Masks On Doors Open: Strategizing for the New Normal

Pono Ono Poke – Evanston, IL  photography Emilia Czader

Over our 30+ years in business, Aria Group has seen dining trends come and go, but we have never seen changes brought about so quickly as with the Covid-19 pandemic. It has got us thinking about how we, as designers, can help lead the charge to re-open safely, while still maintaining the same levels of warmth and hospitality your guests have come to expect. As we move forward, business conditions will be challenging and we will all need to adapt to new rules and regulations. Over the coming weeks, we will be posting design ideas to help with your reopening, as well as facility and operational changes you can make to help make your guests feel safe and welcome.

In the near-term, restaurants will need to operate at a reduced occupant load when we are able to reopen. This has been seen in guidelines recently issued by Georgia and Texas. We have always thought that a successful restaurant starts with the seating layout, and the balance required between making people feel part of something exciting, while also providing a level of comfort. Over the years, we have developed standards for seating that when combined with the right levels of lighting, acoustics, décor create that balance. Requiring six-foot separation between tables is inevitably going to hurt that balance, but we will give you design ideas to mitigate these challenges.

Adjusting human interaction is going to be an important part of slowing transmission when we can open again. How can you adjust your space to make sure that patrons and staff maintain adequate distancing? How can your staff maintain a welcome atmosphere while they are masked? What facility changes will your customers expect to feel safe while dining going forward?

Take-out and delivery have been an important lifeline for many during closing. What strategies can you implement to maximize safety and efficiency for robust off-premise dining? What changes can you implement in your front and back of house to keep this going in the future?

Finally, what changes to your operation can you make to run more efficiently? What strategies and technologies are available to help ensure that you can churn fewer overall tables?

We believe that, eventually, restaurant dining will return to being as integral a part of our lives as it was before the shutdown. Until then, we are here to help you adjust to the new normal. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you and your business.