Pandemic Design: Looking to the Future of Restaurant Design

Pandemic design - Exterior


The final post in our series of Pandemic design case studies, where we explore design concepts to meet the challenging business conditions posed by the pandemic. Our work was done in conjunction with NEWH – The Hospitality Industry Network — and published as part of their special issue magazine, “Beyond Covid-19”.

Imagine a not too far off future. Street-wear acts as a protective shield from any virus that threatens our society. Commonly worn face masks challenge social interaction, as they inhibit facial and nonverbal communication cues that are instinctual in the human race. ILLUME explores how a restaurant can provide a safe and healthy environment that allows unmasked social gatherings, while minimizing potential exposure to infection by increasing autonomy.

Through the use of strategic lighting and vegetation, the interior climate is purified while providing produce for the restaurant.  During the day, available sunlight feeds the rooftop farm and streams through the transparent façade to nourish the vertical gardens, and play with layers of light and shadow.  At night, artificial lighting throughout the space provides multiple functions. UV lighting cleans the air and surfaces and LED lighting sustains the indoor plants that will be harvested for food.  The transparent façade allows the light to shine out as a beacon to the neighborhood – highlighting the revitalizing action within.


Entry & Street-wear sketches

Entry sequence

When entering the restaurant, guests pass through a series of chambers designed to check temperature, sanitize, and store protective outerwear.  A seating chart guides guests to their table along a one-way path. With each step in the entry chambers, guests feel an increased sense of relief and comfort.


Pandemic design - DiningDining enclosure

Every table has an operable enclosure to allow for open seating when appropriate – and each space can easily transform to partitioned seating when separation is needed. There is a dedicated floor vent supplying clean air and a dedicated exhaust above so that no air is recirculated.


Pandemic design - Dining EnclosureDining Enclosure & Transparent catwalk

Transparent catwalks enable views to the restaurant staff harvesting food from the vertical gardens and rooftop farms. By growing food on site, the restaurant makes a step towards being self-sufficient.  Deliveries and outside exposure is minimized, while also reducing the restaurant’s carbon footprint.


Rover delivery and chefs tableChef’s Table + Robotic table service

Orders are placed and the bill is paid from personal devices.  A robotic and automated rover provides table service, to avoid contact between customers and staff.  Located at the center of the dining room, a chef’s table enables diners to get up close to the meal preparation.  The open kitchen and rover delivery service are both visible through a protective glass barrier.

After the meal is complete, guests continue on the one-way path and have the option to pick-up their leftovers from a secure food-locker on the way out. The exit process acts in reverse, with hand-washing and changing into protective outerwear, which has been sanitized and stored during the meal.  Guests depart feeling restored.

In a future time of social distancing and rigorous safety protocols, Illume enables small groups to have a dining-out experience. The various automated systems all come together to establish a secure indoor environment.  With the integration of on-site farming, the restaurant not only provides for itself, it also adds to softening the interior aesthetic through the use of organic elements. The glowing exterior of Illume is a beacon to the neighborhood and constant reminder that we can come together safely by utilizing technology and design.  Our Pandemic design case studies have enabled us to creatively think about the future, while also studying ways the pandemic will influence our current designs.