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Kiosk: Refreshing its roots at the railway stations



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October 1, 2015 | 7 min read

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The challenge

Kiosk at Amsterdam Amstel Station, an open and transparent environment.

Kiosk is synonymous with Dutch rail travel and is the oldest retail format of the NS Station, part of the national rail operator in the Netherlands. For many years, it was the only place at railway stations where it was possible to buy snacks and refreshments to make the train journey ahead more amenable.

Kiosk is entirely managed by NS, from concept to execution, including marketing and staffing.

The competition in retail outlets has increased markedly over recent years, with the arrival of high street chains such Starbucks, Albert Heijn and HEMA. At larger stations, particularly those that have recently undergone major facelifts, such as Rotterdam Central and Utrecht Central, the choice available to consumers has been raised to yet higher levels. Whilst Kiosk continues to meet its commercial objectives, its pulling power in attracting new and younger customers has lagged in the face of this fiercer competition and the changing needs of consumers.

What was once considered bog-standard now had to become the gold standard: yesterday’s tea-lady had to become today’s barista. The needs of the modern rail traveller were increasingly better served by other retail chains present at railway stations. The proposition was simply not clear and exciting enough for consumers. Kiosk looked more and more like a mini supermarket and lacked a distinctive customer proposition of its own.

The solution

NS Stations decided to develop a new design concept for Kiosk, a new life cycle phase for the grab and go service for rail travellers in the Netherlands. The new store concept was to be rolled out to more than 100 locations in total, across all types of railway station all over the country – from major hubs to small commuter stations.

The aim was to produce a clear frame of reference to guide the expectations of the customer. A quick and easy way to provide a treat for the journey ahead without the fear of missing the train. A rich history made relevant for now and to serve as a basis for future growth. A contemporary retail format, addressing the needs and expectations of today’s travellers, with an unmistakably Dutch heritage.

What had become a mini convenience supermarket with a focus on maximising the product offer needed a fundamental refreshing on its core competence and relevance for customers. It needed to be an inviting place, different from the ‘to go’ supermarkets like Albert Heijn To Go and also able to compete with more high-end coffee specialists such as Starbucks.

The approach for Kiosk was threefold:

  • Rearrange the product offer with a focus on coffee and tea, bread and pastries and cold drinks
  • Improve the quality on these core ranges to address changing customer needs
  • Develop a unique customer experience that is a credible environment for a better product quality performance

With a new concept comes a new brand identity design. The idea was to reference the new Kiosk to the traditional kiosk stand that was born in the late 19th and early 20th century – the ‘grand’ era of railway travel – to evoke a time when a train journey was the most modern way of transportation for everybody and a pivotal part of the growing modern urban society.

The new brand identity and store design were developed in an integrated manner. They all support each other to create a unique experience for quality and price perception.

The brand, interior design and communication materials leverages cues from this heyday of train travel, inspired by the architecture and commercial illustrative work of the 1920s and 30s. By going back to the roots of the kiosk, we are able to frame the store as a distinctive and unique retail format, making it incomparable to others on the railway station.

The brand identity and communication style is designed from scratch and aims to frame the format as kiosk in a unique way. It starts with a well-designed logo showing confident brand being in its natural surrounding. The ‘o’ in the logo is used as a reference to the wheels of the trains in applications in store. It is the basis for the train station name in the centre of the store.

The communication style, with a bold use of perspective and graphical lines, supports the heritage without becoming nostalgic. All elements are of today and more ownable for the brand.

The balance of convenience of choice and improved quality perception is quintessential in the concept. In the new blueprint this is achieved through placing the employees at the centre with the core product ranges coffee, tea and bake off. The food counter facilitates personal interaction between the staff and customer; real human contact in an impersonal location – railway stations and platforms. Improved fresh product presentation of bake off, putting the coffee machines to the front and a more customer facing operation all create a welcome feeling for the customers. More differentiation in cooling and ambient furniture facilitates ‘natural’ navigation and assures easy selection. Adding more impulse incentives and a unique furniture and fixture design takes away the supermarket reference.

The result

Kiosk has been revamped as a completely new brand. Depending on the situation in every individual railway station, the brand now offers a true kiosk experience with a contemporary offering and unique ambience. The focal point is a delicious cup of coffee or tea along with freshly baked pastries and savouries for the journey.

The result is a clear offer to the consumer and a platform to adapt to changing consumer needs. The brand identity is more timeless and more flexible in store design and execution.

And because not every station is the same, different counter designs have been devised to make each and every Kiosk unique. It confirms that the Kiosk is synonymous with station life.

The first of these were rolled out at Amsterdam Amstel – a Grade 1 listed building – and Utrecht Central Station, the new 21st century metropolitan station concept opened in August 2015.


Tel: +31 20 750 2000



Twitter: @VBAT_Refreshing


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VBAT is an award-winning branding and design agency with offices in Amsterdam and Mexico City. With 30 years in the game, we’re experts at brand thinking and design,...

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