Can fancy restaurant remodels save the fast-food industry? – California News

Can fancy restaurant remodels save the fast-food industry? – California News

Communal tables. Self-serve ordering kiosks. Rustic brick walls. Bar counters with outlets for plugged-in millennials.

The snazzy decor is popping up at redesigned restaurants across Southern California. But if you think the posh amenities belong to fast-casual players like Panera Bread or Mendocino Farms, think again. The comfy environment is playing out at some of the region’s oldest fast-food brands.

McDonald’s, El Pollo Loco and Taco Bell are modernizing restaurants to cater to a new generation of diners seeking sophistication, as well as speed and value when gobbling a Big Mac or chalupa.

Fast food chains are striking while the iron is hot. For the first time in years, fast-casual sales are slowing — opening the door for aging quick-service chains to win back straying customers with makeovers that go beyond a fresh coat of paint.

In December, El Pollo Loco launched its first “Vision” design. The new look includes Edison-style spider lights, a battleship gray exterior, wood trusses, brick walls and large picnic-style seating.

“This is a very big departure,” Chief Development Officer John Dawson said.

Last year, Taco Bell unveiled four distinct designs for its next generation of fast-food stores. Features include reclaimed wood tabletops, exhibition kitchens and midcentury modern lounge chairs. The chain also is developing Cantina restaurants, a flashy brand that serves alcohol-infused slushie drinks in an urban environment.

One of the largest efforts to revamp a cookie-cutter look is happening at McDonald’s.

About 70 percent of the chain’s 600 restaurants in Orange and Los Angeles…

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