What can the restaurant industry do to provide a pleasurable experience for customers while maintaining the highest safety standards in these challenging times? As the effects of the pandemic seem to require longer-term solutions than many initially thought (or hoped for), restaurant owners and designers have put their heads together to try and come up with ideas for a good experience that’s also safe for patrons.

Social distancing in the restaurant industry 

Pandemic times have given rise to a need for evolving restaurant design and changes to interior spaces. The biggest concern is to provide enough space between customers for effective social distancing while dining and also for customers and staff to move around. 

So when waitrons and patrons use thoroughfares, they must have sufficient room to proceed with a safe distance from one other. Many restaurants have allocated areas for different functions and made signs to indicate their purpose. 

So there’s a stream for people picking up takeaways, app pickups or service lanes, which make restaurants safer for everyone. As time goes on, restaurant owners are considering that design can play a better role with spaces demarcated by furniture layout or decor elements (for example, tile designs to indicate pathways). 

Take your dining experience outside

Open-air dining is encouraged during the pandemic for obvious reasons: It ensures space for fresh-air flow and social distancing. As a result, restaurants have been paying more attention to their outdoor areas or considering how they can open out their indoor spaces with folding doors or bay windows. 

But outdoor space isn’t always an option or might involve hefty renovation bills. Are there other options when it comes to air quality? Up until now, restaurant owners have tried to protect dine-in customers by using temporary solutions such as plastic sheets or glass dividers between booths. But many are now pondering more long-term solutions. 

Patrons want longer-term solutions 

American online restaurant publication Restaurant Dive examined the issue of restaurant design to meet pandemic needs. In a recent blog, it quoted the survey results of a design firm called Big Red Rooster that listed the most popular design elements of the restaurant consumers who it had polled. These elements included UV sanitising light, plastic sneeze guards, restaurant robots and drive-through and pick-up facilities. Its results indicate that restaurant patrons are likely to want to see long-term safety considerations. 

Air currents to form dividing walls

One idea put forward by Blueplate Studio at Wilson Associates is a restaurant called the “Glass Kitchen” where tables in the dining room are linked to a central kitchen through a sliding window. The dining area would feature an air filtration system with a motor in the ceiling that blasts a strong air current to the floor and creates a wall of air pressure between tables. The air pressure wall provides a more social alternative to plastic or glass panels. The dining area is accessed from outside by rolling glass panels that function like garage doors and eliminate the necessity (and possibilities for contamination) of the reception area and the host. 

Government restrictions and expert recommendations change as we learn more about the pandemic, so flexibility will be required for the restaurant industry to survive. But as always, keep up with our blogs and posts for the latest information. 

If you would like more restaurant industry insights, check out our e-book, Secret Ingredients to a Successful Restaurant

Author : Rudi Badenhorst