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Inside Rare Form

Who says fast-casual design has to be predictable?

At first glance, Rare Form doesn’t look like a fast casual. But this 2,400-square-foot, European-inspired deli in San Diego is just that—a counter-service spot. “When most people look at design for fast casuals, they’re thinking primarily as a catalyst for growth ... straightforward design packages that have to be homogenized,” says Arsalun Tafazoli, co-owner of Rare Form’s parent CH Projects. With no plans for a second outpost, he took a curated approach, while still maintaining fast-casual-style service and value.

Back of house as part of the experience

Through a kitchen window, diners can see meals ($7 to $12) crafted with “better products,” Tafazoli says.
“We want to be open to show that it’s not fast food.” Cooks see guests, too, to gauge their performance.

Differentiation through design

The seating is practical, efficient and communal, says Tafazoli, who sourced the tables and lamps from old libraries. “People used to spend lots of time in libraries; they’re great meeting places,” he says. Here, because so much of the decor is original, “it’d be a challenge to create another Rare Form.” 

Doubling up

Rare Form is in a historic area next to the San Diego Padres’ stadium. “Every small thing was a huge pain,” as the historical society imposed many restrictions. Making the most of the build, CH Projects has a
separate bar, Fairweather, on the roof overlooking the ballpark.

Natural flow

Upon entry, many first-timers expect a refined experience, says Tafazoli, who admits he enjoys “fucking with people’s perceptions.” But a clear flow of how to order and find a seat is imperative, he says. “We have to make sure people understand how to do this within 10 seconds of walking in.” Locating the ordering counter at the front and setting up self-serve stations for water and utensils provides obvious visual cues and helps manage expectations.

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