June 2018 - Sachse Construction

Traditional Restaurant Chains Launch Fast-Casual Concepts to Lure Millennials

Some well-established,casual-dining chains are rolling out more modern, fast-casual concepts to try to attract younger diners. They include Cracker Barrel, Tony Roma’s, Hooters and Denny’s.

These older chains want to capture market share in the hot fast-casual sector. After all, millennials dine out or get takeout five times a week, according to a study by Bankrate.com. That’s compared with just 2.5 times for boomers.

Since these chains have decades of experience in the restaurant business, spinning off a fast-casual concept to help revitalize their brand may be a natural progression.

“A lot of the casual-dining concepts are getting long in the tooth, so you’ve got a perfect recipe,” says James Cook, Americas director of retail research with real estate services firm JLL.“Some of these older concepts really want a reinvention.”

Cook says the fast-casual sector has captured a big slice of restaurant growth for awhile now.

“If you were to ask where we are in the fast-casual boom, I’d say more than halfway through,” he notes. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for newconcepts to compete.

Instead of making drastic changes to their existing brands and confusing customers, restaurants like Denny’sand Cracker Barrelopted to spin off separate fast-casual restaurants and most are building out new units.This way they can appeal to a younger demographic and not pushawaycustomers of their core brand.

“I can see the conversation inside any organization and millennials being one of the legs of the stool for justification of this kind of move,” says Minneapolis branding expert Aaron Keller, co-founder of Capsule. But he says there’s more in play with this strategy.

“Older brands are harder to move and change. It’s harder to change perception that’s already set in a particular brand, especiallyin the area of restaurants,” Keller says. “Not only do you have to change it for a new audience, but you also have to worry about what does that mean for your existing audience and are you going to alienate them.”

Keller adds that it’stypically cheaper to launch a new concept than “dramatically change the associations” with the existing brand.

Take Denny’s, which created its fast-casual chain The Den with 17 locations so far. With its hip décor, it’s aimed at millennials and was initially created for college campuses. Now franchisees are opening off-campus restaurants.

“Denny’s has got all of this meaning packed into it,” Keller says. “Because you have meaning, it’s going to cost millions, perhaps even billions of dollars, to change out all of the restaurant locations. How they communicate, how the staff works. It’s a gargantuan amount of change vs. starting something fresh and new.”

Keller says once a new concept is created, they must design the experience and then scale it.

“Those are the big three,” he says. “It’s all about the experience as they’re entering what’s becoming a very crowded space. How are they going to be different, interesting? Just to do a fast casual is not going to do it. There has to be some reason, some emotional connection for the customer… And then they have to have the patience for it to grow. It isn’t instant. And it likely won’t be for a very long time.”

Cracker Barrel launched a fast-casual biscuit restaurant called Holler & Dash, which looks nothing like Cracker Barrel. There aren’t rocking chairs on the porches or board games, but instead it’s modern with exposed brick and industrial lighting.

The Tony Roma’s steakhouse chain launched TR Fire Grill as a modern spin-off, and Hooters introduced a fast-casual chain called Hoots in Chicago last year.

These new concepts have smaller footprints than the casual dining establishments. For example, Holler & Dash is testing sizes ranging fromabout 2,000 sq. ft. to 3,800 sq. ft.

“They’re smaller than casual dining so you’re spending less on real estate,” Cook says. “You’ve got counter service, so there’s no wait staff.”

Dining areas and kitchens are smaller. It might cost more per sq. ft. for prime locations, but it’s less square footage, he adds.

Most of these new concepts want to be located on urban or high-traffic suburban sites.

“Right now, existing brands trying to roll out a fast-casual concept are in the testing phase,” Cook says. “Everybody’s experimenting with new growth concepts just to find the next growth engine. So when you’re testing, you really want to find a good site. You know the traffic is there. You know the diners are there. You’re really just working on refining the concept. If that’s an urban setting, it needs to be clearly on a first floor with high foot traffic. If it’s in a suburban setting, you probably want an end cap or someplace with good traffic counts.”

The restaurant business is extremely competitive, Cook adds.

“We have a lot more new restaurant concepts opening than what’s sustainable in that there will always be some that will fail,” he says. “That’s the nature of the restaurant industry.”

That’s something that retail landlords keep in mind as well. According to Alan Zell, president of Phoenix-based retail property management and leasing firm ZELL Commercial Real Estate Services, with spin-off concepts “the advantage is you’ve got an experienced restaurant operator—in their parent company—but it is a trial balloon.”

“There’s always the chance that the location may not make it, or that concept may not make it, so there’s a risk factor for the landlord to get involved with that type of deal, to spend leasehold improvement dollars… So I think it has its positives and some drawbacks because of the trial balloon aspect.”

Nearly Half of Non-Residential Construction Projects Now Delivered by Design-Build

New research by FMI shows that nearly half of non-residential construction projects are being delivered by the design-build method.

Design-build is the fastest growing and most popular method to deliver nonresidential, highway/street, and water/wastewater construction projects in America. Among the key findings of the new research are:

  • Design-build is anticipated to account for 44% of construction spending in the assessed segments (nonresidential, highway/street and water/wastewater) delivering $1.2 trillion in construction put in place by 2021.
  • Design-build spending is anticipated to grow 18% overall, with the highway/street and water/wastewater sectors seeing 30% growth by 2021.
  • Design-build spending in Manufacturing (16%), Highway/Street (14%), and Educational (15%) represent the greatest percentage of design-build construction spending by segment from 2018-2021.
  • Experience with design-build was rated highest across all project delivery methods, with 76% of survey respondents reporting very good and excellent experiences.
  • Opportunities to innovate and the ability to fast track a project were identified as top benefits associated with design-build.

Esports’s Rise, and Hunger for Stadiums, Points to Adaptive Reuse Potential

In Texas, sports stadiums are king. From the Dallas Cowboys’ massive pro football mecca—complete with one of the world’s largest television screens—to the high school football fieldsthat put the homes of many pro sports teams to shame, few places have such a history of pushing the limits of stadium design.

A new development in Arlington, the country’s largest purpose-built esports stadium, shows that Texas may be host to part of the next evolution of sporting arenas. The $10 million Esports Stadium Arlington, set to open this November in the city’s Entertainment District, will see the city’s convention center converted into a competition arena, esports gallery, and production studio.

And this is just the beginning. According to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the global esports market will more than triple from $493 million in 2017 to $1.5 billion in 2020, and a recent ESPN story chronicled the growth of the industry in Dallas-Fort Worth, where more than $105 million has been invested in teams, leagues, and venues.

Big events for games such as League of Legends, one of a number of popular multiplayer online battle arena video games, have taken place at venues such as the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Staples Center in Los Angeles, and New York’s Madison Square Garden, where players square off at center court, with gameplay broadcast to the arena on massive screens and online across the globe. A Chinese firm, Allied Esports, just opened a venue in Vegas, and expects to open at least 10 more arenas worldwide over the next three to five years.

“We’re going to see a pretty rapid evolution in the marketplace,” says Brian Mirakian, principal and director at Populous Activate, the firm behind the design of the new Arlington complex. “Things are maturing quite quickly in esports in general, and there’s been such an influx of investment into the purchasing teams, with lots of leagues forming.”

How venues can get a second life with esports

Mirakian says the Arlington project—at roughly 100,000 square feet, it’ll be the largest competition venue of its kind in North America—is the perfect example of how adaptive reuse will play a big role in the rapid growth of esports.

While there will be new, custom-built stadiums and arenas, the industry’s expansion underscores the need for new venues, fast. The recently opened Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California, home to the Overwatch League, opened in a converted sound stage once used for The Tonight Show. As esports leagues grow, so does the need for custom-designed interior space.

“This is a perfect example of finding new adaptive reuse potential with a convention center,” says Mirakian.

Mirakian calls the convention center in Arlington a “big black box,” a kind of blank canvas that was easy to redivide into a convention center to fit the specific needs of competitive video games. There was a large 30,000-square-foot ballroom that was subdividable, as well as meeting rooms and office spaces that could be converted into space for tech support and video production, especially important for broadcasting gameplay and competition to online channels such as Twitch and YouTube.

The complex, a joint project between the city and Esports Venues LLC, also had all the requirements for hosting and broadcasting esports events. The converted venue can seat up to 2,000 fans, fit massive screens, and support retail and concessions.

“I really think this does open up more room for big box store repurposing,” says Mirakian. “You have large double-height volumes, clear spans without columns, and already have parking infrastructure.”

The Arlington venue, roughly three-quarters the size of a Best Buy, will likely be on the larger side of potential esports spaces. Positioned near iconic stadiums such as the Cowboys’ home at AT&T Stadium, it also appears to be planting a flag for the esports industry.

City officials believe it’ll host 30 events in the first year, and only grow from there. The investment in such a high-tech space will also pay dividends outside of game day; in addition to positioning Arlington as an esports hub, the new convention center can also host events such as TED Talks, according to Mayor Jeff Williams.

A league with plenty of room to grow

Numerous esports arenas have been, or will be, created across the U.S., as venue owners and promoters see the potential in this sport’s staggering growth and young, millennial audience. Many existing pro venues see esports as a way to bring in extra revenue. NBA and NHL arenas, increasingly in the process of being retrofitted to handle the high bandwidth needs of today’s social media-obsessed sports fans—Sacramento’s high tech Golden 1 stadium is a perfect example—are seeking out opportunities to host events. As sports stadiums become more high-tech to stay relevant in today’s media environment, they are, in effect, becoming more video game-like. The Houston Rockets NBA team even hired a video game exec to manage esports opportunities.

Mirakian believes that as the market for these types of spaces grows, adaptive reuse projects will offer smaller cities a better chance to attract teams and talent. Arlington saw the quick conversion of the convention center as a way to position itself as a leader in the nascent industry.

“It’s fast to market and you can accelerate the construction schedule,” Mirakian says. “You’re going to see this type of venue spread a lot quicker than you might imagine.”

Construction to Begin on Amazon Warehouse in Michigan

Amazon, according to the Grand Rapids News, will lease the property and receive $4 million in state incentives in exchange for choosing the Gaines Charter Township site over others in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. The state money reportedly is meant to offset Amazon’s costs of recruitment and to entice the company to select Michigan.

The state will disburse the money during a three-year period as long as Amazon hits the promised employment projections. In the first year, Amazon will receive up to $1.9 million if it creates 475 jobs. The next year, the company must create 50 jobs for which it will receive up to $200,000. In the third year, Amazon must again create 475 jobs to receive up to $1.9 million. The township is also offering the company a 50% property tax abatement.

When complete, the fulfillment center is expected to generate 1,000 jobs with benefits, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, including a 95% reimbursement of college tuition. This will be the fourth Amazon fulfillment center in Michigan, and with the Gaines Charter Township project, the company’s private investment in the state stands at $420 million.

Michigan has managed to capture Amazon investment dollars for several developments, but the state did not make the short list of candidates for Amazon’s $5 billion second North American headquarters. Amazon expects to create 50,000 jobs in the winning city and, based on its Seattle headquarters figures, estimates that every dollar of investment will generate $1.40 for the overall economy.

Designing Successful Maker Spaces

In an effort to move away from rote learning and toward student-led, hands-on education, schools are turning to these next-gen learning spaces as a way to produce better outcomes.

Research shows a clear connection between the goals of makerspaces and better results across disciplines, including science, technology, arts and math. Far from a fleeting trend, makerspaces spark the innate curiosity of students and encourage experimentation and teamwork, preparing them for a future in the workforce.

“Providing environments that are fun, curious and engaging and offering choice for those students allows them to identify as STEM learners,” says education researcher and strategist Dr. Julie Zoellin Cramer, a consultant with LPA.

The challenge is to design makerspaces that work, spaces that function as a tool for educators to produce better students. We now have a better idea of what works—and what doesn’t. LPA’s studies of completed spaces provide a road map of the type of design choices that can make a big difference. At this point in the evolution of makerspaces, research can drive the discussion more than hypotheses.

The studies show connectivity is essential—not simply between students and teachers, but connections to tools, technology and the outdoors. A successful makerspace is a place to find ideas and creativity, where collaboration is encouraged and nurtured. And we know that makerspaces can help develop students to handle real-world problems.

“These creative environments allow students to express ideas, challenge each other and collaborate to find the best solution possible,” says Associate Principal Kate Mraw, a leader in K-12 school design at LPA. “With this style of education, students develop skills like collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication.”

In this report we look at three new makerspaces that illustrate the different ways design can produce better results. San Diego’s Monarch School is a leader in the makerspace movement, providing access to technologies for students impacted by homelessness. In Irvine, California, Tarbut V’Torah blends the arts into engineering and science. And in Tyler, Texas, the new Cumberland Academy makerspaces use transparency and connectivity to contribute to the school’s culture of collaboration.
Each school has special characteristics—and special challenges—which helped inform the guidelines and goals of the final designs.



The Launch Pointe at Monarch School features a specialized lab space to support hands-on tinkering and digital learning. Students circulate through zones inspired by design thinking as they work through the creative process. Each zone has a different name and purpose, targeting a diverse K-12 student body.

“Mission Control” is a college and career exploration center, where students find internship, employment and higher education opportunities. The space includes areas for private interviews with local industry partners. In the “Control Panel” zone, students focus on project goals. Four control panels allow students to connect devices to screens and solve problems. A writeable wall encourages students to share project ideas and work together as a group.

Another zone gives students the opportunity to work with power tools and design furniture; other areas are designed to promote collaboration and brainstorming. The focus is on developing real-world skills. The “Platform” zone allows students to work on presentations in a formal atmosphere, with a stage, projection wall and theater lighting.

All the spaces are designed for flexibility and efficiency, allowing students and teachers to create the environment that works for the immediate project. Built-in work tables, mobile carts, flexible furniture and tables with varying heights allow students to develop their designs and take ownership of their spaces. “The Pod” zone can be easily rearranged to house the entire high school for celebrations and announcements.

“While the space was always meant to be adaptable, students have really made it their own,” says Rene Barker, Monarch School’s Operations Manager. “At any one time you may see two, three or more activities happening simultaneously.”



At Tarbut V’Torah (TVT) the curriculum integrates visual and performing arts with science, engineering and digital media education. The school serves K-12, focusing on college prep rooted in Jewish values.

The school is broken up by grade levels, with makerspaces customized to fit the academic needs of each group. Tinker spaces, which primarily promote creativity, are targeted for elementary students. At higher levels of education, students focus on solving STEM-related, real-world problems. Each space is designed to promote education in environmentalism and sustainability, as well as the core subjects.

“The driver of the design was keeping a child’s perspective in mind,” explains Associate Ozzie Tapia, project designer at LPA. “We envisioned a building that would spark curiosity and be used in creative ways, maximizing access to the supplies and tools available to ‘make’.”

To help create flexible areas, TVT features column-free spaces with polished concrete floors, moveable walls and and accessible, overhead electrical systems. The design allows the school to change and adapt to technology and new teaching methods.

TVT’s makerspaces also feature separate areas with very specific purposes. Clad in warm wood materials, the Huddle is a zone designed for small group discussion and presentations. A large lab, workshop and studio surround the central shared space. There is an emphasis on connecting students to nature, with outdoor gathering spaces and flexible learning environments, giving students the opportunity to participate in hands-on, project-based learning indoors and out.



Flexibility, access, collaboration and engagement (FACE) are the driving themes that inform the design decisions at Cumberland Academy. The school’s recent expansion integrates dynamic science and maker labs with a variety of classroom types to support active learning. By co-locating the interactive labs with classrooms, the school’s goal was to merge disciplines and establish the roots for a lifelong learning experience.

In the 3,600-square-foot makerspace, transparency is key, and boundaries are dissolved. Students flow through a workshop zone, anchored by a large stool-height table and readily available digital technology. Art labs are on either side of the workshop area, separated by glass, roll-up garage-style doors.

This Genetic Algorithm Predicts the Rise of Skyscrapers in Urban Areas

The growth and expansion of metropolitan areas has been evident over the past decade. Buildings are getting taller, and urban areas are getting larger. What if there was a way to predict this growth and expansion?

A new study by Spanish researchers from the University of A Coruna has discovered that the increase of skyscrapers in a city reflects the pattern “of certain self-organized biological systems,” as reported by ScienceDaily. The study uses “genetic evolutionary algorithms” to predict urban growth, looking specifically at Tokyo’s Minato Ward. Architect Ivan Pazos, the lead author of the new study, explained the science behind the algorithm: “We operate within evolutionary computation, a branch of artificial intelligence and machine learning that uses the basic rules of genetics and Darwin’s natural selection logic to make predictions.”

Read on for more about the study and what it could mean for the possibility of estimating vertical urban development.

Adapted from various genetic algorithms, the study combines genetic tendencies with historical construction data to “learn the growth patterns of urban districts,” explains ScienceDaily. The algorithm not only predicts the number of skyscrapers in a specific area, but it can also predict the most likely placement of the buildings within specific urban districts.

The study focused on one of the neighborhoods with the highest vertical growth in the world in recent years: the Minato Ward in Tokyo. The authors used the data and algorithm to generate 3D maps of the Minato Ward in 2015, and have since compared the evolutionary model results with ongoing high-rise developments.

“The predictions of the algorithm have been very accurate with respect to the actual evolution of the Minato skyline in 2016 and 2017,” says Pazos. “Now, we are evaluating their accuracy for 2018 and 2019 and it seems, according to the observations, that they will be 80 percent correct.”

The authors of the study predict the findings may provide an accurate estimate of a city’s vertical expansion using “genetic evolutionary computation.”

NCARB By The Numbers Report Shows Positive Trends for Diversity in Architecture

For years, there has been a lack of diversity in the field of architecture. Whether attrition numbers have been due to the lack of available information about promotion paths, firm hiring practices, or architects seeking out new career opportunities, this profession is one that has historically been stagnant in its representation. However, there is good news on this subject, as the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB) revealed new data which shows that the profession is becoming more diverse and that the proportion of women staying in their careers is increasing.

According to NCARB’s recently published By The Numbers report, although equity and diversity in the profession have been improving in recent years, data shows that attrition along the path to licensure remains much higher for non-white individuals. “NCARB has spent the past several years updating and aligning our programs to remove unnecessary burdens while maintaining the rigor needed to protect the public,” said NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong. “A key area for us to address is identifying how pinch points along the path to licensure may vary for candidates from different backgrounds.”

Racial and Ethnic Diversity

Over the last year, racial and ethnic diversity continued to improve across early career stages in the profession. Thirty-three percent of new Architect Registration Examination (ARE) candidates and forty-five percent of new Architectural Experience Program (AXP) participants identified as non-white, which is a 3 point increase from the previous year. Individuals completing their AXP record saw a 5 point increase up to 30 percent of individuals identifying as non-white. With this being said, according to the 2015 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, 34 percent of the population identifies as either non-white or Hispanic.

Although racial diversity has been slowly improving, candidates who identify as non-white or Hispanic still remain less likely to finish requirements for licensure. Of non-white candidates who started their NCARB record in 2008, 33 percent had completed the core requirements for licensure by 2017, a staggering 15 percentage points less than their white counterparts. In addition, 34 percent of non-white and 27 percent of white candidates have stopped pursuing licensure altogether. This trend has continued in recent years, with non-white candidates approximately 25 percent more likely to fall off the path to licensure.

Women and Men Face Equal Attrition Rates

Gender equity remained steady over the last year, with fewer men and women leaving the profession across all career stages. For men and women just beginning licensure, women accounted for 46 percent of new AXP participants, 42 percent of people eligible to begin their ARE exams, and 35 percent of candidates who have completed the core requirements for architecture licensure. While the percentage of new certificate holders who are women dropped to 32 percent last year, the percentage of the total number of certificate holders who are women rose to 20 percent, resulting in the third consecutive year of growth in gender equity.

Eligible candidates who began their NCARB record in 2008, 32 percent of women and 27 percent of men have not completed the path to licensure. According to NCARB’s report, although women who began their records in more recent years are still less likely to have completed licensure requirements, they are also less likely to have stopped pursuing licensure overall- a positive sign that we will see more women who are licensed architects in the future.

As Food Hall Enthusiasm Intensifies, Detroit Joins In

Corktown could be an ideal breeding ground for an urban cuisine trend that relies on heavy foot traffic and a sense of community: food halls.

They are an evolution of the age-old public market model, where prepared foods mingle with fresh produce, meats, crafts and shared seating. They’ve already arrived — the U.S. had 118 food halls at the end of 2017. That number is expected to balloon to 300 by the end of 2020, according to a 2018 study of the trend by Chicago-based Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

New York City has nearly 30 open or planned, according to the report. But food halls and modern-style market concepts have more recently spread to Detroit. Now at least eight are in the works or under consideration for downtown, the city’s neighborhoods and the wider metro area.

“We could be talking about in six years’ time the (national) market size quintupling,” said Garrick Brown, national retail research director for Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate company an office in Southfield. “It’ll force the industry to define what this is, because right now it’s kind of the Wild West.”

The term food hall is increasingly meaning “a combination of prepared food vendors in a small space that share a large common space,” Brown said.

The definition overlaps with that of a food market, which generally offers more retail and nonfood shopping. Both are in the Cushman report.

This shared-space segment of the industry is ill-defined, but it’s thriving for a reason.

Halls and markets counteract some oft-cited restaurant industry pitfalls, according to the report and conversations with several operators. They give established and emerging chefs a more secure, less costly avenue for experimentation. And many offer educational services or act as incubator-style support systems.

They give diners choices. Unlike a traditional mall food court, though, they boast unusual concepts. Think cricket-filled tacos, nitrogen ice cream or sushi ingredients combined Chipotle-style. Design is paramount. Motivations are creativity and entertainment, over value.

Arriving in Detroit?

Michigan Central Station’s grand, 110,000-square-foot concourse doesn’t appear to have much in common with a commercial space a 13th of the size that’s planned for a development on the nearby Tiger Stadium site. But both the Corktown depot’s new owner, Ford Motor Co., and The Corner developer Larson Realty Group are eying food hall-style venues to help anchor their footprints along Michigan Avenue.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said in a previous interview that he imagines the redeveloped Michigan Central Station’s first floor as a walkable space open to the public, filled with restaurants, produce and retail. He told Crain’s he envisions the “market hall” as a gathering place similar to New York’s Hudson Yards and San Francisco’s Ferry Building — bustling complexes that include food halls.

“There’s no question in my mind that a project like that, the community, the campus at large, the whole Corktown community is a perfect example of where a food hall not only would be needed, but would do well to serve that community …” said Nicholas Giammarco, creative principal for Birmingham-based Studio H2G. The design firm has worked on food halls in Europe, Texas and Illinois. It’s also in talks for a downtown Detroit hall that would be announced in about a year.

Bloomfield Hills-based Larson Realty’s $30 million mixed-use building will have an approximately 8,000-square-foot, window-lined corner space that could take shape as a food market/hall, Larson Realty President and CEO Eric Larson said. A single restaurant or bodega are also possibilities.

According to Brown of Cushman & Wakefield, this is how shared food spaces will take shape in the city’s downtown and neighborhoods. He said developers of office and residential buildings often increase tenant interest when they anchor their projects with food halls. In urban areas with intersecting transit (a challenge for Detroit), they flourish.

“You gotta have the right amount of density, because for these things to be profitable, they have to have heavy foot traffic,” he said. “But I’ve seen a number of office developers where typically their ground floor rent … I’ve seen them dropping (ground floor rent prices) for the right food hall operation, because it drives up the rents they can earn upstairs.”

Other examples are cropping up in Detroit, from Pittsburgh-based food hall concept creator Galley Group’s incubator space set to open downtown in the fall to Detroit Shipping Co., a food hall and gathering spot set to open July 23 in the city’s Cass Corridor. Several more are under consideration or planned.

Two successful markets outside the region say they’ve seen recent interest from metro Detroit-based parties looking to learn and replicate.

One of those is the 5-year-old Grand Rapids Downtown Market, which has seen rising sales as it helps restaurant startups through a variety of food-business support concepts. It has a public market with food-stall vendors, an incubator space and a teaching kitchen, said Mimi Fritz, its president and CEO.

The other is the 30-vendor, decade-old Chicago French Market owned by Sebastien Bensidoun. He said he’ll be watching Detroit with interest.

“I think the momentum is just going to continue to accelerate (in Detroit),” Brown said. “The tricky thing is … getting enough people in one spot to really be able to justify more food halls or bigger food halls. I think that’s still a work in progress in Detroit, but it’s coming.”