Tables spaced six feet apart, masked waiters and even glass barriers, these were some of the changes we came across while dining out during the pandemic. Whilst the global pandemic is coming to an end, there is a persistent concern about the need for social distancing in restaurants across the globe. The future of restaurant design thus looks way different from what it used to be.
Restaurants are exploring significant changes in the layouts, with a focus on limited social interaction between the patrons, the chefs and the attendants.
“With more diners choosing takeout and delivery options, restaurants are revamping their interiors. Fewer tables spread out, fewer bar counters and more open seating,” commented Jehan-Ara Poonawala, Chief Designer, JJ Poonawala Architects & Interior Designers.
This will further allow more space for cooking and preparing orders. Poonawala feels that smaller restaurants are the future and its best to avoid monstrosities with real estate and rent being big factors. “A standard prototyped design in with multiple small locations will earn better than one large space,” she said.
In order to design a pandemic friendly restaurant, a comprehensive study on mapping distances from points of ingress and egress, and from the dining space to the washrooms, will determine the layout’s overall effectiveness. The industry will see the demand for more open kitchens after the pandemic, as they promote transparency.
Typically, any eatery will seek to maximize seating capacities, optimizing every square foot to simultaneously cater to maximum visitors. “When one tries to accommodate all necessary protocols, I reckon the layout would effectively allow for seating roughly thirty per cent of the capacity that it is meant to serve. Restaurants thus will need to look beyond stopgap solutions to become viable again as businesses and that may very well extend beyond simply their design and layout,” Asha Sairam, Principal, Lotus Studio commented.
Re-thinking outdoor dining
The fall of Covid scare has also made restaurants rethink their outdoor spaces with restaurants expanding their dining options and converting grassy areas, footpaths, and streets to outside dining zones. Outdoor dining may in return become the biggest factor in diners returning to in-person restaurants.
According to Dikshu C. Kukreja, Principal Architect at C P Kukreja Architects, spatial planning too should undergo certain reforms such as socially distanced seating in restaurants, regulating movement in common areas such as lobbies, terraces, washrooms, and use of semi-open seating, gazebos and make-shift pavilions to accommodate individuals travelling in groups.
Porous materials like wood, cardboard, fibres, cotton, and leather seem to be a less stable material for the Covid-19 virus, which lasts only 24 hours on these surfaces. Antibacterial fabrics and finishes, including those that already exist, like copper, should be used.
“Even the use of materials will have to be more innovative, circular, and visionary; from its manufacturing, management, design, execution and recycling. We need to reimagine our restaurants to create more inclusive, conscious, and experimental designs, with a stronger focus on adding a tactile, humane touch to our increasingly digital interactions,” Dhruv Kalra, Principle Architect at I'm D'sign Studio added.
Along with the change of materials, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and backend technology will need to adapt to the changing architecture. Technologically sound restaurants are now imperative for a successful operation.
In all the efforts to create a restaurant space more comforting and reliable for the patrons, one major aspect of sustainability should not be skipped. As Kukreja comments, “In our efforts to retain hygiene and clean environment inside, one must be mindful of the waste generated. Designs should be adept at optimized resource usage, minimised (or net-zero) waste generation and climatologically suitable.”