"SOCIAL DISTANCING" DESIGN SOLUTIONS AND STRATEGIES
Nancy Thiel, Founding Principal
Thiel Architecture + Design
Post-coronavirus, the restaurant paradigm is in for a shift. Creative thinking with the help of architects and interior designers who understand hospitality design can help the foodservice industry re-invent their physical environments to accommodate the new reality.
Consumers have become more deliberate about their excursions out. That will remain so for some time BUT, and here’s the good news, we humans like to gather and we like to be entertained. Restaurants are where we do it best. Beautiful environments, delicious food, and good service all make for a great experience and a successful restaurant.
But, as we go forward, where is there room for growth as we start to reopen restaurants? More importantly, what will our customers want?
• They want to feel safe
• They want to return to the lively social scene they know and love
• They want to eat great meals, share a few drinks or a bottle of wine, and catch up with friends and family
While larger restaurants can adjust their seating arrangements to accommodate social distancing, the challenge to build revenue is real and is even more acute for smaller restaurants.
DESIGN SOLUTIONS AND STRATEGIES
An outdoor takeout food service counter is a way to get customers out of their cars and into a safe and more social environment. Your customers will appreciate the extra step you took to ensure their safety while at the same time giving them something to look forward to. Examples are everywhere.
As soon as restaurants are back in operation, you will want to be ready to go. There are a number of design strategies to consider:
• Add counter shields for social separation. Demonstrate your concern for everyone health and safety. Plenty of options are affordable and readily available. Look for something well designed.
• Create a service counter on the exterior of the building. In addition to curbside service, start counter service. This will start to bring people out of their cars.
• Add an awning or a decorative element to bring the character of the interior to the outside. The moment your customers arrive, you want the experience to feel special and welcoming. Entice them!
• In a more urban setting, work with your landlord to replace a panel of the storefront with a walk-up window insert. There are a number of affordable transaction windows available.
• Hack a winter vestibule to create a temporary takeout counter. This is a great solution if you don’t want to use valuable interior space.
• Set up a food cart outside your front door. Make it a feature. Use it for a daily special. The idea is to create excitement at the curb.
• Create an outdoor dining area with tables spaced for social distancing. Give your customers the option to stay and eat. Talk to your local zoning officials. Given that your local government will want your business to succeed, they may be more flexible.
• Elevate the experience on the patio to make it feel festive.
In order to serve liquor in an outdoor dining area, you will want to work with an expeditor to ensure all of your permits are filed properly. Jodie Ruddy from CT Liquor Consultants can help you through the process and suggests providing barriers around an outdoor dining area to control access. Her best advice? Check the local zoning codes first to understand setbacks. You will also want to check with your insurance broker.
A project we designed illustrates this approach. The Southwest Porch at Bryant Park was designed as a temporary lounge space in one of New York City’s most iconic parks. We designed a pergola around an existing kiosk, added a deck, seating, lighting, plantings, as well as a firepit. The project won a PR News Wow Award and a Silver Spark Design Award and has been around for over ten years.
The goal of all of these strategies is to create a cheerful, comfortable, and safe atmosphere for your customers to enjoy as they head out, slowly and cautiously. For assistance making small or big changes, let us know. Good design is simply creative problem-solving. We’re your neighbors and are ready to help.