The Halal Guys worked with Rubber and Road Creative, a San Francisco-based brand strategy and retail design firm, to create a new fast-casual design that balances the brand’s street cart roots and its desire to elevate the customer experience and brand identity as a growing international franchise operation. The Halal Guys has more than 90 units and plans to expand to 400 over the next several years.

“We were immediately drawn to the work Rubber and Road has done, specifically within the fast-casual and quick-service restaurant categories. We just really appreciated their attention to detail when transforming other brands,” said Margaret Carrera, chief development officer of The Halal Guys. Rubber and Road has worked on designs for Jersey Mike’s, Noah’s Bagels, Quaker Steak and Lube and others.

“It has been six years since we opened our first franchised restaurant and while we are proud of our early stores, The Halal Guys as a brand has evolved, and we felt it was important to acknowledge that.”

“In collaborating with The Halal Guys team, Rubber and Road tapped into the brand’s past, but also looked toward its growth in the future. The new design enhances the guest experience to align with the quality of the food. It also conveys The Halal Guys’ compelling American immigrant success story, so that consumers who don’t know about their origin can understand and appreciate the brand’s rich heritage and legacy,” says Dana Zipser, managing director of Rubber and Road Creative. “Our team created a design strategy infused with a proud New York attitude that is reflected from floor to ceiling.”

The strategic design concept takes elements of a street cart — hinged graphic metal panels around the ordering area — to pay homage to the brand’s history and evoke the days when lines formed around the block for a falafel platter. Entry area walls feature subway tiles that conjure images of urban train stations. Floors are two-toned concrete, bringing a taste of the outdoors inside. As another nod to the New York streets, Rubber and Road designed manhole covers for the floor of the ordering queue that include NYC 1990 but will also be localized to each city. 

“We tried to move the brand forward with modern, timeless seating and lighting choices that feel street-savvy yet comfortable,” says Brent White, design director at Rubber and Road. “We employed storytelling to drive home key messages about the brand’s humble beginnings from street to storefront: Halal Fresh, Halal State of Mind, Can’t Fake the Flavor and Serving the Street Since 1990.” 

Rubber and Road also used hand-drawn graphics and graffiti wall art to emphasize fresh, handmade food as well as tell the story of The Halal Guys. Rubber and Road shined a literal light on The Halal Guys distinct flavors by creating a neon visual that spotlights the sauce bottles with All About the Sauce signage. Reinforcing the freshness message, the open design provides transparency and allows customers to see everything being prepared from the grill and skewers.

The new design also features two seating options for individual and communal gatherings. Customers can choose from comfortable banquet park bench-style seating or barstools. Additional protective elements have been added since the pandemic began.

“We developed a great design language that allowed us to be flexible during COVID,” White says. Chevron graphics on the floor were already part of the plan to streamline the flow of traffic for customers eating in, third-party deliveries, web and to-go orders. We also incorporated Plexiglas panels and sketch art on protective glass to reinforce branding while maintaining protocols for safety.”

Already feedback on the new design has been very positive both internally and from the franchisees.

“I love the new design; I think it'll elevate and transform our customer's experience. The story of our brand is present throughout, and the NYC Cart experience is transferred elegantly with the use of the design elements,” says Joe Hafez, franchisee from The Halal Guys’ New Jersey and Westchester County group.

“We hope the new design pays homage to the origins of The Halal Guys while continuing the evolution of the brand well into the 21st century,” Carerra says.