The parking lot behind the PNC is quite a stark contrast to the bank’s public facing front.

One who has only seen the neo-classical, street facing facade of the PNC Bank build might be shocked when they come around to the parking lot on it’s rear, which seems to tell a far different story than it suggests. While I can’t say for certain, lacking access to the architects or high quality enough photography of the roof, it seems that the marble facade was retrofitted onto preexisting brick buildings, likely residential, in an effort to save money while keeping up appearances. It amazes me greatly that they were able to disguise this so easily, and perhaps says a lot about the area in general- gilded appearances over a mundane base.

This fountain, in the eponymous park of Dupont Circle, stands at the rough center of the traffic circle.

While the exteriors of the stores are undoubtedly more relevant to this documentation, that does not mean a reflection on the architecture of the area at large is not important. Dupont Circle, like much of DC, is a heavily modern neighborhood growing in the often historical architecture of DC’s downtown areas. One need only consider things like a burger joint behind a marble facade to understand the enormously paradoxical and fascinating facts that encompass the neighborhood. I hope to be able to capture this through a handful of these photos, such as this one- a neoclassical fountain juxtaposed with the traffic driving around it and the commercial palaces of PNC Bank and it’s ilk just beyond.

Mayflower Chinese in Tenleytown would NOT pass most of Lin et al’s qualifications very easily (though this may be personal bias). Image by Odele Oyewole.

7. Lin, Yann-Jou, et al. “The Effect of Experiential Providers on Restaurant Patronage Decisions.” Social Behavior and Personality, vol. 40, no. 7, 2012, pp. 1065-1066.

In researchers Lin, Liu, and Chiang’s brief journal article “The Effect of Experiential Providers on Restaurant Patronage Decisions,” the three analyze the results of a survey to examine something often overlooked in regards to restaurant service- namely, the fact that service can be as much of a quality factor as food. They cite a theory of “experiential providers-” namely things that are experienced by consumers through intentional and unintentional acts of businesses, divided into several categories: “communication, verbal identity and signage, product presence, cobranding, spatial environment, electronic media, and people” (Lin et al. 1066). In particular, these researchers examine data collected by a survey asking individuals in Taiwan of either male or female gender how they rated these seven categories (Lin et al. 1065). In the end, their data revealed that the three most important of these factors were, for both genders, people, spatial environment, and product presence (Lin et al. 1065-1066). While these terms are not fully defined, they evidently relate to staff, design, and quality of the product respectively. The researchers note that men care more about the quality of the goods themselves rather than the environment of the restaurant, and vice versa (Lin et al. 1066). The article concludes with a call for further research to formalize the field of empirical food service.

As we approach the final paper, it becomes increasingly evident that I should examine how interiors are not only shaped from a perspective of rhetoric, but also from a perspective of business. While the two intertwine quite a bit, it’s quite necessary to remember that most intentions made with these places are intentional- chain restaurants are a fundamentally inorganic phenomena with lots of intentional attempts at cultivating brand loyalty or specific feelings. Having said that, it becomes apparent that having sources which describe not only methodology for analyzing marketing vis a vis restaurant design, but also useful data, is quite helpful. I plan to look further into the concepts of “experiential providers” as we approach this final paper.

8. Kotler, Phillip. “Atmospherics as a Marketing Tool.” Journal of Retailing, vol. 49, no. 4, 1974, pp. 48-64.

In Phillip Kotler’s academic paper “Atmospheric as a Marketing Tool,” he examines what he considers an underused tool by businesses throughout most fields: atmospherics, or, more plainly, cultivated atmospheres (Kotler 50). To begin, Kotler explains his historical understanding of his theories, stating that atmosphere in a building came as a byproduct of the evolution beyond functional buildings, which was followed by the evolution of atmosphere as an intentional tool (Kotler 49-50). To explain more fully, his argument rests on the idea that these cultivated atmospheres constitute an added value for a product, which helps sweeten the proposition to the consumer (Kotler 48). Furthermore, Kotler argues that the reason why this is worth discussing is the fact that a cultivated environment is increasingly relevant to businessmen if products are purchased on location, if competition is high without major price differences, and if social status is a factor- all of which make the psychological effect of the environment on the product that much more acute (52-53). He goes on to cite numerous examples of how atmosphere can be cultivated in everything from shoe stores (Kotler 55) to airlines (Kotler 59), before setting up a framework for formalizing the creation of a cultivated atmosphere (Kotler 63). Kotler notes that further research and reflection is needed, noting many instances where businesses failed to fully consider the ramifications of an atmosphere and damaged their business in the process (Kotler 63-64). In the end, he reiterates his point that it’s an important tool in the competitive businesses’ playbook.

Kotler’s work, as well as being an interesting read in its own right, is another framework for analysis of the interiors of the fast casual chains I will be examining. While I can also examine Lin’s framework for a breakdown of specific elements, Kotler provides a much better generalized look at how and why decisions are made in these contexts, which will hopefully benefit me in my research. Furthermore, my need for examination of interior design is particularly acute, as the businesses I’m examining share a building, which means that differentiating themselves must occur at the local level. In any case, Kotler’s work will be a major springboard for my future investigations.

“As much as Andrés wants us to eat better, the man whose kitchens dish out pedigreed ham (at Jaleo) and a meringue “Rubber Ducky” made with foie gras ice cream (at Minibar) knows dining is as much about pleasure as sustenance. Or should be.” -Tom Sietsema, “Beefsteak review: Making vegetables bright, beautiful- and fast,” The Washington Post

Tracking down a picture of Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema is surprisingly hard (for likely good reason)- the most you can easily find is this caricature he uses on his column.

It’s not an uncommon proposition that America is a food culture- it embodies everything we hold as core values: openness to new things, a celebration of plenty, and a love of basal pleasures. While America cannot claim to have the same fine dining chops as countries like Italy and France, we are the country who invented the omnipresent culinary pornography of fast food. Of course, many have objections to the latter- everything from its unhealthiness and corporate nature to its lack of refinement.

The latter point is more interesting, as it’s the most subjective of these themes. Of course, it’s not hard to see how pervasive the concept of fast food as a “people’s food” has become- one only need to be reminded of the photo ops of Trump with items from McDonalds or KFC to see how this can be used as a rhetorical shorthand for a lack of pretention or elitism on behalf of someone with very little in common with his most receptive audience. Even when eating his famous steaks, he’s known for his quite “uncultured” taste for ketchup as a pairing with this expensive and generally extravagant cut of meat. This was one of the many widely mocked parts of our president’s public persona, and with the fact that this seemed to connect with a certain group of people, it’s perhaps good to reflect on why this is.

Of course, pleasurable food has different meanings to different people. Tom Sietsema, the writer of this piece, is the food critic of the Washington Post- a job entirely about identifying what a subjective taste most would agree with is. This is especially important when it comes to the restaurants he often examines, which can cost a sizable portion of a week’s salary for a simple entree. Of course, in context it’s interesting to consider the fact he equates the pleasure from a fast casual vegetable joint to the items found at an exclusive restaurant where $275 is the cost for an evening. Sietsema clearly likes this place- after all, two stars is nothing to sneeze at. But does what he considers dining for pleasure rather than sustenance even compare to what most American see it as?

José Andrés is DC’s most famous chef, responsible for several of the most notable restaurants in the district. He’s also the founder of the Beefsteak chain.

What I’ve been trying to get at with all this rambling is this: how does the way we approach food shape our perceptions of it and others? Consider the rise of the fast casual restaurant- the only fundamental difference between these places and a fast food joint is higher prices, more high quality ingredients, and a lack of drive ins. Sure, you could argue about seating and interior design, but even a fast food joint could have high quality seating. However, a man like Tom Sietsema would likely never touch a fast food joint with a mile long stick in a professional context, but if a famous chef decides to start a fast casual chain it’s suddenly worth a review and two stars for quality. Why has the consumer with the luxury of picking rejected fast food and embraced fast casual? It’s a mystery which I hope to probe into in my final essay- but until then, I’ll be left contemplating the differences between mere sustenance and gustatory pleasure.

5. Background

A proposed branding for stationary, menu design, and other ephemera, with the illustrations by Brosmind.

Merry+Valenzula. “Beefsteak,” Behance, 10 Oct. 2015, https://www.behance.net/gallery/30211853/Beefsteak. Portfolio.

In this brief portfolio work by the creative agency Merry+Valenzula, we see a brief description of the artistic spirit behind Beefsteak’s unique visual identity, both in its branding and its physical locations. For example, one sees dummy versions of apps, menus, and even stationary, as well as a look at assorted merchandise. As well as this, we are given the basic information of the illustrators of the vegetables who make the restaurant unique- a pair of illustrators from Barcelona known as Brosmind. On top of that, we also see concepts of the interior design, arranged by Capella Garcia Arquitectura, another Barceolan firm. Finally, the portfolio ends with an exterior shot of one of the locations.

While this is sparse for words, knowing who was responsible for the signature parts of the restaurant’s design can be a major boon. In the mapping of commonplaces, the main attraction of BGR and it’s neighbors is the way they all utilize space in the same building to vastly different effect- allowing us to see the way they shape similar canvases to create gestalts of a far different rhetorical nature. And above all, it’s quite evident that this restaurant had both time and money put towards making it unique.

6. Background

The interior of the Logan’s Circle branch of Sweetgreen, as mentioned below. This photograph is attributed to Chris Rief, who appears to have taken it purely for this article.

Sirzyk, Samantha. “Behind the Design: Sweetgreen.” We Love DC, 10 Mar. 2010,  http://www.welovedc.com/2010/03/10/behind-the-design-sweetgreen-at-logan-circle/.

In this analytical work by DC blogger Samantha Sirzyk, she examines the interior design of the Sweetgreen at Logan Circle. After mentioning how her interest was sparked a similar write up in the magazine Metropolis, she begins to examine the new decor of the restaurant in great depth, analyzing all the design elements that brings the restaurant together. She first mentions the people involved- Peter Hapstack III on behalf of Core+ Architecture and Design, and Olivia Wolf and the Unison Design Agency for work on the omnipresent logo. She then breaks down specific design notes: use of lighting, distinctive salvaged hickory paneling, subway tiling on the floor. One thing noted in particular is the use of a mural by a local artist, Tang, on the hallway approaching the restroom. She concludes with a positive acclimation of a unique idea for a QR code in the restaurant, used to deliver a unique message every day.

While not exactly a new article, this was written after the establishment of the Dupont Circle branch of Sweetgreen, which means that most of this information is at least a solid lead if not also applicable. Furthermore, this was the newest information I could find on the restaurant’s interior design- I had little other choice. However, I do believe that this information will ultimately prove its worth.

The man on the left (Dan Bishop of Georgia) cared so much about where people used the restroom that he virtually ruined his state’s reputation and endangered its economy.

1. A good portion of Americans are far too interested in how and where others use the restroom- some even to the point of losing massive amounts of money because of a perceived morality of saying that certain people can or cannot use a restroom because of their gender identity. In the midst of this, American University has decided to provide gender-neutral restrooms on the first floor of their residence halls, in case that people who do not feel comfortable with the potential social situation of using the bathroom corresponding to their identity on their own floor still have a method of performing basic bodily functions. The Housing and Dining Program’s staff make this the main focus from the get-go, emphasizing the fact that it is for “anyone to use regardless of gender-identity.” The posting of this sign itself, versus simply denoting that it’s a gender-neutral restroom, is a political act of at-least ostensible solidarity, showing an understanding of the fact that freedom of gender expression is an issue many young people see as worth fighting for. The next sentence is a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that a sizable part of the student base is either uncomfortable with the subject or sees it somehow as an infringement on their rights, urging students to try and make it work without outside intervention. The school’s wording in this section is particularly interesting- it attributes some discomfort with the idea to it being “new and different,” which portrays it as simply a change rather than the “assault” on traditional values some see it as. It finally concludes with the note that there is a lock on the restroom if those using it need it, which is probably a fair compromise for people used to having restrooms that lock or feel uncomfortable about the fact that feasibly two people can use those restrooms at once. In any case, this sign is a very good way for the school to make their case for being accepting of people’s gender identities and fostering an attitude of inclusivity on their campus.

All of these universities would be given tax exemptions for land they owned- but for good or ill?

2. “Shall property be exempt?”
This sentence is the closest thing to the dictionary definition of a “loaded question” that I have seen in recent memory. The sentence, while ostensibly simply a question at it’s core, is phrased to make both a logos and pathos appeal before it’s even done being asked. It’s perhaps easiest to break this sentence into two halves, so let’s first consider “Shall property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities…” Already we can see the rhetor informing the audience that this lands seems to be primarily used for student housing, a necessary service that the likely entirely college educated assembly would know to be necessary, and maybe even remember from their own time at college. The phrasing glosses over the fact that this land could contain everything from a sexual health clinic to the campus bookstore, meaning that this land could be used for potentially less agreeable things or even sources of profit for the school system, which would be a far different question. The second half is even more interesting: “…continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?” The clever rhetorical device here comes at the very end, where the phrasing seems to change the question from “tax exemption” to “affordable college,” the latter of which being a far more emotionally charged issue. While people may have valid points against allowing an institution to be tax exempt that would put their constituency to sleep, it’s far easier to get this measure passed if they turn it into an issue of keeping a public college affordable, which could make or break a candidate in the right community. In any case, it’s quite clear that the rhetor here knew exactly what he was doing when he phrased this question, and we can give him some credit for the fact.

WIlliam Gibson’s cyberpunk novel Neuromancer not only predicted the Internet, it now seems to be predicting a world where corporations have more power than governments. Cover art by James Warhola.

“Many consumers, especially those households with limited incomes, appreciate receiving relevant advertising that is keyed to their interests and provides them with discounts on the products and services they use.” –League of United Latin American Citizens, Multicultural Media, Telecom, and Internet Council, OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates

Unsurprisingly, the right side of the aisle has managed to pass yet another bill that infringes on consumer’s freedoms while claiming it enhances their experience as consumers. However, rather than ban seatbelts requirements (something I expect within the next 4 years), the Republican party has instead gone with a more simple strategy: make it perfectly legal for an internet service provider to sell your data. The first argument for it usually involves the fact the fact that advertisers have been doing that for years, and that not allowing internet service providers is just inconsistency. This is a false equivalency for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there are plenty of ways for a person to protect themselves from online snooping. Secondly, an internet service provider sees everywhere you go and can often collect the data you send. The Republicans have more or less sold all the personal information (which worryingly could be used to make lists of people of certain political viewpoints, religions, or races) of their constituents to the telecom industry with relatively little recourse, and no way to fix any problems that arise.

However, I’m more confused and concerned about their second argument: people don’t want privacy. This letter, sent by two Comcast-funded civil rights group and an actual telecom lobbyist organization, is attempting to argue the fact that the poor and minorities actively desire to have their information unknowingly sold to advertisers in a system that will likely not have an opt-out by the end of this decade. While I admit that I am not capable of speaking for everyone, I’m going to go off on a limb and say that this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read. Americans have been fighting against the surveillance state for more than 200 years. Why suddenly it’s somehow considered a remotely believable lie that it is, in fact, okay if a corporation does it is far beyond me.

It worries me greatly every time I see corporate funded legislation meant to exploit average citizens get rubberstamped through Congress purely because of party lines and the legal bribery that lobbying generally entails. While many in Congress seem to be banking on the fact that this will either not effect them or they’ll be senile before it matters, the fact is that this kind of legislation will disproportionately impact the lives of people of my age group and younger- we’re coming into adulthood in a world where mass surveillance and corporate manipulation of law are both normalized. The only funny part of this is the fact that William Gibson, coiner of the term “cyberspace” and technologically-prescient science fiction writer, is already often considered to have correctly predicted the rise of internet- but has evidently predicted the corporate dystopia we’re rapidly entering as well.

Citations

Warhola, James. Cover of Neuromancer, 1984.

Beefsteak’s branding uses these charming vegetables as mascots.

The most striking thing about Beefsteak, and the reason I chose it over Sweetgreen today, was this rambunctious group of vegetables. Mostly unnamed, this art style is pervasive over the restaurant- the wallpaper and table settings all incorporate these mascots to greater or lesser degrees. Beefsteak’s edge among the restaurants of PNC Bank, along with decent food, is having by far the best branding. BGR suffers from its indistinct nature, something they’re trying to correct, and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Sweetgreen other than they serve salads. Right out of the gate, Beefsteak screams a combination of “playful” and “vegetables”- something to differentiate its cooking from the thousands of organic vegan places you find in metropolitan areas.

Beefsteak emphasizes its organic/vegan/green message with the omniversal decorative box- the milk crate.

The milk crate is a quite universal sort of box- I’ve never seen one actually used for milk, but they’re great for storing records, sitting on, just throwing stuff in, or using for art projects like this. Beefsteak (named for the tomato) likes to promote their enviromental-vegetarian method with things like this, presumably to give the feel of creative “reuse.” You can also see a mural of a field, which is meant to give the suggestions of wholesomeness and the organic-movement to a restaurant which likely isn’t, though I may be wrong. You can also see the drinks counter, with assorted beverages and juices, as well as a new bottled gazpacho they’re rolling out.

Beefsteak lets you build your own bowl of vegetables or get one of their own recipes.

Beefsteak, like most fast casual restaurants, takes an assembly line approach to meals- you either get something with an ingredient list already made or pick your own veggies (not in the farming sense) and assorted toppings and bases. One particular innovation is deep-fryer style vegetable boilers, which quite impressed me personally, though I’m easy to please. Like most of these restaurants, they’re quite free-flowing with the condiments, in an attempt to make it a universally edible experience- you can flavor anything to your liking. I will admit that the length of this counter made the whole experience a bit confusing, especially since no staff member was there to immediately get my order.