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Architecture + Branding: Continued Boston Pizza brand growth likely requires a less ardent adherence to prototype-restaurant design standards


Routinely branding itself as “two experiences under one roof”, a family friendly restaurant and a separate sports bar concept, the Boston Pizza formula has been honed over nearing a half-century. Tracing its roots to the Boston Pizza and Spaghetti House opened by Gus Agioritis on August 12, 1964, in Edmonton, Alberta, the brand quickly grew into seventeen (17) locations in Western Canada by 1970 (source: wikipedia.org).

Boston Pizza Boston Pizza Head Office circa 1973

Boston Pizza head office, circa 1973 (source: bostonpizza.com)

Surviving ownership changes, the brand would ultimately fall under the ownership of franchisees Jim Treviling and George Melville in 1983 (source: bostonpizza.com). The two men would proceed to divest all but one of their restaurants to other franchisees, and began work on developing standards and procedures that would lay the foundation for the exponential growth of the BP concept (source: wikipedia.org).

DSC05124 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza Galerie Anjou Anjou QC

Boston Pizza, front 3/4 view, Galerie Anjou, Anjou, Québec

Combining a relaxed dining environment with a large menu selection, including the brand’s signature gourmet pizzas, Boston Pizza has managed to carve out a pre-eminent position in the casual dining market. Present and accounted for with restaurants from coast to coast in their home country (Canada), Boston Pizza claims “more locations, serving more guests annually than any other casual dining concept” (source: bostonpizza.com).

Boston Pizza Bostons USA 327 Star Road Allentown PA

Bostons The Gourmet Pizza, side 3/4 view, 327 Star Road, Allentown, Pennsylvania (source: maps.google.com)

The brand’s franchise system has been so successful that the concept has been exported to the United States and Mexico, where the brand operates under the “Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza” moniker.

2-Rhythmic box

Epitomizing an affinity for suburban outlets, the prototypical Boston Pizza location adopts a rectilinear footprint, overwhelmingly trending towards a square-shaped building. Enhanced through several design techniques, such as articulation, vertical segmentation, material diversity, horizontal variation, and parapet accentuation, the basic squat box shape dims mildly into the background.

Through the use of articulation, whereby the facades alternate by stepping in and out of the primary surface plane, the exterior elevations instantly display a sense of depth, surface relief and visual interest. Breaking up what might otherwise be a long blank wall into smaller segments, with an alternating rhythm of projected and recessed portions, results in more dynamic elevations.

DSC04547 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza Rockland ON

Boston Pizza, front view, 3002 Richelieu Street, Rockland, Ontario

Exploiting segmentation and compartmentalization in the vertical plane, combined with contrasting colours, surface changes are maximized. Furthermore, complementary building materials such as cultured stone, brick, stucco/EIFS, plaster and metals (steel and aluminum) are customarily juxtaposed to underscore and accentuate the surface changes in the façade, whilst also contributing a textural deviation.

DSC08636 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza Yonge St near Green Lane East Gwillimbury ON

Boston Pizza, front view, Yonge Street near Green Lane, East Gwillimbury, Ontario

Systemically creating a visual rhythm with window placement on the three (3) principal sides, the window openings are often framed by implicit columns, though the judicious use of colour and texture, or contained within façade projections.

Adorned with stepped roof parapets, the rectilinear shape is further broken up horizontally, serving the further distinguish and separate the protruding portions into distinct high-low visual elements.

DSC04956 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza St Laurent Blvd near Donald Ottawa ON

Boston Pizza, front 3/4 view, St-Laurent Boulevard near Donald Street, Ottawa, Ontario

Moreover, encasing window openings within the protruding plane introduces aluminium and glass as auxiliary design elements. Large picture windows combined with several smaller divided lights above increase transparency and afford views while. Lighter coloured or natural aluminum frames appear thin and elegant against clear glass. Alternatively, darker window frames combined with tinted glass increase the perception of depth within the window wells.

DSC04772 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza 52 Boulevard Cite des Jeunes Vaudreuil QC

Boston Pizza, front 3/4 view, 52 Boulevard Cité des Jeunes, Vaudreuil, Québec

Headwall elements and pronounced lintels restrict the window area vertically, forming a grounded daylight opening (DLO) counter-balanced by a barren upper portion terminating at the parapet above.

3-Entrance exaggerated

While the three (3) principal sides share many similarities in composition and material make-up, the main façade adds a prominent, articulated component that typifies the entrance. Conversely, the rear portion of the building, which serves the more functional purposes of receiving/deliveries and waste disposal, receives minimal embellishments.

DSC10769 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza Conroy at Walkley Road Ottawa ON

Boston Pizza, rear 3/4 view, Conroy Road at Walkley Road, Ottawa, Ontario

Reaching out to great and welcome guests, the entrance portion protrudes horizontally and vertically,  stepping out of the basic square box shape and projecting periscope-like above the roof. The high focal point at the entrance doubles as a make-shift beacon, making it visible from a distance.

DSC10775 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza Conroy at Walkley Road Ottawa ON

Boston Pizza, front view, Conroy Road at Walkley Road, Ottawa, Ontario

Large doubles doors with formulaic squiggle door handles are customarily framed in a larger window field and lined by column elements, echoing the window opening treatments. At times, the columns are continuous from the ground plane to the roof. However, the more common column treatment is through material stacking, whereby horizontal layers of brick/stone, EIFS, and metal are piled like a cord of firewood, amplifying the vertical dimension through material strata and variation.

DSC03765 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza TRANSFORMATION Carling Ave at Clyde Ottawa ON

Boston Pizza (future), front view, currently “Spec-built” retail development undergoing transformation to resemble a more prototypical BP restaurant, Carling Avenue at Clyde Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario

DSC06415 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza Carling Ave at Clyde Ottawa ON

Boston Pizza, front view, transformed “Spec-built” retail development, Carling Avenue at Clyde Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario

The entrance component proposes the highest elevation, predominantly terminated by a roof element with significant overhangs on all sides. The entrance tower roof element seemingly “sits” or “floats” in place. Deliberate under-lighting gives a lightweight and airy feel to the roof, furthering the sensation of it hovering.

Boston Pizza Boston Pizza 2755 veterans memorial parkway victoria bc

Boston Pizza, front view, 2755 Veterans Memorial Parkway, Victoria, British Columbia (source: victoriamenus.ca)

Although typically adopting a flat roof aesthetic with a supporting structure inset from the main façade, other roof compositions are also evident. More sporadic in occurrence, flat or pitched roofs, often integrated into the main façade as an extension of the highest parapet, can also be found.

4-Blurring the lines

Physically carving up the interior footprint to create distinct zones, dining room area and “sports bar” area, to be enjoyed differently by different guests, Boston Pizza attempts to reconcile the somewhat divergent demands of families and fans.

Unencumbered by the customary trappings of a “sports bar” or “less family-friendly” restaurants, BP projects a welcoming and casual ambiance which appeals to diverse guests.

Boston Pizza Big Shots Sports Bar and Grill 780 US 1 Iselin NJ

Big Shots Sports Bar and Grill, 780 US 1, Iselin, New Jersey (source: maps.google.com)

Straddling the line between the two, Boston Pizza could hardly be confused as a dedicated sports bar, or as a family adverse upscale restaurant.

Boston Pizza Champs 4103 West Burbank Boulevard Burbank CA

Champs Sports Bar, 4103 West Burbank Boulevard, Burbank, California (source: maps.google.com)

Further contributing to the casual atmosphere is the quasi-obligatory patio area, as it proves abnormally difficult to find a Boston Pizza that is devoid of a patio. The indoor/outdoor dichotomy effectively expands the serving area, blurring the lines between building and site. Explicitly augmenting the actual physical size of the prototypical restaurants, the patio space also serves to underpin the more dress-down and informal tone.

Boston Pizza Bostons USA 12794 Riverdale Blvd Coon Rapids MN

Bostons The Gourmet Pizza, 12794 Riverdale Boulevard, Coon Rapids, Minnesota (source: maps.google.com)

Often bordered by soft landscaping, grass, and shrubs, the patio space injects a less formal, more casual and laid-back sense to the dining experience, which itself further reinforces the BP brand’s essence of casual dining.

5-Prototype frenemy

The customary restaurant franchise model depends wholly on a series of proven operational routines and formulas for everything from menu to overall design. The building design and architectural identity advanced by Boston Pizza has become so ingrained that prototypical restaurant renderings have heralded corporate milestones on the BP website (source: bostonpizza.com).

Boston Pizza Milestones 100th 1996 200th 2005 300th 2008

Boston Pizza restaurant opening milestones, 100th (1996), 200th (2005), 300th (2008) (source: bostonpizza.com)

Having built a presence in car-friendly suburban settings, stand alone Boston Pizza restaurants populate out-parcels near malls, power centers, movie theatres and big-box retail stores.  Repetitive, varying slightly due largely to site or location driven constraints, the Boston Pizza built-environment design aesthetic typically sees minimal alterations and modifications, resulting in a mostly undiluted, recognizable architectural identity.

DSC04845 Boston Pizza Boston Pizza FORMER Boul des Sources at Autoroute 40 Montreal QC

Former Boston Pizza, front 3/4 view, Boulevard des Sources at Autoroute 40, Montreal, Québec

Fervent and continued commitment to franchise standards and procedures resulted in built-in recognition for the BP brand. Alas, the design approach cannot transpose verbatim into malls and dense urban (downtown) locations that the brand covets as part of its expansion plans (source: bostonpizza.com). The ingrained design vocabulary will require flexibility, expansion, modification and reinterpretation.

Fortunately, the brand has progressively developed an ability to integrate into other non-traditional locations such as tourist and historic districts.

Boston Pizza Boston Pizza 4948 Clifton Hill Niagara Falls ON

Boston Pizza, 3/4 view, 4948 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, Ontario (source: cliftonhill.com)

Boston Pizza Bostons USA 191 W Nationwide Blvd Columbus OH

Bostons The Gourmet Pizza, 3/4 view, 191 W Nationwide Boulevard, Columbus, Ohio (source: maps.google.com)

Boston Pizza Bostons USA 4250 Tamiami Trail East Naples FL

Bostons The Gourmet Pizza, side 3/4 view, 250 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, Florida (source: maps.google.com)

Therefore, armed with a distinct and recognizable architectural identity, the Boston Pizza brand benefits from a broad portfolio, nearly 50 years deep, to dip into as it extends and reinterprets its design language to suit new locales.


All brands and trademarks are property of their respective owners.


About marc lortie

marc lortie is an Architectural Designer (Technologist) currently based in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada). marc has several years of experience working in Canada and the USA on various projects, including commercial shopping centres, big-box stores, industrial plants, educational facilities, warehouses, storage facilities, intermodal facilities, hotels, offices, and residential developments. marc is a graduate of Carleton University, Algonquin College and La Cite Collegiale.


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