Several chains have joined upscale eateries in their use of creative door pulls to impress guests before they even set eyes on the menu.
“The first physical, personal experience a guest has with the restaurant is opening the door, a visual and sensual experience that can foreshadow the restaurant experience,” said Jordan Mozer, the owner of the Chicago-based design firm Jordan Mozer and Associates Ltd.
Mozer has designed artistic door pulls at fine-dining restaurants since 1987, as well for last year’s quick-growing Stacked in California and a Cheesecake Factory unit in Chicago.
“Restaurant facades attract the attention of pedestrians and drivers,” Mozer said. “Special handmade elements like door pulls are an opportunity to distinguish a restaurant and tell a story.”
Take a closer look at the creative door pulls at Quaker Steak & Lube, as well as The Cheesecake Factory, Chuy’s Mexican Food, Original Pancake House, Stacked, and the Taco Bell corporate offices.
Quaker Steak & Lube
Sharon, Pa.-based Quaker Steak & Lube uses replica gas-pump handles as door pulls (pictured above) that "set the theme for the restaurant from the moment a guest opens the door," said Marla Pieton, Quaker Steak’s senior director of marketing. "It's the first opportunity that The Lube has to express its fun philosophy.”
The 50-unit chain will be pulling the handles into Texas with openings this fall. Pieton said customer comments ranged from “the more amusing the better” to “it gets me pumped up to eat.”
The Cheesecake Factory
Inspired by Art Nouveau French cafes like Flo and Julian, The Cheesecake Factory on Michigan Avenue in Chicago blends in artwork from Asia, such as the lotus blossom motif.
“The door pulls of The Cheesecake Factory include some cast copper lotus blossoms (inspired by a 16th century sculpture from Nepal) and cast aluminum-magnesium pulls that embody the organic forms favored in French Art Nouveau design,” said designer Jordan Mozer.
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Chuy’s Mexican Food
Chuy’s Mexican Food, which went public this summer, features these stylized burrito door handles — metal tortillas wrapped around a rebar filling — at its store in Plano, Texas.
“Chuy’s is known for its funky décor,” said Ashley Ingle, director of marketing for the Austin, Texas-based chain that features shrines to Elvis Presley and schools of wooden fish in its units. Besides burritos, tacos are the motif for door pulls in some of its 37 total locations, she said. T
The taco and burrito door pulls were designed for the original Chuy’s location in Austin, which opened in 1996. “Our customers loved them, and we have added them to our décor in all of our restaurants that have been built since that time,” Ingles said. “They fit right in with our other funky pieces, like metal palm trees, mismatched tile and hubcaps.”
Original Pancake House
Larger-than-life spatulas provide the door pulls at a year-old franchised Original Pancake House unit in Addison, Texas. Mark Bailey, president and chief executive of MYM Ltd., the six-unit Original Pancake franchisee for the Dallas-Fort Worth area and rights-holder to Houston development, said the door pulls “are like branding. They set in the customers’ minds a differentiator.”
Bailey said it’s worth giving extra consideration to touch points like door pulls. “You have to think critically about what you can do cost-effectively to make your restaurant different and keep your spending at eye level,” he said. “These spatulas really do make a good first impression.”
Bailey said the door pulls were less expensive than traditional hardware. “Those door spatula handles were less than $60,” he said. “You can easily spend $100 on a door pull. We gave the fabricator one of the special spatulas that we use in our kitchens. He replicated it almost exactly, and enlarged it about 100 percent.” The door pulls also have security hardware to keep them from getting lifted.
The private-dining area in the restaurant has door pulls crafted from waffle makers, Bailey added. “It helps build our brand,” he said, “and we have guests talk about it.” Original Pancake House has 117 units in 28 states.
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Door pulls at Yorba Linda, Calif.-based Stacked mimic the artwork in the units. Jordan Mozer of Chicago designed the building, logo, interiors and furnishings for Stacked as well as the interface for the iPad-based menu.
Mozer said that the design is inspired by artist studios in factory buildings. “Murals and sculptures are part of the design," he explains. "Many of the murals and sculptures at Stacked are from a series of paintings about musical imagery. The door pulls are taken from the artwork. They contrast with the simple industrial style of the architecture."
Although they aren't necessarily making a first impression on customers, the door pulls at Taco Bell's headquarters building in Irvine, Calif., fit with the chain's bell motif. The large-scale entry handles set a welcoming tone at the corporate offices, which the company moved to in December 2009.