where customers can drive up and order and an employee will deliver the food to their vehicle.

However, timing will factor into whether the new local restaurants can take on Burger King’s vision. Factorial Holdings would need Restaurant Brands International to release the architectural renderings of its “restaurant of tomorrow” soon, since construction of its new restaurants is slated to begin in 2022.

RESTAURANT REMODELS

Renovations to existing restaurants now owned by Factorial Holdings will also include modernizing the drive-thru experience. That includes installing digital ordering screens equipped with “predictive” technology that creates special promotions based on loyalty cardholders’ previous orders, regional weather patterns, time of day and other factors. Stanley says they would also add new signs to guide customers through the third party delivery and takeout process.

Underutilized dining areas will shrink in the updated restaurants, which will take on a more upscale atmosphere. Stanley says Factorial Holdings is still deciding the fate of the indoor play areas at existing restaurants, which are currently shut down for safety reasons during the pandemic.

GROWING THE GRAND RAPIDS AREA

Under Factorial Holdings, Burger King’s workforce will grow from approximately 600 people to 850 employees, the company states.

The restaurants are Factorial Holdings’ first in the area. Stanley says Factorial Holdings sees “tremendous growth within the Grand Rapids market,” which they want to build on.

Stanley says investing in West Michigan also appealed to the company because of shared Midwestern values. The company has leaders who already live in the area, including Jim MacDonald, who serves as vice president of operations for the market and is a 30-year Burger King veteran.

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