The renovated HelmiSimpukka restaurants offer the best breaks on the road

HelmiSimpukka has some 130 restaurants in Finland, and they serve over 2.5 million customers every month. The mission of the nationwide chain is to make breaks on the road as comfortable as possible, with freshly cooked food, friendly service and a memorable spatial experience. Rune & Berg Design and HelmiSimpukka have worked together for several years to develop the spatial experience.

The best break along the road

The starting point of the cooperation that began in 2018 was making HelmiSimpukka one of the most popular brands in Finland, which would have a positive effect on sales and customer numbers. The aim was to build a service station concept that offers the best experience for people on the road. “We want to be a relevant and approachable service station operator that is always easy to find. It all starts with the customers. We must create long-lasting premises that continue to serve us also after 15 years,” says Emil Huttunen, Marketing and Concept Manager at St1, describing the objective of the cooperation.

Design drivers of the conceptual development:

  • the best break experience
  • fresh and easy-to-approach concept
  • product and service selection that stands out better

We designed a new spatial concept, signs and illustrations for the HelmiSimpukka service stations. The experience was developed in close cooperation with the HelmiSimpukka team. For example, the building blocks of the service station concept were brainstormed in workshops that discussed the chain’s current state and target state in 15 years. “You have always been easy to approach. We are clearly on the same page and speak the same language. If we wanted to change, for example, small details about sales, you always gave possible solutions quickly,” Emil describes the cooperation.

Cosy and straightforward space for a smooth service experience

The fresh and easy-to-approach spatial concept is based on the functional and visual framework that was created in cooperation, and it reflects the chain’s promise of always friendly service and the best selection of food on the road. We also focused on the chain’s differentiating factors, emphasising the work they do at the restaurant and making the customer paths clearer to highlight the product and service selection. “The aim was to tone down the environment. I believe that it is now easier for the customers to come to the service station and find what they need,” Emil summarises the underlying idea of the new concept.

HelmiSimpukka swears by a cosy and straightforward experience, and the new look and feel has a touch of nostalgia and the charm of old-school gas stations. Local elements also play an important role in the more than 130 restaurants of the chain. In addition to travellers, HelmiSimpukka restaurants serve the local residents of the area. In some areas, the local service station is an important service and meeting place. The concept will be implemented across Finland, but it is flexible enough to allow local colour. For example, each restaurant where the new concept is implemented will have a customised illustration on the wall that reflects its local character.

Customer-friendly concept increased sales

The renewal made the HelmiSimpukka spatial concept much more user-centred. The spatial solutions and signs that clarified the service paths in the space also improved the customer experience, which was reflected as increased sales: the core messages and services are easier to notice in a clear space. The strong and holistic look makes HelmiSimpukka restaurants stand out from the competition better than before. “I am extremely happy with our cooperation. I have a strong feeling that we are going in the right direction. In Savonlinna, for example, sales rocketed after we implemented the new concept there,” Emil says.

Feedback from the personnel has also been positive. “We have received excellent feedback from the employees. For example, we extended our service station in Vallikallio, which dates back to the 1980s, and altered the space of HelmiSimpukka Konala to bring in more light, which has lifted the spirits of the employees,” Emil sums up.