Saturday, August 14, 2021

Vintage, Remodeled Burger King, Cleveland, MS

In the famous words of Staind, "it's been awhile"! Way too long, in fact. I apologize for not getting a post up last month. I had every intention to do so, as well as to keep up with my weekly flickr uploads, while moving to my new apartment. But ultimately, I wound up only being able to stick to the latter part of that deal. In truth, I can't promise that I'll even be able to uphold my preferred one-blog-post-per-month standard going forward. However, I will definitely try my best!

To my surprise, I actually found myself in good company amongst fellow retail bloggers when it comes to moving to a new home during the month of July 2021, haha. (Neither of those linked posts explicitly say the authors moved, but the first one sure seems to imply it, and I could've sworn the second one did say it at one point...) Sadly, I am no longer based out of DeSoto County or the Memphis metro area, but I am still within the Mid-South and the great state of Mississippi. Feel free to keep an eye out for some content from my new surroundings eventually; but also don't feel like you'll never see anything from my old digs ever again, as I've got plenty of photos and blog post ideas stored away in my backlog! And specifically here on the blog, as always, I will also try to showcase lots of fun content from areas around the region separate from where I've lived... and indeed, such a place is where we will find ourselves for today's post.


Burger King, you might recall, made headlines this January, when they announced a complete rebrand to their logo and corporate imagery -- except instead of a totally new, off-the-wall look, the chain instead decided to look back to its history and adopt a vintage-inspired homage to its old identity. To much of the country, this came as a (presumably welcome) surprise; however, to some of us in the retail sphere, we were excited to see the public fruition of this development that had been several months in the making. 

For example, I had received in the mail in July 2020 the above coupon insert, featuring a curious new logo and typeface for Burger King. This was a full six months prior to the official confirmation of the rebrand, but I wasn't the only one to receive the ad and wonder if it was indicative of a larger move taking shape behind-the-scenes. Some further digging revealed that BK's online marketing had switched over to the same font, colors, and photography style shown in the ad, all pointing to a future rebrand, although the chain had stopped short of using the assumedly-new logo itself just yet. Finally, more evidence that I found revealed that Burger King had registered the new logo earlier in 2020, suggesting it would be more than just temporary.

All of that is fine and dandy, but the best confirmation is always spotting some physical evidence of the supposed change(s) out in the wild. Luckily, that is exactly what my new friend The Retrologist managed to do in September 2020, as shown on his Instagram page here. Of the pictured restaurant in Danvers, Massachusetts, he writes, "This remodeled location appears to be a concept store that plays off the chain’s heritage. The biggest clue is the massive sign outside featuring the old logo. ... An employee, who was too young to remember the old logo, said it’s the only such store taking this approach in the country. I reached out to @burgerking’s media department with my questions, and haven’t heard back. But I think it would be awesome if this marked the comeback of the old logo."

If only The Retrologist had known how right he was! Having researched the numerous signs pointing to a full, retro rebrand mentioned prior, I emailed him to share my hope that Burger King would soon go old-school, and also informed him about another remodeling BK location in Depew, NY, that I had learned about from my friends on Discord. Unfortunately, I did not realize that that restaurant was still under construction, and so when The Retrologist visited it, he was not allowed to go inside the dining room. Still, though, he could see the same signage inside as at Danvers, and later he visited yet another store -- again in Massachusetts -- donning the "new-old" look. Below are several photos showcasing the retro design, shared with permission from The Retrologist's Instagram account.

"Have it your way" neon-style sign, bringing back both the vintage slogan and the 1969 logo in this application. Courtesy The Retrologist on Instagram

An overview of the remodeled dining room at the Danvers, MA, Burger King. The above and below images were also taken at this location. Courtesy The Retrologist on Instagram

Some vintage BK images make up a photo collage wall. Keep this one on your mind, we'll revisit it later in the post... Courtesy The Retrologist on Instagram

Close-up of the new-logo Burger King road signage in Depew, NY. Courtesy The Retrologist on Instagram

Interior of the Whitinsville, MA, location. Those Whopper light fixtures really pop in this store! Courtesy The Retrologist on Instagram

"Home of the Whopper" backlit signage. Note also the updated table notices, which feature a redrawn version of the BK King character. Courtesy The Retrologist on Instagram

Exterior of the heavily-remodeled Whitinsville, MA, Burger King. Check out the "Have it your way" sign through the windows, and the old-logo trash can beneath the new-logo façade. Courtesy The Retrologist on Instagram  

In exchanged emails, both of us expressed fascination at this new path for Burger King, and hope that it was indeed to be the future overall direction of the brand. Even more obvious proof popped up in the months to follow, ranging from in-store pandemic-related signage to, most blatantly, a completely new-build location in Aruba, indicating that the new logo would also be rolling out internationally. I also managed to uncover some remodel guidelines for what Burger King called its "20/20 Prime Décor;" these show the same "Have It Your Way" neon sign seen in the locations The Retrologist visited, but evidently were drawn up before the decision was made to pivot to a new logo and brand identity entirely, as the now-former 1999 "swoosh" logo is still very much present throughout the rest of those guidelines. 

In any case, as we all know, Burger King came out in January 2021 and made it all official, and even though it is currently only optional for franchisees to make the switch, I sure hope we will continue to see many retro-style remodels going forward, restoring the Burger King brand to an honorable facsimile of its former self. I'm excited to eventually get to experience one of these stores myself; and if you know of any in the Mid-South or near where you live, please let me know in the comments!

New-build Burger King, Aruba, Jamaica. Courtesy Twitter

Burger King road sign with new logo, Depew, NY. Courtesy Twitter

Elmira, NY, Burger King remodel. This one looks to keep most of the existing architecture intact, compared to the above and below images, but still adopts the new branding. Courtesy The Retrologist

Architect's rendering of a new-build Burger King in Lacey Township, NJ. Courtesy Asbury Park Press


Given the slow leak of its new identity throughout 2020, most notably the use of the style in official marketing materials, my impression is that Burger King was probably all set to roll out the new logo at some point in 2020, until the, uh, not-so-positive events of the year pushed them to delay the official rebranding. Whether that's true or not, the cool thing is that they are in good company with fellow fast food chain Pizza Hut, who beat BK to the punch by reviving their own classic logo and brand identity in June 2019. Pizza Hut's approach is very much rooted in that rose-tinted-glasses view of "the way things used to be," including restaurant remodels -- dubbed "Pizza Hut Classic" -- that take some of the remaining dine-in hut-roof buildings and remodel them into an extremely faithful recreation of days gone by. (The Retrologist has photos of that, too, on his Instagram page, in case you were wondering. Truly, he captures a lot of interesting vintage finds, so be sure to check out his full feed if you haven't already!)

In contrast, Burger King is taking much less of a "to-a-T" approach. For instance, whereas Pizza Hut's logo and Classic remodels are either exactly identical to the old things or as exact as is possible for present-day, Burger King's restaurant remodels are much more in the vein of "vintage-inspired" than "truly vintage;" and their logo, too, is not 100 percent identical to any from their past. As The Retrologist explained it to me, "This retro Burger King logo appears to be a blend of the 1969 and 1994 logos, with the lettering of the 1969 logo, and the 'hamburger buns' of the 1994" -- see the excerpt of their logo evolution that I've attached below, and also consider subscribing to read the full review of this rebrand (and many others!) from a very great site I follow, Brand New.

"One of these things is not like the others..." Courtesy Brand New

I considered publishing this post prior to the rebrand becoming official, but I also thought it would be fun to kind of do a "hey, I saw this coming!" post on the back end (like you're reading now), not to mention that I also didn't want to be too premature about it and have it turn out that the retro look wasn't going to be rolled out chainwide after all. Thankfully, that last worry turned out to be a nonstarter, but I still decided to hold off on writing the post until after the rebrand was confirmed. Now that we're eight months into it, the window of relevance may well have almost run out, but in my defense I've had a very busy year so far! There's also the small matter that the Burger King we'll be exploring in today's post isn't actually a retro remodel featuring the 2021 logo and identity I've been focusing on exclusively for the duration of this post so far... but, still, it's very much got its own retro flair to it, and is very much worth exploring. Let's take a look.


Courtesy flickr

In the days of yore, the iconic blue-roof Burger King restaurants didn't used to have drop ceilings inside their dining rooms covering up those rooves. Instead, the ceilings were completely open, and adorned with (perhaps structural; perhaps decorative) wooden trusses that matched the interior aesthetic the chain was going for at the time. Over the years, those trusses would be foregone and covered up at most Burger Kings; but a few locations managed to keep them intact long past their otherwise-assumed expiration date, including our location of focus today, the Burger King in Cleveland, MS. Pictured below are some images of the Cleveland store while it still had its trusses intact, and with its original blue-roof-era exterior design. Compare to the close-up truss photo shown above.

Courtesy Google Maps

Courtesy Google Maps

Courtesy Google Maps

Love this overview shot! All of these images of the Cleveland BK were taken in 2017. Courtesy Google Maps

This location had a gray roof instead of a blue roof; but still, otherwise it fit the usual mold from that era. Courtesy TripAdvisor

Unfortunately, the Cleveland Burger King had its exterior remodeled in 2018, and its interior followed shortly thereafter; however, unlike a lot of Burger King interior remodels, Cleveland lucked out and got to keep its existing open ceiling. In fact, the décor we will be seeing in this restaurant looks a lot like that Prime 20/20 package I linked y'all to earlier in the post, so there will be even more exciting things to see than just the ceiling aspect. That said, I suspect the ceiling will indeed be the most intriguing feature... mostly because of what happened to those old wooden trusses, as you'll soon see.

Courtesy Google Maps

We'll begin with the exterior. The photo above is from the internet; the photos below are my own. Nothing super notable... it's your standard "Home of the Whopper" fare of recent years. I don't visit Burger King very often, but I think I'm in the loop enough to say that this design is fairly common these days (although of course, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). 

Despite how cool the interior we're about to see is, I can't let this post go without saying that we had absolutely terrible service at this location. We were the only customers inside the dining room, and there were plenty of employees visible in the building. Not all of them were busy preparing meals; the drive-thru wasn't very busy either. Nonetheless, we waited at least five minutes -- that's not an exaggeration -- for a single employee to come to the counter to take our order. If I wasn't there to take these pictures, we would have left long before then. It seemed very clear that we were deliberately being ignored. Not a good way to run a business.

That unfortunate aside, well, aside, it's time to get our first taste of this very cool interior design! Walking in the main entrance on the side of the building (there's also a door up front, it should be noted), we are immediately greeted by a photo collage wall made up of various framed, vintage Burger King images. If that sounds familiar, that's because The Retrologist saw something similar at one of the newer BK remodels he visited: refer back to that earlier portion of this post; it looks like his picture captured several of the same images seen here in Cleveland, too, although that newer remodel has some of the images colorized! Very cool to see this feature carrying forward, and I wonder if it wasn't also part of the inspiration for the chain to go full-on retro, even.

Leaving the vestibule, here are some looks at the main order counter. Rather sleek-looking, but not so totally modern that it feels almost lifeless, like we see in some other modern fast food remodels (*cough*McDonald's*cough*). Still, the interior definitely has a darker vibe... kind of coffeehouse-feeling, maybe? That's about the best word I can come up with to describe it. That will also hopefully make more sense once you see the rest of the interior photos.

Without further ado, here are our first glimpses into the dining room proper. Notice that, while the clouds outside the store certainly don't help things, the dark atmosphere seems to come primarily from the ceiling: as I said, instead of a drop ceiling, this store kept its open ceiling. That also resulted in the absence of overly-bright, standard light fixtures, in favor of lots more recessed and mood lighting. The whole ambience feels really nice and rather upscale for a Burger King, in my opinion.

Another view of the dining room as a whole, followed by some views from where I was seated -- the tall-height table with a series of cool-looking lanterns above it, and the 1999 "swoosh" logo engraved into the table. We can see from these photos so far that, in the absence of a drop ceiling, the restaurant received a neat, open, geometric-pattern hanging wood fixture that spans the entire dining room... but what we haven't seen yet is what lies above that fixture. So let's face upward and take a closer look...

Yes indeed -- the old, original wooden trusses still remain in this store, simply buried away behind the new geometric faux ceiling! Very, very cool. As soon as I was able to determine that (not-so-obvious) fact from carefully examining user photos on Google Maps, I was eager to visit this restaurant and see this surviving, if altered, vintage trait for myself. This Burger King is on the route to see family, so I've passed by it many times, and even stopped in once before when I was much younger -- I believe the soda machine was out on that visit? (shows you they had issues with service even back then, lol) -- but had not done so anytime in the most recent decade, meaning this vintage gem was hiding -- as most of them seem to do -- right under my nose this whole time. Go figure...

Here's a closer look at what exactly happened to the trusses, as viewed through the gap in the geometric ceiling from where I was seated. (Yes, even though we had the whole dining room to ourselves, I very strategically chose where to sit for this purpose!) If you look closely, it appears that the overall roof was covered in some of that black/very dark gray sprayfoam insulation material, with the actual trusses either getting a similar treatment, or being painted to match. So yes, they're hidden, but they're not gone -- and that's absolutely what matters.

Some last views of the dining room, before we head back outside the restaurant. While the surviving trusses are most definitely what I came to see the place for, don't be mistaken: I absolutely think the rest of this interior décor is very much worth the visit as well; I was very impressed with the design. I really like all of it, to be honest -- from the floor tiles, to the tables and chairs, to the geometric ceiling and light fixtures (those lamps in the top image above are particularly neat), to the similarly-geometric and multi-textured (wood! brick! stone!) Burger King logo feature on the wall at the front of the building, shown above -- as well as, especially, how nicely it all goes together in creating an enjoyable, cohesive environment. After hearing my impressions of the place, I'm really curious to learn what y'all think about it; so please, feel free to leave a comment below!

One last exterior shot, a wide view from the road, to conclude our coverage of the Cleveland, MS, Burger King. If you have thoughts to share on Burger King's recent rebrand, feel free to leave those in the comments as well; or, as always, you can also email me (though I won't put the blog's email address in posts for a while -- in the past few days I've received over 60 spam emails, so clearly someone nefarious has gotten a hold of it!).

Next month, unless I get sidetracked and am unable to publish a post, our ongoing Fred's series is scheduled to continue, ideally featuring the store that I had already intended to show y'all in March until circumstances prevented me from writing a post then, too. (Fingers crossed that doesn't happen again, haha!) I also have some other cool stuff in the works for the rest of the year, so again, hopefully I'll see you guys once a month every month from here on out, like normal. Until that time, then, and as always... thanks for reading, and have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are!

Retail Retell