20 Restaurant Design Tips You Need To Remember Aaron Allen

May 18, 2018 4:30 am by admin
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20 Restaurant Design Tips You Need To Remember Aaron Allen

Do you plan on receiving lots of small deliveries during the week or will you buy in bulk for savings?  Will your distributor let you buy in bulk and store in his warehouse without an additional fee?  Do you have high-value inventory that needs special security measures? (After all, you don’t store Remy Martin Louis VIII the same as you store bar napkins). Storage is an example of operational and functional design considerations typically not considered with an interior design curriculum. Where design meets function is often a gap for restaurant designers without deep restaurant industry experience.

The steps in the restaurant design process can be expanded or collapsed to suit your tastes for level of detail.  There are hundreds of inter-dependent decisions and steps.  Generally, the timing of these projects can range from several very intense weeks to potentially a year or more for large-scale development projects moving at a steady pace.  As restaurant design consultants, our complete process is proprietary.  We’ll be augmenting this article with a follow-up piece on a summary of the process we undertake, but one thing that cannot be over-emphasized is the importance of starting with a very solid restaurant brand constitution/platform.  It’s better to spend more time in planning and soft costs of development with an experienced pro than to rush into the design and then try to undo mistakes later.  It’s much easier to make a change on a digital file than it is to change a major mistake on a completed building.

Restaurants that leave their lights out, neglect landscaping or allow their entrance to be cluttered send the wrong message. One of the worst mistakes restaurateurs can make is accidentally creating the appearance that their restaurant is closed, either permanently or for a short period of time, when it is not. Restaurants should be convenient, welcoming and easy to access to attract as many guests as possible. Landscaping that looks like no one has ever tended to it burnt out lights are universal signs that an establishment is either closed for repairs or has been shut down.

For a brand to have integrity, one must establish a distinct set of promises that differentiate that brand and define it.  When the promises are met with integrity, a strong brand is the result. Chipotle, and it’s promise to deliver humanely-raised food sources, is a good example.

While insufficient parking and packed lots is its own issue, having an empty parking lot can be just as much of a curse. People view empty parking spaces as a sign of an unpopular or bad restaurant and tend to stay away. Seeing cars in front of a restaurant is similar to reading good reviews online: people assume that busier establishments are better ones. One strategy that worked well for my father was having the staff park in front of the restaurant early in the day (when there were fewer customers), then move their cars further away into the back lot when business picked up. This way, there were always cars in the lot.

We would all like to think we have integrity—saying what you’re going to do and then doing it when you say you will.

There’s nothing worse than smelling dirty mop water in the lobby or an unpleasant bathroom odor. A restaurant should emit an aroma that’s appealing.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  Without proper consideration, you may fill your restaurant with wafts of smoke or other stink.  You can also have aroma pollution, where there are too many scents floating about.  One restaurant we worked with introduced aromatherapy in a way that stimulated the senses and appetite before customers were even in the dining room.  Without smell, we would not have taste so clearly. Don’t leave this to chance.

*[NOTE:  Aaron Allen does not represent himself as a licensed interior designer or licensed architectural firm.  We are restaurant design “consultants” specializing in overall restaurant design strategy, branding, concept development and comprehensive integration of projects as Restaurant Consultant.]

Many regions around the world are outlawing smoking in public places. I’m still amazed by how many places don’t.  I’m not a smoker, but I would imagine not even smokers want to walk out of a restaurant smelling like an ashtray.  Ventilation is about more than the smells we don’t want to smell (more later on “aroma design”).  For instance, imagine a restaurant conceived in Florida but built in Massachusetts; you have to take an entirely different approach to seasonal temperature fluctuations.  Large cavernous spaces can be drafty. Ventilation is an important consideration in restaurant design and just another example as to why design is about so much more than just good aesthetics.

Think of flickering florescent lights over a grid of office cubicles—it’s not a place you want to be.  We may watch in amazement as bugs continuously fly toward a bug lamp even though it consistently delivers a fatal electric shock, but we’re attracted to light in much the same way. For reasons not easily explained, lighting captivates moods and wallets.  Candles are romantic.  Red lights make us stop (and our stomachs growl, incidentally).  Low lighting can make us relaxed.  Staff need task lighting.  Lighting is a highly specialized area of design.  A restaurant without a thoughtfully conceived lighting plan is like Disney without fireworks or salt without pepper.

Inefficient floor plans, wait stations, bar setups and table configurations impede servers and customers. Consulting with an architect who has restaurant experience prior to building out the space is ideal. Even the perfect space for a restaurant can fall short if layout of tables and chairs is wrong. The most common problem: many configurations simply don’t provide enough seating capacity. Other arrangements place certain tables in areas where high amounts of traffic naturally converge. Both situations should be avoided. To ensure that each table is well-situated, managers should sit at each during service to observe which have too much noise, traffic or fall short in other ways. If the configuration is not optimized, guests and servers alike will suffer from the inefficiency.

There are dozens of specialized disciplines that must come together to complete a successful new restaurant prototype. So, who is the quarterback?  Yes, the owner of the team is still the owner of the team, but that’s not the person running every call of the game.  We believe the entire team should report to the most senior marketing strategist, who in turn reports to the executive team.  The decisions for your project should be viewed through the lens of the brand, which is the domain of your most senior marketing advisor.  I am not a licensed designer or architect; yet I have successfully lead restaurant design projects on six continents representing dozens of new prototypes.  It’s been a very successful approach, and one we pioneered.

Restaurants, like people, have a “brand personality” and, when properly executed, a restaurant can extend a celebrity’s empire with a walk-in advertisement. Celebrities such as Magic Johnson, Eva Longoria, Justin Timberlake, Gloria Estefan and others have not only made successful businesses with their restaurants, they have extended their brand into new arenas.  Restaurateurs and celebrities could learn from each other. A brand should be fluid enough to travel and transcend.

Each country, state, county has dramatically different codes and laws governing design and architecture.  As a result, the permitting process for a new project can take from a few weeks to several years. Navigating through this minefield of bureaucracy can be challenging.  Ultimately, all restaurant design plans must be submitted to these boards via a licensed architect.  They must be “signed and sealed,” meaning a senior licensed architect has reviewed the design, the architecture and the mechanical, electrical and plumbing plans (often referred to as the MEP*).

Starbucks has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to perfect what we see today in its latest restaurant prototype.  It’s wishful thinking to think it could be duplicated for the cost of what you could build a single unit today. But many companies think this way. To be successful, you must consider the “soft” costs of development. Mega chains, like Darden, can afford seven-figure salaried executive vice presidents and teams of hundreds working on a new concept.  It’s believed well over $10m (“soft” costs) was spent developing just the prototype plans for its heralded Season’s 52 concept.  Darden is the world’s most successful casual dining restaurant chain, so it’s fair to think they weren’t just burning money with their investment.

Restaurant Design: 18 Considerations to Remember RESTAURANT 18 CONSIDERATIONS TO REMEMBER © 2014, Aaron Allen   RESTAURANT DESIGN   RESTAURANT DESIGN In the United States alone, there are nearly 1 million restaurants, each trying hard to differentiate itself from the next.

  Not an easy task. In fact, there are so many considerations when it comes to launching a new concept—from branding (your biggest concern) right on down to the silverware. And believe it or not, there are million-dollar corporations just winging it, wanting to build first and ask questions later.

Bad idea. Here, a few proven restaurant design methodologies relevant both for the mom-and-pop start-up as well as the multi-national mega chain pursuing renovations and growth. RESTAURANT DESIGN   CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT The overall process of restaurant design, remodeling, planning, etc.

is often referred to as the discipline of “Restaurant Concept Development.” If you’re creating a new prototype, think of it as creating a new concept – concept development.  Restaurant concept development involves restaurant design, but also includes market and competitive research, emerging and fading trends, financial modeling and what-if scenarios, branding and brand evolution, supply chain issues, and potentially even brand portfolio management (for hospitality enterprises with multiple brands in a family that must articulate).

 Simply put, it involves a variety of people, not just interior designers and architects. © 2014, Aaron Allen   RESTAURANT DESIGN   RESTAURANT DESIGN BUDGETS Starbucks has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to perfect what we see today in its latest restaurant prototype.

  It’s wishful thinking to think it could be duplicated for the cost of what you could build a single unit today. But many companies think this way. To be successful, you must consider the “soft” costs of development.

Mega chains, like Darden, can afford sevenfigure salaried executive vice presidents and teams of hundreds working on a new concept.  It’s believed well over $10m (“soft” costs) was spent developing just the prototype plans for its heralded Season’s 52 concept.

  Darden is the world’s most successful casual dining restaurant chain, so it’s fair to think they weren’t just burning money with their investment.  Can a new prototype be created for less than $10m?  Of course.

  However, it’s less likely that the next billion-dollar brand can be conceived for less than the cost of opening a single unit.  At a minimum, you can expect to spend a lot more in the years to come correcting the mistakes of the under-funded prototype.

  There’s a saying, “Measure twice and cut once.” RESTAURANT DESIGN   RESTAURANT DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS There are hundreds of elements to take into consideration in restaurant design.  Today’s successful restaurant concepts are about more than just: This is a Bad Motto! This overview is by no means comprehensive, but it does provide you with a sense for how complex these projects can be and why it’s common to see experienced design consultants intimately involved in bringing to life today’s successful restaurant concepts.

Good Food, Good Service, Good Atmosphere…   © 2014, Aaron Allen   1 BRAND PERSONALITY Brands, like people, have personalities.  A person can become known for acting or behaving a certain way.  So will your brand.

  The personality of your brand should be defined and programmed. This programming should happen before the first sketch of the restaurant design is even considered. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   2 BRAND PROMISES We would all like to think we have integrity—saying what you’re going to do and then doing it when you say you will.

For a brand to have integrity, one must establish a distinct set of promises that differentiate that brand and define it.  When the promises are met with integrity, a strong brand is the result. Chipotle, and it’s promise to deliver humanely-raised food sources, is a good example.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   3 BRAND POSITIONING You don’t merely want to be considered the best of the best; you want to be considered the only one who does what you do.   The idea of “betterness” (we have a better burger, better restaurant design, etc.

) is subjective.  When you are the “only,” you become a sole-source provider and can dominate a market. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   4 SILVERWARE We often don’t think consciously about our silverware when eating in a restaurant, but it can make an impression of the food before you even take your first bite.

  Light, flimsy and cheap silverware will give an impression of light, flimsy and cheap food.  That’s why you will notice that many high-end steakhouses use large, heavy knives.  Tableware reflects on the restaurant and should be considered in the overall restaurant design and concept development.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   5 UNIFORMS Restaurant uniforms have come a long way since the day of the fine dining “monkey suit.”  Even celebrity fashion designers are getting in on the action and designing uniforms for restaurants.

It’s a smart move. Some chains have tens of thousands of employees and each is an ambassador of the brand.  The uniform is an extension of the brand and should be viewed through the same lens as your overall restaurant design process.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   6 VENTILATION Many regions around the world are outlawing smoking in public places. I’m still amazed by how many places don’t.  I’m not a smoker, but I would imagine not even smokers want to walk out of a restaurant smelling like an ashtray.

  Ventilation is about more than the smells we don’t want to smell (more later on “aroma design”).  For instance, imagine a restaurant conceived in Florida but built in Massachusetts; you have to take an entirely different approach to seasonal temperature fluctuations.

  Lar ge caver nous spaces can be drafty. Ventilation is an important consideration in restaurant design and just another example as to why design is about so much more than just good aesthetics. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   7 BATHROOMS & BRAND IMMERSION An unkempt bathroom must mean a disastrous kitchen.

  “If they allow their bathrooms – which are in plain sight of customers – to get like this, what must the kitchen look like?”  Aside from cleanliness, the bathroom presents an opportunity to further differentiate a restaurant and make an impression—distinctive and communicative of the brand.

  Starbucks is a good example of this concept, carrying its colors and logo features into the bathroom. You don’t lose the feeling the brand inspires once you leave the dining area. So, is this design or is this marketing?  The two are inextricably intertwined.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   8 RESTAURANT DESIGN FOR CELEBRITIES Restaurants, like people, have a “brand personality” and, when properly executed, a restaurant can extend a celebrity’s empire with a walk-in advertisement.

  Celebrities such as Magic Johnson, Eva Longoria, Justin Timberlake, Gloria Estefan and others have not only made successful businesses with their restaurants, they have extended their brand into new arenas.

  Restaurateurs and celebrities could learn from each other. A brand should be fluid enough to travel and transcend. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   9 DOORKNOBS CAN SPEAK We’ve all heard the expression “dumb as a doorknob.

”  While doorknobs don’t have an inherent intelligence, they can actually quite smartly communicate on your behalf.  We usually don’t pay attention to a doorknob unless the doorknob is out of place.

  Doorknobs speak on behalf of your restaurant before the hostess or greeter staff.  The texture, the weight, the materials, the style, the obviousness or understated nature of the doorknob all communicate the brand whether by accident or design.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   10 RESTAURANT MENU DESIGN The most important piece of marketing collateral for a restaurant is its menu.  A menu can’t be viewed as simply an inventory listing of items for sale with a corresponding price.

  It must be viewed as the single most important tool in showcasing your restaurant’s offerings, culinary philosophy and brand attributes.  The weight, size, paper, presentation, fonts and typographies, photos, use of language and more are important considerations in your restaurant menu.

  The menu should be viewed as an extension of the restaurant design – fully integrated in the brand personality and positioning. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   11 STORAGE NEEDS Do you plan on receiving lots of small deliveries during the week or will you buy in bulk for savings?  Will your distributor let you buy in bulk and store in his warehouse without an additional fee?  Do you have high-value inventory that needs special security measures? (After all, you don’t store Remy Martin Louis VIII the same as you store bar napkins).

Storage is an example of operational and functional design considerations typically not considered with an interior design curriculum.  Where design meets function is often a gap for restaurant designers without deep restaurant industry experience.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   12 REFRIGERATION NEEDS Will you have a lot of perishables on your menu that require refrigeration, or are you bringing in boxes of frozen wings and French fries?  A restaurant concept with 20 beers on tap will have dramatically different refrigeration needs than an ice cream store.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   13 LIGHTING DESIGN Think of flickering florescent lights over a grid of office cubicles—it’s not a place you want to be.  We may watch in amazement as bugs continuously fly toward a bug lamp even though it consistently delivers a fatal electric shock, but we’re attracted to light in much the same way.

For reasons not easily explained, lighting captivates moods and wallets.  Candles are romantic.  Red lights make us stop (and our stomachs growl, incidentally).  Low lighting can make us relaxed.  Staff need task lighting.

  Lighting is a highly specialized area of design.  A restaurant without a thoughtfully conceived lighting plan is like Disney without fireworks or salt without pepper. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   14 ACOUSTICAL DESIGN A restaurant engages all of the senses.

  Certainly sight, smell, taste and touch, but what about sound?  One restaurant in Spain was dreadfully slow and about to go out of business.  The owner pumped the recorded sound of a busy restaurant out onto the sidewalk streets and watched as his empty dining room filled to capacity.

  Likewise, where we do or don’t hear music and ambient noise can make an impact.  For example, many night clubs design areas that make it easy to talk to someone you met on a dance floor where you can’t hear yourself think.

  Another example is the bathroom —an area where you don’t want to hear other people at all. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   15 AROMA DESIGN There’s nothing worse than smelling dirty mop water in the lobby or an unpleasant bathroom odor.

 A restaurant should emit an aroma that’s appealing.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  Without proper consideration, you may fill your restaurant with wafts of smoke or other stink.  You can also have aroma pollution, where there are too many scents floating about.

  One restaurant we worked with introduced aromatherapy in a way that stimulated the senses and appetite before customers were even in the dining room.  Without smell, we would not have taste so clearly.

Don’t leave this to chance. (Click for more information) RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   16 RESTAURANT DESIGN PROCESS The steps in the restaurant design process can be expanded or collapsed to suit your tastes for level of detail.

  There are hundreds of inter-dependent decisions and steps.  Generally, the timing of these projects can range from several very intense weeks to potentially a year or more for large-scale development projects moving at a steady pace.

  As restaurant design consultants, our complete process is proprietary.  We’ll be augmenting this article with a follow-up piece on a summary of the process we undertake, but one thing that cannot be over-emphasized is the importance of starting with a very solid restaurant brand constitution/ platform.

  It’s better to spend more time in planning and soft costs of development with an experienced pro than to rush into the design and then try to undo mistakes later.  It’s much easier to make a change on a digital file than it is to change a major mistake on a completed building.

RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   17 LICENSED RESTAURANT DESIGNERS & ARCHITECTS Each country, state, county has dramatically different codes and laws governing design and architecture.  As a result, the permitting process for a new project can take from a few weeks to several years.

Navigating through this minefield of bureaucracy can be challenging.  Ultimately, all restaurant design plans must be submitted to these boards via a licensed architect.  They must be “signed and sealed,” meaning a senior licensed architect has reviewed the design, the architecture and the mechanical, electrical and plumbing plans (often referred to as the MEP*).

The location of your selected consultants is less important than specialization.  This process can and often is completed at a distance (i.e. architects in New York creating buildings in Dubai, or a specialized restaurant designer in Orlando doing a project in Mexico, or wherever).

  That said, it is often advised for complex projects to also retain a local architect who is familiar with the codes in some jurisdictions and has the relationships to physically “walk the plans through permitting.

” Although it shouldn’t be the case, the “locals” sometimes get special treatment.  Familiarization with local codes and officials, however, shouldn’t be more important to you than the big picture in your selections.

  We recommend hiring locals to augment the team on bigger projects, not to necessarily run them.  We have several licensed architects we have worked with and can recommend.  We also serve as advisors and project-lead for restaurant concept development in articulation with your own selected licensed designer.

*[NOTE:  Aaron Allen does not represent himself as a licensed interior designer or licensed architectural firm.  We are restaurant design “consultants” specializing in overall restaurant design strategy, branding, concept development and comprehensive integration of projects as Restaurant Consultant.

] RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   18 “MARKETING DEPT.” AND RESTAURANT DESIGN There are dozens of specialized disciplines that must come together to complete a successful new restaurant prototype.

So, who is the quarterback?  Yes, the owner of the team is still the owner of the team, but that’s not the person running every call of the game.  We believe the entire team should report to the most senior marketing strategist, who in turn reports to the executive team.

  The decisions for your project should be viewed through the lens of the brand, which is the domain of your most senior marketing advisor.  I am not a licensed designer or architect; yet I have successfully lead restaurant design projects on six continents representing dozens of new prototypes.

  It’s been a very successful approach, and one we pioneered. RESTAURANT DESIGN © 2014, Aaron Allen   RESTAURANT DESIGN   CONCLUSION The above list of considerations is by no means a complete set; rather it is a cherrypicked list to provide insight as to why great restaurant design can be so involved and expensive.

  Restaurant design is not just about picking colors and fabrics. It involves a lot of technical knowledge of how restaurants work.  It’s why we recommend you find a partner with a deep restaurant industry knowledge; being a qualified interior designer or architect is not enough these days to create a truly integrated restaurant brand.

The bottom line – great restaurant design is complicated.  Shopping for “cheap” restaurant design consultants is like shopping for a cheap neurosurgeon.  Yep, they’re out there.  But ask yourself: Do I want the cheapest neurosurgeon or do I want the best?  The best and the cheapest often take very different approaches.

For more information on how we create new restaurant concepts and new prototypes for growth-minded restaurant chains, contact Aaron Allen & Associates online at www.aaronallen.com Any references to Interior Design or Interior Design Work which may imply that Aaron Allen and/or affiliates is either participating in, soliciting for, or subcontracting Interior Design Work, as defined by the Florida Statute, is not to be construed in a manner in which Aaron Allen and/or affiliates desires to participate in any of the three activities listed herein.

© 2010 Aaron D. Allen © 2014, Aaron Allen   RESTAURANT DESIGN   ABOUT THE AUTHOR Third generation restaurateur Aaron Allen has held every industry position from line-level employee to unit manager.

By age 19, he was running a $10 million food and beverage operation at a 625room resort. By 20, he was overseeing a $4 million gulf-front Caribbean-themed restaurant that served more than 1,800 covers per day.

Having cut his teeth in operations, Allen eventually transitioned to restaurant-focused marketing. In 2001, he founded his own consultancy.  By 2008, he’d skyrocketed the company to become the world’s largest restaurant consulting firm.

Major clients included esteemed brands such as Starwood Resorts and Hotels Worldwide, The Cheesecake Factory, TGI Fridays, FEMSA (Dos Equis), BJ’s Restaurants, Hofbrau, Land O’ Lakes, Marriott, SSP and dozens of other global restaurant chains, regional powerhouse brands, high-volume independents, food and beverage manufacturers, distributors, resorts, entertainment districts, hotel chains and more.

  Allen has become one of the most sought-after speakers and sources for restaurant industry media. He has been a go-to source for esteemed media outlets such as the  Wall Street Journal,  Entrepreneur,  Smart Money, MSNBC, TIME,  Forbes,  USA Today,  Nation’s Restaurant News,  Chain Leader,  Restaurants & Institutions,  European Food Service News,  Food Service Middle East, QSR Magazine and hundreds more.

Aaron Allen © 2014, Aaron Allen   25 RESTAURANT DESIGN   ABOUT AARON ALLEN & ASSOCIATES Aaron Allen & Associates provides strategic marketing, concept development, and executive-level advisory services to leading foodservice and hospitality companies worldwide.

We identify and distill the latest restaurant and hospitality marketing trends. We prepare tailored presentations for the executive management of growth-minded companies and then support the development and implementation of innovative restaurant marketing initiatives within their system.

   Collectively, our clients post more than $100 billion in global sales and span more than 100 countries across all six inhabited continents. We have worked with a wide range of clients, including high-volume independent operators, multi-billion dollar restaurant chains, hotels, contract foodservice providers, manufacturers, distributors and trade associations.

We have direct consulting experience in nearly all cuisine types and operating models.   © 2014, Aaron Allen   26 www.aaronallen.com [email protected] United States 390 North Orange Ave Suite 2300 Orlando, Florida 32801 407-936-1010 (US) (866) 436-4002 (US fax) Central Europe 1051 Budapest Október 6.

utca 17, Budapest, Hungary +36-1-798-3578 (Europe) Copyright © Aaron Allen & Associates, LLC 2014. All rights are reserved. None of the contents of this publication may be reprinted or used without the permission of Aaron Allen & Associates, LLC © 2014, Aaron Allen   www.

aaronallen.com

Restaurants that neglect interior directional signage and zone merchandizing miss out on profits. Zone merchandizing consists of identifying the various zones, or marketing channels, used to communicate with guests throughout a restaurant, and using each area to plan in-house marketing. Some key sections, or zones, are TVs, tabletops, windows, bathrooms, greeter stations and more. Restaurants that use this marketing technique create an engaging, fresh atmosphere – a tone that is consistent with the business story and perspective. Interior directional signage also helps visitors make sense of a restaurant by enabling them to find the exits, restrooms and other important areas. Both types of information are important, as they help guests feel more comfortable and welcome.

It’s easy to overlook parking, but guests often get frustrated to the point of dining elsewhere if parking is impossible to find. If a lot has insufficient parking but there is room to add more, do so – and do it quickly. Mandatory valet parking to solve a lack-of-space is a poor solution, as many visitors would prefer to park slightly further away than to have to pay for a parking service. On the flip side, it is a good idea to offer an optional valet, if it is appropriate for the tone of a restaurant. The increased business from offering both options will more than make up for the expense of the valet.

You don’t merely want to be considered the best of the best; you want to be considered the only one who does what you do.

most common restaurant mistakesRestaurant DesignRestaurant Management

The overall process of restaurant design, remodeling, planning, etc. is often referred to as the discipline of “Restaurant Concept Development.” If you’re creating a new prototype, think of it as creating a new concept – concept development.

Visible bus pans or overflowing trashcans detract from a guest’s restaurant experience. A restaurant’s primary function is providing good food for its visitors. Many people wouldn’t cook in a dirty kitchen at home, and they certainly don’t want to pay for food prepared in a restaurant’s dirty kitchen. If guests see overflowing trashcans, bus pans, clutter, dirty dishes piled in a sink or other unsightly areas, they are likely to feel less comfortable, and view the meal as less valulable. While managers and servers may become desensitized to these areas, guests are not. Make sure behind-the-scenes operations stay backstage and don’t encroach upon diners.

Having trash and debris within restaurant property line looks untidy. Litter is incredibly unattractive, and while most guests understand that restaurant staff aren’t the ones who left trash in the lot, it still reflects poorly on the restaurant. Cleaning up the parking lot and exteriors several times a day is just as important as keeping the floors and counters inside a business clean. This is a simple task, but it can drastically increase the amount of new visitors. Placing a garbage can outside of each entry door allows visitors to throw away gum, coffee cups and other trash they may have with them when entering or leaving.

A restaurant engages all of the senses.  Certainly sight, smell, taste and touch, but what about sound?   One restaurant in Spain was dreadfully slow and about to go out of business.  The owner pumped the recorded sound of a busy restaurant out onto the sidewalk streets and watched as his empty dining room filled to capacity.  Likewise, where we do or don’t hear music and ambient noise can make an impact.  For example, many night clubs design areas that make it easy to talk to someone you met on a dance floor where you can’t hear yourself think.  Another example is the bathroom—an area where you don’t want to hear other people at all.

Doors to bathrooms that push in rather than out bother customers. When designing a restaurant, pay attention to the details. Most bathrooms are placed in an area where the door can open out just as easily as it can open in. Guests prefer the former option because they don’t have to touch the bathroom door handle when exiting. If a bathroom is in a place that necessitates the door opening in, however, place a trashcan right next to the door on the inside so visitors who didn’t want to touch the handle can discard the paper towels they used to open the door.

The idea of “betterness” (we have a better burger, better restaurant design, etc.) is subjective.  When you are the “only,” you become a sole-source provider and can dominate a market.

Hoa Vo , Interior designer at Ho Chi Minh University of Architecture 7 months ago

In the United States alone, there are nearly 1 million restaurants, each trying hard to differentiate itself from the next. It’s not an easy task. In fact, there are so many restaurant design tips to consider when it comes to launching a new concept—from branding (your biggest concern) right on down to the silverware. And believe it or not, there are million-dollar corporations just winging it, wanting to build first and ask questions later. Bad idea. Here, a few proven restaurant design methodologies relevant both for the mom-and-pop start-up as well as the multi-national mega chain pursuing renovations and growth.

Restaurants often don’t make their concept clear from the exterior design and signage. When establishing a business, there should be a clear idea of the brand message, tone and promise. It’s best to lay this foundation well at the beginning of the process (though it can be corrected later on, it’s worth the investment to get it done right up front). Having a concept is important, but making that concept clear at a restaurant is even more so. Figure out the brand personality (if the brand was a person, how would it walk, act, talk, dress, and behave?), promise, position and story, and make each apparent to guests visiting the restaurant. The best solution, though, is to consider these four questions when designing your building’s exterior.

Signage is more important than many people realize. Improper signage can cost a business as much as $1 million each year in potential revenues, so be the building owner allows the display of elements like blade and pole signs before committing to a lease. Restaurateurs should also ensure that city ordinances allow signs to be displayed, before ordering and installing those materials. One given the go-ahead, walking and driving by the restaurant, like guest would, to see what kind of marquees will work best for Once you have the go-ahead, drive and walk by your restaurant like guests would to see what kind of marquees will work best for your location. Blade signs that stick out into the road are a good idea for many establishments.

An unkempt bathroom must mean a disastrous  kitchen.  “If they allow their bathrooms – which are in plain sight of customers – to get like this, what must the kitchen look like?”  Aside from cleanliness, the bathroom presents an opportunity to further differentiate a restaurant and make an impression—distinctive and communicative of the brand.  Starbucks is a good example of this concept, carrying its colors and logo features into the bathroom. You don’t lose the feeling the brand inspires once you leave the dining area. So, is this design or is this marketing?  The two are inextricably intertwined.

Spending too much money on linens or cleaning services is inefficient, and linen-cleaning services are expensive and often unnecessary. Many restaurants make the mistake of thinking only white tablecloths are up-scale, but nice wooden tables can create a similar effect. Restaurants that employ linens to cover up bad tables end up spending more in the long run than if they had bought new tables. On the other hand, restaurants that use linens on good tables are wasting money. If linens are being used, try to find some that can be cleaned in-house, rather than through a service – it’s an easy way to save money.

ola saleh , Business Development Manager @al-Yousr Integrated Business at Yousr Integrated Business Company 7 months ago

Are We Relevant?: Questions to Ask During a Restaurant Brand Audit

Run-down, tired looking exteriors reflect poorly on an establishment. In many cases, it doesn’t matter how good the food is – if a restaurant looks unsafe or uncared for, most potential guests will pass by on their way to another option. While parking lots are expensive to re-pave, adding a blacktop is a simple way to give a lot a clean, updated aesthetic. Make sure outdoor lighting is brighter than indoor lighting in the evening so the restaurant is a beacon to hungry passers-by. Paint the building, clean windows every day, replace dead or flickering light bulbs as soon as they go out and make sure to care for plants and grass around the property regularly. Most restaurants don’t budget for this care, and thus can’t afford these measures when they are necessary. To avoid this, budget between 1% – 2% of total sales for on-going maintenance projects and up-keep.

Restaurants without exterior menu boards, or old, tired, faded boards outside, look unsafe and uninteresting. A restaurant exterior, including any menu boards, reflects the concept and brand. If the outdoor menus are faded and falling apart, the restaurant will look similarly outdated and tired. As this can be one of the first impressions for many new customers passing a restaurant, it can have a negative impact on business. An exterior menu is like a free advertisement, so make sure to spend the time to make it attractive and keep it maintained. A board that is up to date and clean can bring as many as 20 new guests in each night.

Restaurant concept development involves restaurant design, but also includes market and competitive research, emerging and fading trends, financial modeling and what-if scenarios, branding and brand evolution, supply chain issues, and potentially even brand portfolio management (for hospitality enterprises with multiple brands in a family that must articulate). Simply put, restaurant design considerations involve a variety of people, not just interior designers and architects.

Clunky, dirty, dusty or other decorations that don’t help tell the brand story actually detract from profits. The entire restaurant needs to be centered on the brand story and personality. As with anything, good planning helps with execution, so start by writing down the vision for the restaurant. From there, think about the decorations, lighting, fixtures and even the chairs and tables. Remember, everything placed inside a restaurant must support its story. Every item should contribute to communicating the brand promise, positioning and personality. Teddy bears on the shelves in the dining room of a luxury, white-tablecloth restaurant sends a mixed message. Get rid of irrelevant decorations and make sure to dust decorations regularly, as any sort of dust or grime detracts from the overall atmosphere.

Will you have a lot of perishables on your menu that require refrigeration, or are you bringing in boxes of frozen wings and French fries?  A restaurant concept with 20 beers on tap will have dramatically different refrigeration needs than an ice cream store.

Guests should be greeted by a smile, not a messy, overcrowded host station. This area at a restaurant is not a locker for hosts or hostesses, but rather a space that allows the team to efficiently do their jobs. The station should be clean, orderly and only visibly contain those things that are absolutely necessary – a list of parties waiting, for example, a pen and a light if the restaurant has lower illumination. Mint tins, drinks, hair ties and knick-knacks should all be kept in the employee area in the back. People are more welcoming than items, so make sure the host is greeting customers, not clutter.

That said, it is often advised for complex projects to also retain a local architect who is familiar with the codes in some jurisdictions and has the relationships to physically “walk the plans through permitting.” Although it shouldn’t be the case, the “locals” sometimes get special treatment.  Familiarization with local codes and officials, however, shouldn’t be more important to you than the big picture in your selections.  We recommend hiring locals to augment the team on bigger projects, not to necessarily run them.  We have several licensed architects we have worked with and can recommend.  We also serve as advisors and project-lead for restaurant concept development in articulation with your own selected licensed designer.

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There is a lot of work that goes into food preparation before ingredients even hit the counter. Restaurants that don’t have clear, efficient systems and controls in place tend to throw out a lot of food or, worse, serve bad dishes. Systems that ensure all deliveries are correct, including the quality and quantity of items received, and that food isn’t wasted because of improper storage should be in place. This should also check that employees aren’t skimming supplies. Establish checklists and clear chains of accountability. It is easier for these things to get missed if no one can be held accountable (people who place orders shouldn’t e in charge of receiving them), so ensure that there is one employee in charge who can’t pass the buck. If multiple employees oversee storage of ingredients, make sure there is a clearly defined chain of responsibility.

This overview is by no means comprehensive, but it does provide you with a sense for how complex these projects can be and why it’s common to see experienced design consultants intimately involved in bringing to life today’s successful restaurant concepts.

The most important piece of marketing collateral for a restaurant is its menu.  A menu can’t be viewed as simply an inventory listing of items for sale with a corresponding price.  It must be viewed as the single most important tool in showcasing your restaurant’s offerings, culinary philosophy and brand attributes.  The weight, size, paper, presentation, fonts and typographies, photos, use of language and more are important considerations in your restaurant menu.  The menu should be viewed as an extension of the restaurant design – fully integrated in the brand personality and positioning.

The location of your selected consultants is less important than specialization.  This process can and often is completed at a distance (i.e. architects in New York creating buildings in Dubai, or a specialized restaurant designer in Orlando doing a project in Mexico, or wherever).

Walking inside a restaurant is like walking into the belly of an advertisement. Everything communicates. Unlike typical ads, which often just engage one, two or three senses maximum, a restaurant touches all five of the human senses. This raises the stakes substantially on customer expectations and performance levels necessary to compete effectively today.

Acoustical issues, such as music or ambient noise that is too loud or too low, distract.  Just like it’s important to finding the perfect number of servers, there is a fine line between too much noise and an uncomfortably silent dining room. Guests don’t like to feel as if they are in a library, but they also don’t necessarily want to experience a rock concert while eating dinner. There should be a comfortable amount of noise to facilitate normal conversation where no one feels the need to whisper or shout. Silence often seems sleepy, which applies to the restroom as well. Create ambient noise by playing music in the restaurant and in the bathroom. Also, make sure to use furniture like couches and drapes to dampen sound and reduce echoes.

A guest’s experience at a restaurant starts long before the greeting from the host or hostess. Everything from the placement of signs, the paint on the outside of the building and the parking lot communicates and sets the initial tone for a restaurant brand. Here are some of the most common mistakes restaurants make with the exterior of their establishments.

We often don’t think consciously about our silverware when eating in a restaurant, but it can make an impression of the food before you even take your first bite.  Light, flimsy and cheap silverware will give an impression of light, flimsy and cheap food.  That’s why you will notice that many high-end steakhouses use large, heavy knives.  Tableware reflects on the restaurant and should be considered in the overall restaurant design and concept development.

There are hundreds of elements involved in restaurant design considerations. Today’s successful restaurant concepts are about more than just: “Good Food, Good Service, Good Atmosphere…” That’s a bad motto.

Location, location, location. Right of way issues that make it difficult to get to the restaurant during heavy traffic periods decrease business.  It doesn’t matter how good a restaurant is if people can’t reach it, so make sure to pay close attention to the location of a potential restaurant prior to signing a lease. This means both considering what area the building is in and researching the traffic patterns surrounding it, and investigating street-side visibility. Guests should be able to see and reach a restaurant with ease.

Unsightly service areas, like garbage and dirty equipment, that are visible to customers can ruin a meal. The outside of an establishment should be as clean as the interior. This means emptying and cleaning trashcans and dumpsters regularly, not leaving rubber mats out to dry on the patio while guests are still there and cleaning dirty equipment. If anything smells bad, clean it. The dirty-dumpster smell from unwashed trashcans can be horribly unpleasant. The only place a customer should encounter something as unsightly as a trashcan at your establishment is outside of the front door.

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This programming should happen before the first sketch of the restaurant design is even considered.

Space is money, and an inefficient use of space, including storage, prep, service and POS stations, decreases a restaurant’s efficiency. Inefficient storage of food or a poorly planned organization in the kitchen slows down staff, thereby increasing the time it takes each guest to finish dinner and decreasing the number of customers that can be served in a given night. To illustrate the cost associated with every inch of a restaurant, think about the money and space that could be saved by consolidating several pieces of equipment and purchasing one appliance that serves multiple functions. When measuring performance, make sure to consider sales by square foot averages and think about how costs can be decreased by better utilizing the space.

Can a new prototype be created for less than $10m?  Of course.  However, it’s less likely that the next billion-dollar brand can be conceived for less than the cost of opening a single unit.  At a minimum, you can expect to spend a lot more in the years to come correcting the mistakes of the under-funded prototype.  There’s a saying, “Measure twice and cut once.”

Restaurant uniforms have come a long way since the day of the fine dining “monkey suit.” Even celebrity fashion designers are getting in on the action and designing uniforms for restaurants. It’s a smart move.  Some chains have tens of thousands of employees and each is an ambassador of the brand.  The uniform is an extension of the brand and should be viewed through the same lens as your overall restaurant design process.

Aaron Allen & Associates is a leading global restaurant industry consultancy specializing in growth strategy, marketing, branding, and commercial due diligence for emerging restaurant chains and prestigious private equity firms. We have helped helped restaurant companies around the world drive revenues, increase profits, and enhance the guest experience through improved marketing, messaging, and menu engineering. Collectively, our clients post more than $100 billion, span all 6 inhabited continents and 100+ countries, with locations totaling tens of thousands.

We’ve all heard the expression “dumb as a doorknob.”  While doorknobs don’t have an inherent intelligence, they can actually quite smartly communicate on your behalf.  We usually don’t pay attention to a doorknob unless the doorknob is out of place.  Doorknobs speak on behalf of your restaurant before the hostess or greeter staff.  The texture, the weight, the materials, the style, the obviousness or understated nature of the doorknob all communicate the brand whether by accident or design.

Brands, like people, have personalities.  A person can become known for acting or behaving a certain way.  So will your brand.  The personality of your brand should be defined and programmed.

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