The Post COVID-19 Restaurant

3 Premises & 10 Design Recommendations for the "New" Gastronomic Experience.

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The date is approaching when some countries will decide to lift the quarantine restrictions and are gradually allowing people to go back to the streets and return to their social habits. However, and although the situation may vary from country to country or even from city to city, we cannot leave behind the approach of social experience and the “new normal”, particularly in bars and restaurants. For many cities it will mean a gradual return and the activities will happen in a controlled way. We can see that in most developed countries it has been requested to reduce the capacity of people in restaurants and bars, so designers and architects must propose immediate solutions to the problem and support the gastronomic industry while the infection curves of the pandemic flattens out.


According to the latest edition of US PYMNTS on COVID-19, the proportion of consumers dining in restaurants has decreased 85.2% since the pandemic began, falling 52.3% in 11 days. So far, that marks the largest change in behavior observed in eating habits in restaurants. These data indicate that traffic is not limited to shifting to takeaways, as only 16% reported that they were ordering more to replace restaurant attendance.

It is for this reason that in Design, Belly & Brain (www.designbellyandbrain), our laboratory of ideas and research on sensory experiences through design, we decided to address in general terms the strategies that will allow us to develop the gastronomic experience in the design of Post-COVID-19 restaurants. Through this article we create a list of objective strategies and through three premises on the common operation of the restaurant: food, business and social coexistence, with each one we make a review of concepts and factors that will influence changes and solutions to design ; and with the aim of promoting the industry as a business and profitability model, the value generated by social coexistence and, of course, for the pleasure of the culinary experience.


FOOD

The most relevant factor in the gastronomic industry is the preparation of food and, of course, the security of offering a quality product that generates loyalty to diners, but also stimulates the consumption of a unique and especially sensorial culinary experience. Listed below are a number of recommendations for restaurant and bar designs regarding food.


1. Visibility of food preparation spaces.

The visualization of food preparation will be a predominant concept in restaurant designs, in addition to the request of health institutions that will ask to reinforce hygiene mechanisms and the use of food grade materials on the surfaces for preparing food. In other words, this function will be subject to being viewed immediately by diners, so that they feel confident when consuming their food.


2. Personnel hygiene.

Although it is an important international standard, all kitchens must have a cleaning space for their staff independently of the workspace or other diners. That is, in the kitchen design, a hand basin or sink for the staff should be considered, placing it at the entrance of the food preparation spaces.


3. Cleaning products a priori at the entrance of the kitchen.

An existing international standard, but which must be monitored and complied within restaurants, all food or product that arrives at a restaurant must be washed and disinfected before entering the kitchen or coming into contact with any preparation surface. It should be located close to the kitchen entrance and waste area.

4. Buffet bars and showcases.

It is not yet known exactly how many changes will change the industry and its functions in the long term, but we know that some buffet bars disappear temporarily, and if they return, they will be operated by restaurant staff to prevent diners from indirectly contaminating food. The use of showcases and food protection glasses, although previously used by many restaurants and street vendors, will now be the new normal and mandatory one, and the type of food grade materials recommended for these functions should be reconsidered.


5. Supply chain visibility.

An important point that experts recommend is the importance of giving visibility to the supply of products consumed by a restaurant, that is, giving value to the chain of suppliers, visualizing where a product comes from and how it is obtained in the market. This generates value and confidence in the consumers of the industry, verifying the supply chain is a source of information that will give points to the loyalty of the diner.



COST EFFECTIVENESS

We recognize that regular restaurants will undergo drastic changes and in the worst case will be broken or closed. The recovery of COVID-19 will not be easy and a majority of restaurateurs are already negotiating rents but also canceling contracts. Take into account that even before the pandemic 60% of restaurants fail in their first year and almost 80% close in the first five. With these data, the profitability of a restaurant must be evaluated since most appear due to trends or fads in the industry; however, after this pandemic, we have to analyze whether this business model should persist or disappear. The business perspective must point towards clear profitability objectives and towards a loyalty and quality system for the food industry. Customers will now be more cautious and demanding, and perhaps not so much in relation to location and price, but in terms of their perception of safety, cleanliness and overall quality. This pandemic has set off alarms not only within the scope of our standards of personal hygiene and cleanliness, but also of the food we consume, where we consume it and where it comes from.


6. Sensory unboxing

For many restaurants, the on-site service is the most relevant, its facilities not only offer food service but a whole gastronomic experience, coupled with a specialized service that can only be appreciated being on-site and under the design conditions of the premises. This type of business ensures with the on-site experience a long and pleasant stay for diners. However, these businesses could be mostly hit by this quarantine situation. In this case, the business strategy must be reconsidered and search for future paths that allow it to be innovative and offer the culinary experience outside its facilities. The suggestion is to propose changes in the menu and allow the food to be an “unboxing” experience with strategies for opening packages and for the sensory experience to happen at home when receiving and unpacking the food.

7. To go 

The demand for take-out food increased, and although it seems that the only beneficiaries are food apps, we cannot leave behind the option of direct delivery by restaurants. This can mean savings of up to 25% of the commissions charged by food apps. Some restaurants are already collaborating with each other and creating neighborhood delivery service communities, with groups of bicycle messengers and WhatsApp on their cell phones. These community messaging services can change the way business is done in a low-profile market and local restaurants, without neglecting applications for longer distance deliveries.



8. Appropriation of public space

One of the factors that will affect in a relevant way is the capacity of people in restaurants and bars, the separation of tables is compromised at the established social distance to avoid infections. However, and although it could be temporary, the situation to date points to a stricter observation by the health authorities. Architect David Rockwell together with Melba Wilson have developed a study of space functionality and street appropriation, which can make feasible and profitable for small restaurants in New York, since it proposes to use the street parking lane in front of the facade of each restaurant as a function space for table setting. Although New York regulations may allow this adaptation, it may not be possible in other cities. However, we should not rule out the possibility of appropriation of public and urban space as an option for the economic reactivation of cities. (Posted in: Bloomberg News) See photo.


SOCIAL COEXISTENCE

Social coexistence is the factor that was most affected and compromised in the quarantine, since people attend a restaurant to see and be seen. Human interaction is important and our relationship with people is extremely affected by the lack of physical contact. This pandemic reveals the fragility of coexistence between people, since on the one hand we want to be with them, but on the other we are afraid of contagion. However, and although we know that the situation will improve little by little and over time, we cannot ignore the fervent need to feel safe in any space. That is why, in addition to the recommendations made by health institutions, we propose a list of design strategies to review when rethinking the functions of the post-COVID-19 restaurant.


9. Efficiency

Time efficiency of food preparation is a key factor in a restaurant's reputation, but it is also key with waiter service and billing. The diner's experience can be affected by the slow delivery of not only the food but also the check. Low evaluations of restaurants have been observed on the Internet due to the slow delivery of the bill and even when the evaluation of the food is good. The post-pandemic recommendation in this regard will be:

  • Design areas where collection terminals, points of sale and trays for the management of money in sight of diners are sanitized. Also avoid paper receipts and send by email

  • It is suggested to define and design specific furniture for the use of napkins, condiments, and any utensil to be used exclusively by waiters or restaurant staff and out of the reach of diners in order to control and avoid contamination.

  • Increase the space between the tables. We suggest zoning areas and separating them with screens that allow divisions to be generated without compromising views between diners. Use open spaces such as terrace areas or gardens. And of course, and as mentioned above, only if the city authorities allow it, temporarily appropriate the vehicular parking lane in front of the facade and exclusively where the safety of users is not compromised, nor the accessibility of pedestrians.

  • Give greater visibility to hygiene products such as sanitizers, cleaning towels, washing areas, etc. In this sense, the recommendation is made to create spaces for sinks outside the bathroom and in plain sight of diners.

  • Generate direct accessibility to the bathrooms with doors opening through sensors, foot levers or 180º hinges where contact with the handles is minimal and preferably null.

  • In some restaurants, furniture is being implemented where utensils are sanitized in front of diners.

  • Allow digital menus, blackboards or digital screens, and avoid the use of plastic or paper menus.

10. Design of experiences

The post-COVID-19 restaurant must also re-evaluate design strategies for culinary enjoyment while promoting social coexistence and reviving the economy. In this sense, we propose to design mechanisms to stimulate the gastronomic experience through:

  • The sensory experience and perception of the restaurant space. The space and the environment must generate confidence and security, in addition to a gastronomic and design proposal committed to the diner and based on a well-planned business model, but above all that promotes value for the community, the visibility of the chain of supplies and of course the promotion of a healthy diet for people.

  • The psycho-social experience. New ways of socializing should be evaluated and designed, and different parameters of social coexistence should be experimented with. Where the relationship between diners is not compromised by a pandemic. We must design and work taking into account also socio-psychological factors, such as belonging, updating, community, etc., and what it means for our users, their neighborhood, their city, their country or their social circle.

  • The functional experience and changes due to distancing. Let us recognize and apply the social distancing recommended by the health authorities, and perhaps little by little we will return to previous models of closeness when the situation has improved. Make a particular review on the cleaning and hygiene of the toy libraries and children's areas, as well as the bathrooms and sanitation areas prior to entering the dining room of a restaurant. Review the functions and size of premises of new restaurant designs, analyze their spatial profitability and number of diners, as well as special furniture, percentages of kitchens and support services. And evaluate food grade materials that ensure the elimination of pathogens when preparing food. And allow the view of kitchen areas, cleaning of utensils and of course the preparation of food.

  • Technological experience and trust. The use of digital technology plays an increasingly important role in the connection between people. We note that the relationship between business and customer service is a relevant part of the consumer experience. The post-COVID-19 restaurant changes go hand-in-hand with the live Instagram story about food preparation and showcasing processes and passing recipes to customers. We are reinventing culinary experiences through digital technology, virtual reality, and communication between diners and restaurant staff.


Restaurants do not disappear with a pandemic, social coexistence could be fractured for a moment, but human beings are social by nature. It is important to make an evaluation of the places we attend to eat, and look for those spaces that offer us safety and hygiene in the preparation of what we consume. The space atmosphere, the food and the personal treatment are important factors in a restaurant. The post-COVID-19 restaurant is an opportunity to innovate with spaces, constructive and food-grade materials, and digital technology, but above all to transform the profitability models that the industry needs; and of course to design without limits the sensory experience of gastronomy and for the pleasure of eating delicious food.


Do you have a restaurant and don't know how to approach the new post-COVID-19 strategies? Are you an architect or designer and need advice? Email us and schedule a free initial consultation session where we can review the objective of your restaurant or design, and find the appropriate strategies for your project. Through our services we offer you a renewed approach to tackle the challenges of your project from a perspective based on neuroscience strategies, human behavior and design methodologies. Email: hello@designbellyandbrain.com

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