Masks On Doors Open: How Does It Look?

Dirty Root, Chicago, IL

As you have seen in our past blog entries we have discussed what options are out there for restaurants as they look toward the “new normal”.  As the hospitality world grapples with the changes necessary to reopen in a post-epidemic environment, how can restaurant design create spaces that feel more inviting, exciting, and hygienic?  In this post, we will explore some ideas we can see happening in the future.

Pick-up, Walk-Up, Drive-Through/Contactless Dining

Over the past few months, the convenience of getting food to go in a variety of platforms has helped restaurants stay in business and helped patrons feel a small sense of “normalcy.”  Many have been relying on 3rd party vendors to assist in the pickup and delivery of their meals.  Many restaurateurs are now looking to have designated 3rd party pickup areas within their restaurants. Perhaps marking a few designated parking spots, special to-go cubbies/lockers or even a designated door or window to help 3rd party vendor efficiencies while making in-store diners feel safe.  These changes would also enhance the takeaway experience for patrons.  Technology and operations play an important role by using rewards programs along with GPS which will alert the restaurant when you are near, or low tech alternatives like drive-thru runners for peak times, to allow better sequencing for the fulfillment of orders.

Dining In/Micro-social Dining

We must remember that people are coming to restaurants to enjoy an experience, eat a delicious meal and socialize. In our post-pandemic world people will come, but being healthy and safe will lead in importance.  As the Centers for Disease Control and state governments come out with guidelines, some standards we are seeing are 6 feet table spacing, occupancy reductions, and safe separation markers and boundaries within dining rooms and patios. As restaurants move to reopen, Illinois in particular is looking to open up alfresco dining first.  Some reopening guidelines allow for full capacity of outdoor seating, including indoor areas within 8’ of an open overhead-style door or foldable storefront.  Without a doubt, future restaurant design will hold more opportunities for the integration of a stylish and healthful interior with exciting and verdant outdoor rooms.

Regardless of how each state is opening, there are some low-cost solutions that help meet the restrictions without compromising ambiance.  One such solution is utilizing planters or artwork to fill the voids caused by separating tables. Plants allow for a more comfortable atmosphere – lush plantings and a variety of seating types will bring the memory back of why people love dining out. Another would be designing movable partitions that can be used on tabletops or between patrons in a banquette.  Both solutions are low cost and can be easily adjusted as restrictions ease further.

Curated Fun

We’ve seen some great ideas for carry-out that bring the atmosphere of the restaurant home as well.  Curated kits have been making their way to people’s homes showcasing alcohol pairings, games, music playlists, and other marketable “fun” activities that bring a piece of the restaurant home with them.

A few other ways restaurants have been bringing their brand home is by hosting virtual tasting sessions, DJ live streams, chef-led group cooking sections, virtual happy hours, and other dedicated virtual events.  Some restaurants have been utilizing the food distribution system and selling groceries or DIY kits to help patrons make the restaurant’s famous dishes at home.  If you are going to barbecue why not have your favorite steak restaurant provide all the fixings you need to get as close to the real thing as possible or make you miss your favorite dish even more if it doesn’t turn out.

Lastly, why not bring some amusement back into the restaurant as you begin opening up with restrictions.  Cardboard cutouts or mannequins to fill the socially distant tables, graphics/menu verbiage, or other creative ways that bring about a whimsical experience during this serious time.

Aria Group is here and able to help you meet your growing needs as together we look to what the future holds.  Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments!  We would love to hear from you.