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McD franchisee unveils modern design in L.A.

As McDonald’s executives pledged to spend $1 billion in an ongoing effort to upgrade the chain with a new more “relevant” design, franchisee Richard Bechguenturian Jr. has unveiled his version of the next-generation restaurant in the Los Angeles neighborhood of North Hollywood.

Bechguenturian, who with his family operates 14 McDonald’s in the area, said the goal of the redesign was to offer his customers a setting that is “contemporary, modern and forever young,” one that reflects the neighboring North Hollywood arts district known as NoHo.

Local designer Ed Webb helped remodel the store, which features an 88-seat dining room with a mix of booths, high tables and low tables with unsecured Emeco aluminum chairs. At the center is a lounge area with vinyl soft couches, where guests might sit with their laptops and a coffee, taking advantage of the unit’s free WiFi.

Murals decorate the walls, and the unit’s front window resembles a puzzle playfully patterned with the faces of local customers and Ronald McDonald and that also serves to partially block the view of auto body shops across the street.

Bechguenturian said he doesn’t plan to bring the same look to other units, though he does plan to continue upgrading the family’s restaurants. “I’m not sure where or how just yet,” he said.

McDonald’s officials said recently that 400 to 500 McDonald’s locations will be remodeled in 2010 across the country. The plan is to focus on higher-volume locations where the land is owned or the lease has significant time remaining.

At McDonald’s shareholder meeting Thursday, chief executive Jim Skinner said the brand’s reimaging efforts would be a major initiative this year.

“Our restaurants are the heart of our business,” Skinner said. “We’re going to send a strong signal that McDonald’s is relevant. Our research tells us that reimaging benefits all [of] our brand attributes, from the quality of the food to the friendliness of the crew. We’re allocating nearly $1 billion [to the effort], and our owner-operators are contributing as well.”

The remodels are being done in partnership between corporate and franchise operators. The corporate office is contributing an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 and franchisees are covering the estimated difference of $250,000 to $500,000, depending on the design.

Bechguenturian declined to say how much the remodel of his North Hollywood location cost, and McDonald’s officials said they didn’t know how many units in the Los Angeles area might reflect the chain’s new look.

The contemporary remodels began in 2003, and McDonald’s said only about 20 percent of restaurants globally have received the new exterior design, while about 40 percent have had interiors updated.

Franchisees have been given flexibility to customize their design within certain parameters to reflect the nuances of their communities, said Danya Proud, a McDonald’s spokeswoman.

“We’re trying to create a McDonald’s experience,” she said. “We’re serving more customers today than we ever have and our customers are changing.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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