Restaurant Design: Reimagining Your Space After the Lockdown

“The world has changed…but this is also exciting. There was a model that we were kind of stuck in. Now we have the blankest canvas you can imagine.”

— Daniel Humm, Chef, Eleven Madison Park

Today, the restaurant and hospitality industry is being asked to radically reimagine its way of being. When it once thrived on the pulsating energy of crowded tables and standing-room-only bars, it now must adapt to a new normal that just a few months ago would’ve felt inconceivable. Social distancing in restaurant? Minimal contact transactions? How is this even possible?

Designing for this new normal is a daunting task for sure, but not an impossible one. In fact, it’s far from it. That’s because we truly are at an exciting, unique juncture in modern history, as Chef Humm has pointed out, where we can actively rethink what we’ve come to know of as the public dining experience.

So what does this mean for you?

Practically speaking, with our world on pause, you now have an opportunity to go in and either do a short-term restaging or a more major renovation of your restaurant without any serious disruption of service. As we know, construction work while a business is fully operational is doable, but can be costly, and perhaps more importantly, off-putting to patrons. Doing the work now saves you from that dilemma. Creatively speaking, now that we’re facing the “blankest canvas,” the possibilities for reinvention are boundless, from reshaping current business models to redefining and reimagining the guest experience. Clever temporary and more permanent innovations are already occurring across the country: diners turned into drive-in movie theaters; restaurants being converted into marketplaces, prepared foods (helping to keep kitchen and service staff employed) and grocery staples (keeping the food supply chain going) are sold; and designers deploying custom-fabricated dividers (like stained-glass mirrors and walls of plants) to separate tables and keep guests safe. There’s plenty of room for more invention. All it takes is some imaginative revisioning.

That’s where we come in.

Our team has the skills, experience, and tools to guide restaurant owners and developers through each phase of a reopening process. We’ve been helping the hospitality and lifestyle market dream big since 2004, and offer proven experience in all aspects of hotel and restaurant design, ranging from design concept and development to construction administration and management. 

We will make case-by-case evaluations, specific to your needs, that will help you make the best-possible decisions for the future of your business. We’ll keep you informed as new guidelines develop, so that every design choice meets current standards. And we won’t lose sight of the bottom line: that to deliver on your brand experience, everyone, from the guests to the house staff, must feel taken care of and safe.

What we can help you do:

Dream up innovative dining experiences

We’ll help you create a space that doesn’t feel empty and where guests feel safe and comfortable.  Options can range from the simple to the more complex, such as strategically increasing social distance between tables and bar seats to meet requirements, creating private and semi-private “pods” for both inside and outside dining, establishing private rooms for small-party friends and family meals, or—taking things in the opposite direction—designing a spacious living-room-meets-dining-room set-up that’s at once cozy, yet provides for secure distancing. There you could offer white-glove tray service that will leave guests feeling nostalgic for the Mad Men era, yet secure knowing you’re taking their safety seriously.

Be creative with the practical

Some things you can consider: incorporating plants and flowers both indoors and outdoors to fill in space and generate a sense of calm; implementing contact-free ordering and cashless paying; and installing anti-microbial finishes and experimenting with new tech, like UVC-lighting (researchers are still testing the light’s effectiveness on the coronavirus strain that causes Covid-19—results so far are promising—but some businesses, like NYC’s Magnolia Bakery, are already installing it in their stores).

Maximize the use of non-dining space to elevate the guest experience

This can mean a wide welcoming area, thereby reducing queueing; Asian-inspired hand washing areas; dedicated pick-up areas; and curbside food carts.

Strategize and manage a controlled start

Smart design decisions from the get-go means minimizing the risk of completely stopping the operations if something goes wrong later on. A soft opening can test those decisions out, as well as help ease staff into the new routine.

What else we can offer:

Phased post-pandemic bar and restaurant design strategies

Staging and furnishing design solutions

Space planning to address social distancing requirements at all front of the house spaces, including entry and waiting areas, indoor and outdoor dining, and restrooms

Optimizing service and operational spaces, including determining strategic storage areas for unused furniture, providing adequate server station usage, and establishing front of house circulation pathways

Signage and wayfinding design

Advice on branding and tech solutions

Ready to reimagine your space?

Contact us here.

6 thoughts on “Restaurant Design: Reimagining Your Space After the Lockdown

  1. Great article, very good recommendations. Will circulate to my clients.

  2. Very interesting article. It is important to plan public spaces in a different but cozy way. And to help hospitality to do it.
    I am sharing it.

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