Since the Spring of 2020, the pandemic has affected businesses and many sectors of the economy in different ways, including hotels, bars and restaurants. These businesses stay closed or find ways to adapt to the new conditions.
For a year now, the experience of visiting a restaurant has changed. Even in times when it is allowed, it is now associated with a feeling of fear. The social nature of restaurants and the opportunity for big meetings and celebrations no longer exist. Interior designers have been working on finding solutions to transform the interior of restaurants so that it is safe for customers and staff, but at the same time keeps its comfortable and warm character.
Small "private" spaces
Interior designers Patricia Urquiola, Michael Hsu and W. Brian Smith were asked about their vision for the restaurants of the future. Patricia Urquiola hopes that the sense of community will continue to exist, despite social distancing.
"Private" spaces will be designed where small groups will be able to meet, eat and celebrate together, separately from the other guests of the restaurant. For the purposes of these "private" spaces, materials will be used that create the warm and welcoming atmosphere of a cocoon, such as fabrics, wallpapers and wood, while at the same time, the use of plants and lighting will help avoid the creation of a claustrophobic atmosphere.
Urquiola adds that she intends to use "theatrical" type curtains, ropes and wooden and fabric panels, which will absorb the sounds and enhance the feeling of the cocoon. Now a lot of attention is paid to sound. When there is a lot of noise in a place, people can associate this fact with the transmission of the virus. As when someone shouts it creates more aerosols, but at the same time the noise is a sign of the presence of a large crowd. That's why good soundproofing can help reassure the guests of a restaurant.
W. Brian Smith confirms the vision for these private spaces. Specifically, he states that it will be a good opportunity for interior designers to let their imagination run wild and create spaces full of magic and details, which will not only be spaces, but also experiences. This will be a reward for restaurant guests, who will now be much more selective about where they dine and think about the value of the experience they gain.
Many restaurants have turned to outdoor dining in order to continue operating in accordance with public health rules. Luke Ostrom states that the time has come for this "solution" to evolve and become a conscious choice. It will now be a privilege for the inhabitants of the big cities, to dine in a yard or in a greenhouse that will transport them to the countryside. The feeling of reward to the guests for their visit, continues to be an important characteristic.
According to Ostrom, the current situation gives restaurants the opportunity to use their yards and create experiences and additions such as places for picnics and games, outdoor music scenes and even rink skating. In order to change the image of outdoor dining from a last resort to a conscious choice, outdoor fireplaces, rugs and warm throws are added to the chairs. Jennifer Johanson, President and CEO of EDG Interior Architecture + Design emphasizes the importance of making the exterior as interesting as the interior.
Architect Michael Hsu predicts that many previously unused outdoor spaces will be converted into mini gardens and gazebos. The goal is to provide all the comforts of the interior to the outside environment, with the addition of comfortable seats, decorations and works of art, as well as to create outdoor spaces that meet the requirements to be used all year round, according to interior designer Adam D. Tihany.
No more conventional partitions
For interior designers, the replacement of unsightly plexiglass partitions, which were hastily added at the beginning of the pandemic, is a priority. These partitions remove any feeling of calmness and comfort from the restaurant experience and create stress and a "clinical" atmosphere. They will now be integrated in some way in the aesthetics and architecture of the space so that they no longer look like an afterthought.
As Hsu points out, the presence of partitions does not only serve public health regulations, but also the need of the guests to dine in a calm and hospitable environment, in which they feel safe.image credit
Low and warm lighting
In terms of lighting, according to Hsu, low and warm lighting is ideal, since it creates feelings of intimacy and comfort, especially as the spaces become more spacious and open. The perforated metal lamps will replace the classic chandeliers.
Urquiola emphasizes that it is extremely important for the restaurants of the future to rekindle the joy and pleasure they provided before the pandemic.
Safety and Security
In any case, the safety factor will remain in the minds of the designers. As HKS catering director Sergio Saenz puts it, "natural light, proper ventilation and human contact" will be their first thought. Saenz adds that the current situation has given restaurant professionals the opportunity to reach out to different industries, such as healthcare professionals, to find new solutions and safety applications.
Apart from good food and service, proper cleanliness has emerged as the most important criterion in the search for a restaurant. Customers choose restaurants that operate with complete transparency in terms of cleaning procedures, paying attention to things like, employees wearing masks, disposable menus and hand sanitizers. Restaurants need to make it clear that they are taking the necessary steps to create a sense of security for their guests.
According to Lauren Chipman, CEO of Chipman Design Architecture, antibacterial materials such as porcelain and copper, as well as fabrics that are easy to clean, will make their appearance. At the same time, he reports that new virus-resistant fabrics are being developed.
We are also expecting to see many new technological applications, such as electronic menus, voice activated and no touch mechanisms, QR codes, air purification systems etc.
The local community as a priority
Another interesting change mentioned by Saenz is that restaurants and hospitality related businesses now give higher priority to serving the needs of the local community, rather than tourists. This phenomenon can lead to the support of local small businesses, creators and artists.
When you have the opportunity to eat out again, do not forget to support the local restaurants and small family businesses. I also suggest that you be careful in your choices and prefer places that comply with public health protection measures.