A drive-through convenience store really elevates the notion of “convenience.” How desirable not to have to get out of your car on that rainy midnight run for a carton of milk or loaf of bread.
But Swiss Farms (Broomall, Pa.), which introduced drive-through shopping to Southeastern Pennsylvania nearly 40 years ago, was ready to expand beyond that simple benefit. “We saw an opportunity to become more than just the emergency ‘fill-in’ store,” says ceo Paul Friel. “We wanted to compete with supermarket express lanes. That included prepared meals, fresh produce, gourmet cheese, baked goods and sandwiches.”
To do that, Swiss Farms needed to upgrade its image and to improve the drive-through experience. For example, the old stores had a few small windows. “Shoppers in their cars don’t need to see inside the store to get a six pack of coke,” Friel says. “But if we want to sell them fresh produce, they want to be able to see for themselves the lettuce, tomatoes and apples being selected and put in the bag.”
Chute Gerdeman Retail (Columbus, Ohio) was hired to do a thorough rebranding for Swiss Farms. “Our challenge,” says Lynn Rosenbaum, Chute Gerdeman’s director of environments, “was how to tell customers what’s inside the store when it’s all drive-through?”
Adding floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the store was one obvious fix. Visibility is better and the lights shining out from inside the store serve as visual cues to cars driving by. And, Rosenbaum says, windows are also likely to increase impulse buying.
Taking further advantage of the large windows, Chute Gerdeman designed a fixture program that configured the height of the shelves for maximum eye-level visibility. “We sat in our cars so we could see exactly what shoppers could and couldn’t see,” says Adam Limbach, Chute Gerdeman’s vp, brand communications. “Then we created sightlines so the entire store is visible from the car.”
A pylon with an LED sign increases visibility from the street and a series of 46-inch digital screens inside the store displays the product selection to shoppers during the ordering process. There’s even technology that links the screens to a meteorological web site, so messages can suggest certain products at specific times of the day or during particular weather events.
The previous traffic plan was awkward and bulky. “It led to long lines, which aren’t inviting,” says Chute Gerdeman creative director, brand communications Corey Dehus. “And once shoppers had completed their purchases, they were directed into a kind of back alley.”
The new traffic plan allows cars access to the building from both sides, so drivers are always next to the employee helping them. No awkward leaning across the seat to talk to the order-taker. “Face-to-face contact is an important part of the shopping experience,” Rosenbaum says.
There are now four service locations, two on each side, and a bypass lane so a driver can always access the next available order point and leave when the order is completed.
The new identity has a fresh-from-the-farm theme. The redesigned Swiss Farms logo, prominently on display, features a rooster, a sunrise and a stylized horizon. While the bottom half of the building is more modern and streamlined, the top half, including the roof, suggests European barn architecture. A large silo anchoring the building not only reinforces the farm reference but also serves as a tall, visible signpost. And the color palette inside and out is a food-centric combination of tomato reds, garden greens and banana yellows.
The test site was in Milmont Park, Pa., one of 13 Swiss Farms locations in the Philadelphia area to be retrofitted over the next three years. But the larger plan is to expand beyond Pennsylvania, with a franchise program. And for that, says ceo Friel, “we needed a design, for places not familiar with the Swiss Farms brand, that articulates exactly who we are – a convenient drive-through dairy store selling farm-fresh quality.”
SWISS FARMS, BROOMALL, PA.
PAUL FRIEL, CEO
FRANK SPAIDE, PROJECT MANAGER
EVELYN DEPIETRO, PURCHASING DIRECTOR
ROB COLDWELL, FRANCHISE DEVELOPMENT
CHUTE GERDEMAN RETAIL, COLUMBUS, OHIO
DENNIS GERDEMAN, PRINCIPAL
CINDY MCCOY, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
ADAM LIMBACH, VP, BRAND COMMUNICATIONS
LYNN ROSENBAUM, DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTS
DAVID BIRNBAUM, ARCHITECT, DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
COREY DEHUS, SENIOR DESIGNER, BRAND COMMUNICATIONS
KATIE CLEMENTS, TREND AND MATERIALS SPECIALIST
CG ARCHITECTURE, COLUMBUS, OHIO
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER, GENERAL CONTRACTOR
A&E CONSTRUCTION CO., UPPER DARBY, PA.
KOBALT STUDIOS INC., COLUMBUS, OHIO
ADVANCED AUDIO VISUAL, WEST CHESTER, PA.
METAL ROOF PANELS
DMI METALS, REYNOLDSBURG, OHIO
METAL WALL PANELS
MECHANICAL METALS INC., NEWTOWN, PA.
MIRATEC, CMI, CHICAGO
DALTILE, DALLAS, TX
SHERWIN-WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND, OHIO
ARMSTRONG CEILING, LANCASTER, PA
JOHNSONITE, CHAGRIN FALLS, OH
CRANE COMPOSITES, CHANNAHON, IL
WILSONART, TEMPLE, TX
NEVAMAR, SHELTON, CT
FORMICA CINCINNATI, OH
BRANDON L. JONES PHOTOGRAPHY, COLUMBUS, OHIO