Masks On Doors Open: Creative Change

Covid-19 is redefining ‘creativity’ as we strategize to meet standards of the new normal. As restaurants begin to come out of the downturn, not only will they need to reduce patron capacity, but most likely will be on a limited budget. Efficiency in operational costs will be at the forefront in the short term, while still providing quality service.  In future projects, efficiency in construction cost while keeping the brand intact will be key.  Here are ideas on what we as a team can do to help restaurants open smart while staying safe.

Courtesy of True Food Kitchen

Communication is key

Clearly post any adjustments to hours of operation at the restaurant and on the website. Increase your ability to message and connect with guests, by creating or updating the restaurant’s mobile app.  If changes to operations require separate entry for customer or 3rd party pick up services, use signage to direct them prior to entering the restaurant. If there is dedicated parking for curbside or 3rd party pick-up, put the phone number on the signage customers need to call to make the process easier and quicker.  While inside the restaurant, use signage to show separation requirements throughout, even in the restrooms. Utilize separate doors for entry and exit. Make customers aware of your cleaning process for both kitchen and public areas, especially in high touch areas. What you clean and how often you clean are questions in the forefront of customer’s minds.

Streamline the Menu

Most restaurants are offering a scaled-down menu for take-out. When restaurants are allowed to reopen at limited capacity or even full capacity down the road, they may want to keep a limited menu. Restaurants can analyze previous sales to determine customer favorites and add-in menu items that are easily made with ingredients that are readily available to maximize profitability.  Consider limiting the drink menu similar to the dining menu, by offering popular and easily made cocktails.

Reserve a Seat

A balance between maximizing the seating layout while staying within the social distancing requirements needs to be met for customer safety and comfort. Reservation times will need to be adjusted to account for limited capacity and waiting space. With social distancing requirements in place, the usual approach of ‘I’ll wait in the bar’ will not be an option for some time.

One solution might be to set fixed dining room seating times with a designated start time and end time, along with time to allow for the tables, chairs, etc. to be sanitized prior to the next reservation time slot. Consider offering online ordering of meals prior to the reservation or, as mentioned previously, make the limited menu simple enough for meals to be made in a timely manner.  Have customers text the restaurant to ‘check-in’ when they arrive to limit interaction with the host and a text reply back to the customer can direct them to their table number when ready.

Cooper’s Hawk Esquire – Chicago, IL

Evaluate Construction Cost & Schedules

Collaboration with the entire team from the beginning of the project leads to successful results. While working on the Cooper’s Hawk Esquire Chicago location, we met with Cooper’s Hawk, BTR Engineering, and ICI Construction on-site before any floor plans were finalized and were able to coordinate the tasting bar location to avoid conflicts with existing conditions. This saved design time, permitting time, and construction time and led to a beautiful 2 story tasting room.

This same collaboration can help restaurants as they move forward. During initial landlord negotiation, have the design team review the work letter agreement to confirm utility capacities and other standard items. Review finishes and consider items that are easily cleanable and durable may be a better investment than something that looks nice but is difficult to clean.  Review specific project components with the general contractor and their construction methods. With social distancing requirements on job sites, the contractor will need to adjust their standard methods and schedules to allow for the trades to work safely. By making some simple adjustments to the drawings, architects can help the contractor to coordinate timing, allowing them some scheduling flexibility later in the project without altering the design intent of the space.