Stephen Ayers

Restaurant and Bar design for today’s customers

In the not so distant past it was sufficient to provide your customers with a good meal to keep them coming back while holding on to a good reputation. That is no longer good in today’s market where the ‘new’ customers want and expect a whole lot more than just good or great food and drinks. By STEPHEN AYERS

A great reputation encompasses so much more, and is a lot harder to achieve within the very competitive market today. Let us take a look at what is necessary in the design area as a start to the long journey to profitability and success.

The main expectation for a good meal is that it is ‘entertainment’ and makes for an evening out. So design is so important in that it creates the ambience and backdrop for the experience that is an integral part of the meal. Many restaurants offer this ‘entertainment’ by featuring open kitchens that allow meal preparation to be seen.

Of course the smell of cooking food adds to the atmosphere. This is much like the advice of realtors who say that the smell of baking bread in a home adds to the desirability of a house when being shown for sale. Customers like to feel at home and comfortable in the establishment. They like to see and be seen but not overly so.

Since a good bar will bring you a real chunk of your profits, it is center stage in many designs, and sometimes long so that customers can come in and have a drink, or more importantly, start their meal off with a drink prior to arriving at their table. Some designs offer meals at the bar counter to add seats and of course revenue, especially when the room is full. Bartenders are real characters and offer up entertainment behind the bar of their own, and customers return to bars for that and chatting, which generates loyalty and return guests.

Depending on the space available, the bar can be larger or smaller, or even be in a dedicated room. The buzz of a busy bar does add to the atmosphere of people having a fun evening and sets the stage for a good meal expectation. However, a good bar and a nice restaurant design are not all that is needed. An integral and very important part of the design is the lighting which sets the mood at any given hour according to the wishes of the management. Add to this a high quality music system and you are well on the way to providing a good backdrop to the design features.

So now you have a great design, amazing lighting and good music, but is that enough to satisfy the customer along with good food, and will it satisfy the owners desire to make a profit. A great design must also take into account the flow both of customers and the service staff, along with the back of house delivery area and the cold and dry goods storage. Delivery of goods must be adjacent to the preparation and storage areas and easily accessible at all times. Access to the kitchen by service staff must be easy and clearly laid out, with the completed meal counter near the exit to the restaurant. There should be a clearly defined path to the dirty dishes area that does not cross the service path.

Of course, if the design includes an open kitchen then there should be a clear area defined for issue of completed meals, from starters and through to desserts. Regarding the flow of service staff, it must be remembered that the quicker meals are served, the quicker the customers will allow for the tables to be turned over, and the more the revenues will be. Not only is this of primary importance obviously, but it will also be less hard physically on the staff.

The kitchen design itself should allow for maximum flexibility in menu design and afford the chef freedom to create superb dishes and innovate regularly. Every day one hears of new food trends and the kitchen should allow for these creations to be offered too.

Another important aspect to remember is that the various elements that go into the design should be such that is as easy to clean and keep in good condition as possible. The same applies to the furnishings which must be of good quality to avoid accidents such as chairs falling apart, and be easily maintainable and cleanable. This is important on two fronts; maintenance and costs. As many energy saving and ‘green’ items and systems should be used both to save operational costs and to satisfy the Millennial customers who are looking for and expect environmental values to be followed.

I have of course greatly simplified the subject which is something that includes so many details which are not possible to include in a short article. However, the design of a restaurant will be the best possible start to the operation of a restaurant and allow for a great reputation if the operational elements are followed well, but that is a different subject.
A restaurant is primarily designed to make money for the operator, and this must always be kept in mind throughout the design and build process.

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