Restaurant design is ever evolving. The key, particularly if you are a restaurant owner, is to be able to discern which trends could be meaningful to your bottom line and which can be ignored. For instance, if open kitchens are the rage, but it would take a major remodel and a months-long shut-down in order to accommodate the renovations, then it may not be a design trend worth adopting. Or perhaps the color of the moment doesn’t really complement your décor. Don’t sweat it. There will be a new, hot color next year. However, what about modifications that expand your business and increase profits, not just immediately, but also over time? Here are a few 2019 trends that look like they’ll be sticking around and are worthy of consideration.
Healthy Eats and Getting Back to Nature
Eating healthy, not just tasty, foods is a trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Many people are genuinely concerned about the foods they are consuming, and restaurants are addressing those concerns with the fare they are offering. This can be validated by a concept like farm-to-table, which began as a marketing differentiator but has become a social movement. Popular diets like Keto and Paleo are also being recognized with special dishes on menus at most restaurants. To support this wellness trend, restaurant designers are looking to nature for inspiration. Incorporating “living walls” or vertical gardens into restaurant spaces lets patrons know that they are not only eating nutritious foods, but that their dining environment is also healthful. Using natural materials and colors also reinforces the health craze, as does expanding into unused outdoor spaces. After all, what could be more nature-inspired than nature itself. By clearing or adding a patio and erecting a shade structure, for instance, previously idle real estate can become a welcome cash generator, in addition to serving as an on-trend design update.
A trend toward eating with others, be they family, friends, or strangers, has landed communal dining at the top of the trends list. People are putting down their technology and engaging in conversation with those around them during meal time, which means some restaurants have not only adjusted their menus to offer food “family style,” but has them looking at ways to change up their table layouts to accommodate the communal table concept, which is typically linear, single (or pushed together) tables, with chairs facing inward to engage everyone seated around the table(s). Often, the smaller, cozier restaurants that already convey the right atmosphere for communal dining are those lacking in space to add long tables. Pushing out the walls requires a major renovation, but adding a pergola along an exterior façade may be just the solution needed to set up a communal dining experience. Add some outdoor heaters for use during cooler months and fans for warmer months, and the space could become a focal point rather than an after-thought.
Climb Aboard the Zero-Waste Bandwagon
Zero-waste is a set of principles that encourages the reuse of all products, with the hope of eradicating trash being sent to landfills, incinerators, and the ocean. This initiative has led to bans in some parts of the country on commonly used items, such as plastic straws and disposable grocery bags. In the restaurant arena, zero-waste is also taking hold. From biodegradable food packaging to the reuse of containers to the in-house composting of unusable food that is sent back to farmers to be used as fertilizer, some restauranteurs are taking zero-waste very seriously. So how does restaurant design support the zero-waste notion? For existing restaurants, the changes may be subtle, such as retrofitting existing kitchens with composting equipment or trading disposable menus for chalkboards. But new build restaurants can dig even deeper, by using environmentally safe materials and guidelines, such as those established by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. This includes the use of sustainable materials, such as bamboo and extruded aluminum.
Adding a Food Component to an Existing Business
Many businesses—banks, retail, and movie theaters, for example—are adding eateries to their establishments. Why? Because if businesses can get you inside their doors, they want to keep you there for as long as possible. With the advent of food delivery (both cooked and uncooked), there are increasing options for dining beyond the eat-in restaurant. However, whether we like to cook or not, Americans are still swayed by ease of access. By offering a convenient dining experience not just nearby but within an already accessed location, these businesses can earn a portion of the annual $61-billion dollar dining out/take-out industry.
Remember, not every trend must be implemented. However, for those ideas that can be feasibly adapted, trends which promise long-term benefits and profits, it could be well worth the small investment of an outdoor addition or LEED upgrade to join a popular movement.
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