The ghost of Long John Silver

Sarah Baird writes of the visual dissonance of seeing new businesses moving into old fast food restaurant spaces in New Orleans.

Lately I’ve been seeking out these puzzles in architectural form throughout New Orleans, where I live, and where numerous new, often independent businesses are popping up inside the shells of old fast food chains. Each time I enter a car rental office, a new Chinese restaurant, or a pharmacy that used to be a fast food restaurant, I find myself unable to shake its familiar ambiance no matter how different the new business may be. Just like I struggled to say ‘yellow’ when a word was written in orange, I stand inside a Taco Bell-turned-Enterprise longing to order a crunch wrap supreme instead of negotiate the price of my economy sedan. It’s cognitive dissonance at its finest.

This deeply rooted attachment to the form and function of fast food chains is, of course, no accident. These companies were early adopters of architectural branding — the process of creating easily recognizable, distinctive buildings that reflect a brand’s “personality” and attract customers through a variety of spatial and lighting techniques. The brick and mortar stylings of drive-thru restaurants — from the golden arches on McDonald’s to the chuckwagon shape of the first Roy Roger’s — are seared not only into our personal memories, but the collective public consciousness.

Once a Taco Bell, now “the city's premiere Korean restaurant”

I experience similar momentary cognitive dissonance when I see a blog that has borrowed a more famous blog's well-known template, something especially common with Tumblr and Wordpress.