They say that necessity is the mother of invention and there is no doubt that restaurants have faced an unprecedented year of innovation. The new paradigms created in response to the pandemic have given our industry an opportunity to rethink restaurant design and reinvent the next generation of in-dining experiences.
At Harrison, we are fortunate enough to work with concepts that are taking this leap in to the future and creating engaging experiences through their restaurant designs. Many have used this time to redefine their brand stories and maximize areas of opportunity. These shifts are revolutionizing the industry and defining the restaurant of the future.
We should focus in on responding to the need states of the guest through increased flexibility, experience, customization, personalization, convenience and safety measures.
As we move into this new phase, there are three areas of focus for next-level design:
Fully Customizable Spaces
During the height of the pandemic, restaurants realized that versatile design played an integral role in profitability and this lesson will become part of the new landscape. We predict a shift towards adaptable designs that offer the flexibility to create multiple lay-out options that can flex to heightened restrictions but without creating cavernous space. New prototypes will be designed for multi-functionality with screens to divide high-traffic areas, moveable tables and chairs instead of fixed booths, and flexibility to create socially distanced layouts. Creating personalized and multi-purpose design is no longer an option, it has become an essential part of all future design.
Hygiene and Sanitation Built-in to the Design
The big winner of the last year is hygiene. We will never again take our health and safety for granted, even at our favorite restaurants. This new must-have design element will be reflected in future restaurant prototypes and will include more than just hand washing stations. Anti-microbial finishes should be considered for guest touch points. All handles and high-touch surfaces will be made with self-cleaning materials which can prevent the spread of germs and seating will convert from fabric to hard surfaces for ease of sanitation. Brands must continue embrace technology that enables convenience, enhances safety by allowing contactless ordering and transactions.
Maximizing Opportunities for Off-Premises Dining
During days of lock-down when many of us were missing our favorite restaurants, it was a treat to have the option to grab carry-out from our favorite spots. We learned, although eating our favorite menu items at home is a different experience, it’s not all bad and we might want to keep doing it when all restrictions are lifted. In addition, many restaurants realized they had been leaving money on the table by not offering this option and are ready to make off-premise options a permanent part of the equation. According to data, 66 percent of consumers anticipate continuing to use curbside pickup after dine-in services resume. We must continue to innovate and look for ways to enhance the off-premise brand experience through digital, technology and packaging.
Off-premises dining is here to stay and restaurants are building it in to their model moving forward. They are adding grab and go areas to maximize take-out and dedicated access for third party delivery drivers. Additional options include dedicated space for take-out orders with items stored in lit or temperature-controlled locker-like boxes with designated numbers to ensure that orders are secure and only picked up by the correct customer.
We must continue to think outside the box and return our focus to the need states of the guest. True innovation in drive-through should be explored by focusing in on personalizing the customer experience through data and understanding. Technology such as number plate recognition can help brands recognize returning guests so they can personalize communication, gifting and experiences. Imagine the possibilities of a drive through experience that triggers a music playlist, plays a favorite Netflix movie or provides a special birthday greeting. If it sounds futuristic, it is. But, the future is now.
Things are always changing and that’s not always a bad thing. In these extraordinary times, brands can reimagine their stories and ways to connect with their guest. The “new normal” that everyone is talking about is actually an exciting evolution for an industry ready to come back better than ever.
Keith Anderson is the Chief Operating Officer at Harrison Architecture and Design. As a passionate leader with over two decades of experience in design for restaurants, leisure, entertainment and hotel brands worldwide, Anderson is an expert at blending the creative process with the client’s strategic goals. Harrison has worked with brands from large international chains to emerging concepts.