Airports often cultivate a strange environment where travelers are both bored and busy. Beef & Liberty, a fast-casual burger chain operated by the Greater China Restaurant Company, aimed to capitalize on this ‘airport limbo’ at its new Hong Kong International Airport location by providing quick, delicious food in a comfortable space that engages restless travelers with a one-of-a-kind experience.
According to Will Bray, Managing Director at the Greater China Restaurant Company, Beef & Liberty aimed to portray the elegance and sophistication of air travel in the 1960’s and 70’s – where the journey was as much of a holiday as the destination itself. To achieve that effect, they added special touches such as Dieter Rams-inspired lighting, old photographs of Kai Tak airport and Cathay Pacific airlines, & 70’s inspired wallpaper and vinyl.
During the design process, they struggled to find a relevant way to showcase periodic food and drink specials without ruining the ambience with a bright digital display. That’s when they found the Oat Foundry Split Flap Display, which proved to be the perfect addition to the eatery as a nod to the nostalgic travel of times past.
“Over recent years we had seen retro-inspired Split Flap displays in other hospitality venues,” Bray said, “and we discovered that Oat Foundry’s Split Flap Display would offer the perfect combination of nostalgia, excitement and practicality we needed to match our ‘Golden Age of Flying’ aesthetic. We purchased a custom display that is especially unique, because we had Oat Foundry add colored flaps that allow us to show large images like burgers, beers and hearts.”
The 5 row by 32 column Split Flap display gives the restaurant’s managers instant, simple control, so they can make changes at a moment’s notice. By cycling to a new message or special every three minutes, it’s basically guaranteed that every customer gets to see the display in action. The addition of colored flaps to create custom images was a thoughtful touch that encourages customer interaction and extends the value beyond sharing food and drink specials.
“We often see guests who are in the midst of enjoying their meal stop and turn around to look as they hear the flip-flap of the display start,” Bray added. “We see groups of guests reading the messages and laughing to themselves, often trying to take photos before the message changes. For us, great guest experiences are made up of small details that individually may seem insignificant, but as those details come together over the course of a meal, they add up to something far greater than the sum of their parts. In an airport environment, which can often be stressful for travelers, we love that we can offer a little motivation for them to smile before they depart.”
In total, Beef & Liberty offers a dining experience unlike any other burger joint. Springing from the mind and hands of Uwe Opocensky, the German Group Executive Chef of the Greater China Restaurant Company, offerings such as the Impossible Thai Burger, which uses the new plant protein-based patty from Impossible Foods, and the seasonal Notorious P.I.G., a burger smothered with tender pulled pork, ensure that every bite is a revelation. Beef & Liberty was recommended by the Michelin Guide in Hong Kong & Macau three years in a row.
“Not only does our Split Flap Display fit their ‘Golden Age of Flying’ theme perfectly, it also provides a guest experience and marketing ability unmatched by any other restaurant or retailer in the airport,” said Oat Foundry CEO Mark Kuhn. “How many other restaurants in the airport have people taking pictures of the menu board? My bet is zero.”
When asked about the display itself, Bray expressed admiration for the Oat Foundry team and their dedication to precision engineering, as well as the display’s flawless performance.
“The build quality is high, the design is cleverly simple and unobtrusive, and thus it can blend in to different interior designs,” Bray concluded. “It’s there when the action happens and the flaps flip, but retreats into the background when it is not in motion.”
By designing the sit-down experience and aesthetic to match the high level of burger sophistication, Beef & Liberty has done something few other airport business can achieve - they made flying fun again.
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