After COVID hitting the restaurant business so hard, it is great to see our favorite dining spots not only busy, but many with long wait times. As we have all been anxious to get back to life, what we did not see coming was the unexpected re-opening challenges that many restaurants have faced -staffing, supply chain issues, mask or no mask, and now the COVID Delta variant raising its ugly head. How does one future proof their restaurant in these unpredictable and changing times?
Here are my thoughts:
Environment Creates the Experience
- Finding and creating the needed space between tables for customers to not feel too close to their dining neighbor, while allowing you to still have your needed ROI in square footage is key, and here to stay.
- Proper distancing for both the seating area and the hostess area will relax your customers, allow them to linger (and order more), will keep them coming back, and bring your restaurant referrals.
- Adding plants and ambient lighting always enhances the environment and can be used to enhance various distancing needs.
- Mobile furniture allows you to accommodate changing space needs – whether it is because of a COVID variant or to host a custom party.
- Does your restaurant draw people in, and excite them to be there while making them comfortable at the same time? Have you considered the role of color, furniture, wall coverings and overall design in creating your environment and brand? It may be time to consult with a restaurant designer to see how they can guide you.
- Are there activities you can create to set your restaurant apart? Maybe it is not trivia night or axe throwing, but rather a wine tasting, cooking with the chef, a themed meal, a fundraiser night. The possibilities are endless. After a year of limited activity, we are yearning for interactive experiences. This will not go way.
Enhance your Secondary Markets with Site Improvements
- Pickup and Curbside is here to stay. Accommodate this market by providing designated parking spaces, directional signage for ease of pick-up, and 3rd party delivery for those wanting your food brought to them.
- Can you add a drive-thru? Or add an additional lane? Drive-thrus provide convenience (especially in bad weather!) and add efficiency to the order/pick-up process.
- Not everyone has space for a drive thru, but how about a designated pick-up window for walk-ups?
- Where do your supply deliveries arrive? Site deliveries are critical to maintaining inventory but be sure your deliveries are not disruptive to your environment you worked so hard to create, and to your operations.
Today’s Customer Thinks Sustainably
- Are you serving on 1 time use products? If so, how can you change this?
- Is your To-Go packaging environmentally friendly?
- Are you still using plastic straws?
- Where do you source your food? Is it local and sustainable?
- Have you looked at your kitchen design? Green kitchen design uses equipment and processes that will cut down on your energy use, helping your utility bills and the environment.
- And, have you looked at how you cook? Eliminating fryers and open flame cooking will reduce the risk of producing acrylamide, a toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemical created when food is cooked at high temperatures.
Now is the time to make needed changes to future proof your restaurant. Did you know JL Architects has been designing and working alongside restaurant owners for 30 years? Reach out to see how we can help.
-Nate Houser, JL’s Restaurant Guru