Reconsidering Restaurants

Reconsidering Restaurants

Reconsidering Restaurants

Over the past months, I’ve attended a wealth of webinars and listened to leaders in our client industries share the challenges they face from the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps more than any other industry, restaurants are having to rethink the fundamental tenets of their business—innovating the way they provide and deliver food, recreating their menus to travel or be cooked at home, and, now, facing reopening without the ability to provide their usual hospitality nor communal experience.

“The Future of On-Premise Dining” from rd+d magazine was particularly thought-provoking as Holst explores how we can support our hospitality and restaurant clients as they reinvent their businesses. Here are four design and operational considerations restaurant owners and developers face as they determine if, when, and how to reopen:

Some restaurants have newfound success through delivery and are rethinking the division of space. The continuance of delivery along with the re-opening of in-person dining has some restaurants considering separate access for both delivery drivers and customer pick-up. In addition to creating ambience for customer dining in, they are exploring ways to provide an experience for those picking up. In continuing to provide delivery, some restaurants are resizing their kitchens to establish separate service lines for in-house and delivery, resulting in larger back-of-house space and smaller dining rooms.

Dining rooms are changing. An increased emphasis on visible cleanliness and sanitization translates to higher light levels, more al fresco dining, and brighter dining spaces. Customers have always been part of the ambiance, providing noise, activity, and conversation. With half occupancy or less, how do we fill that experience gap?

More spacing between tables to provide physical distance also results in more open areas that need visual interest without clutter. Fewer customers in the restaurant also puts the pressure on to increase per diner cost to maintain revenue. It also has resulted in fewer front of house staff. Rather than trying to upsell food, many restaurants are continuing or starting to sell food products or merchandise, either on- or off-site, to find additional revenue. And with so many restaurants currently relying on outdoor dining, how will we continue to provide comfortable outdoor dining as winter approaches?

New food service models are emerging and evolving. Many large food halls—a recent trend in development prior to the pandemic—have transitioned to delivery only, functioning more like ghost kitchens. As restaurants begin to welcome customers again, the industry is also seeing new hybrids of in-person dining establishments retaining their walk-up windows. Ghost kitchens have also integrated in-person walk-up windows.

Traditional fine dining conventions are going away. Many of the signals of fine dining, like wait staff pulling out chairs, presenting menus, refolding napkins, and replacing silverware per course have gone away. Touchless menus and payment are emerging across the range of full-service restaurants. Whether the traditions of fine dining have eroded due to changing cultural norms, like here in Portland, or ground to a halt with COVID-19, they will likely not return. What will be the new conventions of elegant hospitality that will replace those traditions?

As all of us grapple with major change across nearly every industry, Holst is here to support our past, current, and future hospitality clients as they continue to adapt.

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