|Spending dollars wisely on both interior and exterior starts with an assessment of the site. In this regard, design starts before you sign a lease. Look to see if the space has good ‘bones.’ Sometimes individual elements or architectural materials will help you develop a design direction and perhaps even frame the style of the operation. Two words of caution, however: First, be careful you don’t fall in love with a classic building that will later become a money pit. Second, if you are thinking about multiple units, consider the difficulty in matching the magic of that first site as you look to expand.|
How we furnish restaurants has evolved in recent years. It’s not just chairs for dining and stools for drinking. It’s not just wood for casual and tablecloths for formal. Customers often choose to sit at higher tables in a bar atmosphere for dining because they like the different energy level, and they like to be at eye level to the staff. Conversely, some customers are happy to sit in a lounge seat and a table lower than dining height, even for lunch and dinner. Counter-height seating, which is between dining and bar height, reminds us of sitting at a kitchen counter.
Communal tables are a recent trend, but in many cases they are not really being implemented as communal, but rather as large group tables. A true communal table will make individuals and smaller groups feel comfortable sharing and often generates conversation and activity that otherwise would not exist. Like many aspects of design, you as an owner must decide how your place should operate, and therefore how it will feel.
Everybody loves booths, so why don’t we do all booths? Budget notwithstanding, inflexibility is the issue. Not just that you cannot move them, but that we often see one or two people using up four seats, thereby cutting your usable capacity by a high percentage.
Public vs. private
This leads us into a discussion of private versus public space. Booths are not only popular due to physical comfort, but also for a psychological comfort that comes with being surrounded. Here again there has been a shift, particularly in urban markets from spaces that are divided and private to more open and public; where bar no longer has to be separate from dining; where couples rub shoulders with others; where more and more of the production activity is exposed.
Finally, a word (or two) on process. It is nearly impossible for any or all of the above to come together if the design process is dysfunctional. As a restaurant owner, you may think that the process is in the hands of the design team, but you must remember that the team includes you. As an operator you will (must) bring something to the table to ignite the design. It may be as simple as a key menu focus, or a specific service model, but it must be something that you believe in. That being said, design of foodservice spaces is a unique endeavor, and you need to make sure your whole team is up to the task. Make sure you are dealing with specialists in every aspect of the process.
The next goal is to establish clear lines of communication, and try hard to put ego aside. So where do we start? Again, as designers we need to take our cues from the operator. In planning and designing a restaurant we need to know what the focus is, and therefore we determine:
- How it should be perceived by the customer
- What it should look like stylistically
- How it should flow
- What is the focal point
Tips to remember:
- Bring all aspects together – from name, to menu, to service, to design
- The design process starts with site selection
- Start to tell the story with the exterior, but leave something to be discovered
- Spend on the elements that the customer touches
- Be brave and take a stand; be known for something
About the author
Chris Hannah is the principal of Cricket Design Company Inc. in Toronto. The firm was founded in 1988 and specializes in hospitality projects, from kiosks to casinos and everything in between. Hannah also teaches at Ryerson’s School of Interior Design. For more information visit www.cricketdesign.ca – but stand by for a new and improved site coming this fall. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.