The past few years have been pivotal for restaurants, as owners and operators have had to adapt and modernize rapidly alongside changing climates and consumer demands. It’s been a roller coaster ride for restaurant management, as challenges like staff shortages and mask mandates have made it difficult to keep the business alive and booming. While there is no clear direction for the industry in 2022, there are restaurant design trends that could help shape the food and beverage scene for the better. In fact, embracing these key concepts just might give restaurants the competitive edge they need to stay relevant for years to come.
Take-out takes over
As the popularity of take-out food continues to grow, it’s important for foodservice operators and other decision makers to recognize that “intentional design” is essential to best meet this growing demand. How fast can third-party delivery groups enter and exit the food court? Can the third party get to the takeout portion of the restaurant without disrupting the flow of customers staying for a meal or queuing to place an order?
The rise of online ordering is changing the way designers view restaurant layouts and floor plans. While new and renovated restaurants have the luxury of approaching this intentionally from the outset – ensuring there is a designated area for third-party groups – existing restaurants do not have the same ease of opportunity. . Instead, management should consider tweaks that allow a clear path for takeout and delivery drivers, whether through temporary (but aesthetically pleasing) signage or an alluring component that keeps restaurant patrons away, and those who intend to grab-and-go to each other. Designers are exploring new pick-up areas that appear as a “decorative feature” in the space, while providing an efficient route for those who travel in a hurry. That said, smart design and layout for takeout is crucial for restaurants today.
Long live the community table
Although it may be contrary to popular belief, communal tables aren’t going away anytime soon. While some have speculated that the community table will die out due to social distancing, in times when cases are low and regulations are lifted, individuals flock to these areas to grab a quick bite and reconnect with their colleagues, family and friends. Before management considers removing these tables from existing properties or not considering them in new construction or renovations, it is worth exploring all the benefits this style brings to the restaurant space.
From a safety perspective, communal tables can be easily adjusted based on current CDC recommendations, as some seats and parts of the table can be blocked off to limit capacity. The community table still has its appeal, especially for patrons who don’t have time to make a reservation, but prefer to sit inside to enjoy their impromptu meal. While it might technically be suitable for large groups, it’s also a great option for people dining alone. The communal table makes diners feel like they’re not alone while also providing a space to spread out if the restaurant has brought books or their laptop and is looking to sit down and stay a while. In fact, major hotel brands are maintaining or even upgrading their community tables in lobbies and restaurants to allow people to work and eat in these spaces.
One of the main advantages of the common table is that it is flexible enough to meet the needs of the community as they evolve. Looking to socialize? Interested in dining alone, but don’t want to feel isolated? Haven’t made a reservation, but would like to sit down and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant during your lunch break? Just as its namesake suggests, the Common Table could be useful to anyone in the community at any given time on any given day. Plus, it’s a great practical option to make available to restaurants when they’re able to accommodate larger gatherings, banquets, and other events.
The recommendation here is to think twice before parting ways with the beloved community table. After all, getting together for a meal is a cornerstone of American culture and what better way to support that tradition than a communal table?
It’s all in the details
As the lines between fine dining and casual dining become more blurred, one trend that continues to define both styles is attention to detail. Major players in the restaurant industry must regularly ask themselves, “what about this restaurant that will keep customers coming back?” especially now that dining destinations are constantly looking for new ways to increase foot traffic. Design-wise, details can come down to locally sourced artwork, bold pops of color, or intriguing murals that allude to the brand’s kitchen roots.
LED lighting is another “detail” element that has become increasingly important in creating the desired atmosphere in modern restaurants; whether it’s providing extra warmth in the space during the winter months or dimming the lights to create a romantic ambiance. While the idea of lighting might seem simple for a dining space, it could be that defining element that keeps a customer coming back. Lighting is a great way to make a space feel different throughout the day, such as abundant access to natural light in the morning for a coffee break with co-workers or charming sconces with dim lighting that lend themselves to a romantic evening for couples.
The Freshman, which functions as both a cafe and a cocktail bar, opened in Arlington, Virginia in April 2021. The restaurant features an open-style layout and seamlessly transforms from day (like a cafe) to night (like a cocktail bar)––the transition is made visually possible through design details. The color story celebrates the duality of space; the bar is highlighted with mustard yellow and butternut details, juxtaposing a deep blue. The colors are illuminated by dark brass pendant lights in the evening and during the day, natural light floods the ten foot high windows for a lighter atmosphere.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left lasting effects on several industries and perhaps one of the hardest hit has been food and beverage. While many are using online ordering platforms for their next meal, others are still drawn to the experiences of their local dining establishments. Restaurants must always evolve to stand out from their competitors, and now, more than ever, owners and operators are looking for solutions and new concepts to keep their seats occupied and their staff lists full. Creating a thoughtful layout to enable third-party delivery services, embracing the communal table, and carefully layering attractive details throughout the design can be the elements that keep customers coming back to support their favorite restaurants.