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Restaurant Megatrends 20 Design Has A More Is More Moment.

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23 24DesignUnion square cafe reopened last year using resy though many other danny meyer restaurants stillYou only have to look at the number of pizza concepts springing up in high streets and suburbs around the country to know that its one of the most dynamicA veteran hotel designer on the fallacy of instagrammable momentsDesign

And, though custom dishware can’t be traced directly to a restaurant’s increased revenue, it does provide undeniable value. Instead of linking to something tangible, special plateware can lend itself to a feeling a diner has while he’s at a restaurant—something that can’t be captured through social media, but needs to be experienced in person.

Restaurant Megatrends 2018: Design Has a ‘More Is More’ Moment

For many restaurateurs, going the custom route seems to be grounded in the desire to do something special for their diners. At Harlem, New York’s Clay, a New American restaurant that opened last year in a former jazz club, it was important to chef Gustavo Lopez to have custom dishware. Believing that plateware is a design element that can be tied into the identity of a restaurant as much as its lights and wall colors, and that the sense of touch is often under-appreciated in restaurants, he and his team sought to consider a diner’s full sensory experience and address a tactile need that may have otherwise gone unsatisfied.

Restaurant design in the Instagram age is so high-stakes, it’s tapped into the power of Hollywood set designers. Wow.

Wendy’s has got a lot of great ideas about how restaurant design can display the company’s values. Will everybody make the connection between the new communal sinks and Wendy’s fresh-never-frozen motto? Probably not, but it’s a nice touch to have access to a sink without having to walk into the bathroom.

These are the ideas that will shape the year ahead in restaurants from tech to design to finance and beyond.

Over the past few years, established chains have turned to chefs to add a dose of authenticity to their menus and a refresh to their brands. A chef and chain partnership adds value but should be only one part of a brand’s reinvigoration.

Wi-Fi and screen-time policing at cafés has less to do with money and missed earnings: the main culprit is our attitude. Admittedly, it feels like strict policy, but we can all learn a lesson from this.

Restaurant Megatrends 2018: Logistics Complicate Ambitious Delivery Algorithms

Noble’s clients also come to her through Instagram, she admits. There’s no doubt that social media allows unique aesthetic choices to serve as marketing tactics for restaurants and ceramicists alike looking to gain a following. But new or lesser-known restaurants and artists aren’t the only places who use this platform to advertise.

Custom mugs are available for enjoyment and for purchase at Brooklyn’s Golda – Ally Spier

Where to eat is important — but suggestions of what to eat are even more influential these days. But chasing after one famous and photogenic dish means you might miss out on all the rest.

Take a cursory tour of any major food influencer’s account worth its weight in acai bowls, and you’ll surely come across a recently-erected neon sign. Maybe the insistent “You Batter Believe it!” of Sweets by Chloe, or the appreciative “Matcha Gracias” of Cha Cha Matcha? Romero explains that there’s been a “big movement in the restaurant industry to bring back what was ‘cool’ from a vintage standpoint.” Neon often fits the bill, for its ability to help craft a specific brand story, because it’s not very expensive, and for its nostalgic appeal. Yep, even when sending digital photos of a place that just opened to a global audience through our smartphones, we still want our physical spaces to evoke a comfortingly old-timey, vintage feel. Or, maybe it’s precisely because of tech’s ubiquity that we appreciate environments reminiscent of simpler times. The dichotomy is worthy of consideration, anyway: perhaps restaurant design a few years from now will have regressed even further into the stylistic past, and we’ll transmit our orders via microchip to our robotic waitstaff at Medieval Times-esque banquet halls? But for now, it’s nostalgia by neon.

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David Ablon, technical director at Brooklyn Glass, a studio and custom fabrication house behind some of the signage for Kate Spade stores and restaurateur Keith McNally’s restaurant group, confirms there’s been an increase in demand for custom-made neon signage in the last couple of years. Customers want more writing, often in different fonts, and prefer white lettering much more than they have in the past. Ablon cites another important difference between the signs his studio makes for clients today versus those of the ‘80s, though: there’s less explicit advertising of what a place is, or what it offers. Instead, signs are more idea- or pun-oriented. What’s that old saying? All words and no play make…less effective marketing?

Working with design-minded restaurants is a great way for ceramicists to advertise their wares and get new clients. The signatures on the bottoms of cups and plates are unique to the studios that make them, functioning as heavier business cards. And the items can be talking points between restaurant and customer.

Restaurant Megatrends 2018: Ordering and Payment Tech Create Haves and Have-Nots

Clay’s team visited several local studios while choosing a supplier, but none felt right until they entered that of Brooklyn-based ceramicist Wynne Noble. They felt an instant personal connection with her, the handmade quality of her work immediately resonated on an emotional level, and they were inspired to find a way to work together. Unsure of what they could afford as a new restaurant, the initial plan was to place a small order.

After years of court cases and confusion, the Federal Government has declared mandatory tip pools legal.

Sorry, Mies, but when it comes to modern restaurant design, less is not more. At least not now, in these Instagram-driven times.

We’ve just released our first annual restaurant industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends 2018. You can read about each of the trends on Skift Table as well as download a copy of our magazine here.

With the unveling of Noma 2.0, Rene Redzepi used his Instagram account (with over 663,000 followers) as a platform to promote the five independent potters he works with to design plates to accompany his restaurant’s seafood season menu.

Business in the front, party in the back isn’t just relegated to a certain polarizing hairstyle. At New York’s Patent Pending, the coffee shop-by-day, speakeasy-by-night concept works double duty in its design.

On a national level, going custom can be influenced by other restaurants’ decisions to do so. Owner Danny Nusbaum of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn’s Golda explains that, in today’s world, the bar is set so high for restaurants that “all the little details count to differentiate yourself.” He sought custom-made cups and saucers to give his customers a premium product and help create a “full experience.”

Tableside service stakes are high — would you dare attempt an omelet from under a guest’s stare? The flashy style has its place, but not in every restaurant.

If designers are to appeal to the social media savvy in every way, they can’t forget to look up. And so lighting in restaurants to come can be increasingly expected to make a statement through memorable ceiling fixtures, too. The recently-opened NYC location of Alinea Group’s The Aviary, for example, includes distinctive ribbon-like swirls of light that span the length of the entire room, and are carried over as a motif on the cocktail bar’s website. (You can even see them from street level in Columbus Circle, 35 floors below.)

Recognizing dining out as a sensory experience, restaurants are increasingly presenting their menu items on custom-made dishware. For those in favor of appealing to tastes both gustatory and visual, the eyes have it.

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Restaurant Megatrends 2018: A New Kind of Big Money Can Remake Independent Restaurants

But increasing numbers of restaurants are outfitting their kitchens with custom-designed, handmade dishware; chances are you’ll see an independent designer’s name marking the underside of the plate your entree’s served on sooner rather than later…unless you’ve already been picking up for as long as the trend has.

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When you finish eating something at a restaurant, do you flip over your plate to see who made it? Maybe that seems like a strange thing to do, especially if you assume it’s labeled with the name of a mass producer.

But Noble was flexible in accommodating their needs, and instead offered a personalized payment structure. In that sense, working with a small producer with whom they’d established a meaningful relationship actually helped the team at Clay achieve their goals without having to compromise or otherwise worry about the associated costs. As Clay’s bar director, Andrea Needell Matteliano, explained, this “magical partnership has persisted ever since,” affording them opportunities to continue working together.

While plenty of places are taking a similar approach by seeking out custom dishware, the precise nature of that customization varies. Sizes, shapes, and colors can be carefully chosen and, like a seasonally changing menu, items can be easily updated because of close relationships facilitated by working with a small studio.

Restaurant Megatrends 2018: Fine Casual Is the New Fast Casual

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In a race to personalize everything, from your news feed to the ads you see, companies are embracing artificial intelligence to get to the perfect answer. But it’s going to take much more human curation before the robots take over.

Distinctive design distinguishes New York’s Aviary, opened in the Mandarin Oriental last year. / Mandarin Oriental

As long as a strong Instagram presence acts as a means of viral marketing and effortless publicity, branding and design teams will continue to base their aesthetic decisions on how they’ll ultimately manifest on social media. The physical designs of new restaurants will be accomplished with the goal of gaining visibility on a broader scale for the foreseeable future.

Restaurant Megatrends 2018: Restaurants Make Sustainability Visible

Read Skift Table for Essential News on the Business of Restaurants

Distinctive elements will dominate in restaurant design through 2018. Bold color choices, stand-out patterns, text-heavy neon signage, and witty branding will shape identities for new spaces, and the perceptions of those who experience them— virtually or otherwise.

Like it or not, the potential ability to stand out via snapshot on someone’s feed has become a key factor in design conception for in-development restaurants. A picture may still be worth a thousand words, but its ability to attract virtual attention and, subsequently, a real-life following, is of even greater value now.

As competition in the quick service market intensifies, having a rebellious streak that engages potential customers and differentiates concepts from dozens of similar brands no longer seems like a risk, but a necessity.

This year’s Megatrends are sponsored by our partners at AccorHotels, Allianz Worldwide Partners, Hilton Garden Inn, Intrepid Travel, onefinestay, and Upside.

As restaurants streamline their operations and hone app-based loyalty programs, technology dictates the divide between those who can participate and those who can’t.

Restaurant Megatrends 2018: Good Content Is the Path to Bot Recommendations

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Big opens need big money in destinations where real estate and talent come with big price tags. The professionalization of this restaurant investment community was the logical next step.

Fine casual, yet another term coined to describe the new ways Americans dine, marries elements of fast casual and fine dining. No matter what you want to call these restaurants, expect many more.

With local sourcing no longer serving as a trend, but increasingly as the status quo, restaurants are making their commitments to sustainability more visible to diners than ever before, with specific design elements at the forefront of their efforts.

He chose a local artist that a food writer friend met in a ceramics class because her wares were the most affordable option. Working one-on-one with local operation Calyer Ceramics has given him the chance for maximum customization, where the ceramicist was able to design something for him that can’t be found anywhere else. Customers can even buy the cups and saucers at Golda before they leave, should they want to take home a piece of their experience that may last longer than a pastry to go.

Needell Matteliano explains that Noble and her mugs are a frequent conversation topic with guests at Clay, and Noble admits that this word of mouth advertising has worked well for her, since she doesn’t advertise in a traditional sense. Noble, who first sold her plates to Manhattan’s Contra in 2013, has been recommended via word of mouth to a long list of would-be clients ever since, including local ones like Sunday in Brooklyn, Empellon, Boqueria, and Gramercy Tavern, and those further away, like Banff Hotel in Canada, or Path in Tokyo.

What better way to stand out on a visual platform than through intentionally showy design elements?

When design is a branding strategy, the interior space as a whole, or specific elements of it, are often developed with hopes of being Instagrammable, appealing to a quick social post. Romero notes, “whether it’s neon, or a certain pattern, or clever quotes, or a cool menu, the brands have been zeroing in on that strategy.”

Skift Table contributor Ally Spier is a Brooklyn-based writer and designer who studied ergonomics at Cornell, and architecture at Pratt. Her background in design informs her love of food and travel… and vice versa.

Delivery companies have done well to incorporate as much efficiency-supporting technology as possible, but the real barrier to total optimization will continue to be the complicated logistics of real life. 

Michael Romero, managing director of L.A.-based creative agency Manufactur (pronounced as though the “e” never left), explains: “Instagram is the platform and vehicle by which restaurants are able to reach a broad audience without billboards.”

Restaurant Megatrends 2018: Restaurants Use Experiences to Fight Delivery Boom

The in-restaurant experience is changing, and it’s a direct result of new technologies aimed at making our lives simpler. Sometimes the tech creates a threat, as has happened with delivery. And sometimes it creates opportunity, as we see in the ways smart restaurants are addressing said threat.

This feeling need not be limited to the front of house experience. Says Needell Matteliano, “restaurant people often drink coffee out of pint containers, but at Clay, a lot of the staff will choose one of Noble’s mugs to start their day because it feels so good, like a hug in their hands.”

They view their plates as more than vehicles for the delivery of food meant to present the work of the kitchen. Instead of blank canvasses, they’re parts of composed dishes that showcase the talent of the artist who made them. The decision to work with an independent maker also tied into Clay’s practices when it comes to how they run the rest of their business. They source certified humane proteins from small farmers, and constantly think about their social and ecological accountability.

While white neon lighting currently reigns supreme, restaurants’ commitment to bold color choices in other aspects of branding and design likely won’t diminish anytime soon. But expect the pervasive millennial pink and its more saturated cousins (whether at London’s Sketch, NYC’S Pietro, or LA’s Alfred Tea Room) to begin to be ousted by shades of purple, as long as they’re still filter-friendly. Harpers Bazaar, Elle, and InStyle all note the abundance of lavender on the spring 2018 runway (including at Tom Ford, Victoria Beckham, and the Row). Even Pantone’s 2018 color of the year is “Ultra Violet” (no sunscreen required).

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Sleek dining for plant-based meals has become relatively the norm in U.S. cities, but the trend is still gaining momentum in Europe where vegetarian food once relegated to hippie establishments is playing a larger role in mainstream dining.

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