Restaurant Development & Design

WINTER 2014

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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2 0 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • W I N T E R 2 0 1 4 Peer to Peer feel. We do that with the furnishings, décor and music, including live music in the bar that drives energy out into the restaurant. It's still white tablecloth din- ing, but a little more relaxed. Del Frisco's Grille is more casual still. It's smaller — 5,000 to 8,500 square feet — and is designed to offer affordable, everyday upscale dining at multiple dayparts. rd+d: What are some key design elements that set the Grille apart from DFRG's other brands? BM: Two focal points are an exposition kitchen and a large, prominently placed bar. People like to see into the kitchen, to see that activity and it drives energy throughout the restaurant. The concept is also designed to be very social in nature so we have gone mostly with an island-style bar to maximize social gathering and guest interaction. We also try to incorporate elements that create a very warm and com- fortable feel — a lot of natural woods and warm lighting, for instance. And while we like an open, spacious layout, we're very cognizant of acoustics to make sure they're comfortable, as well. rd+d: What new trends are impacting how your team is designing and building restaurants? BM: We're seeing some great advances in LED lights and energy-effcient products. Initially, we didn't embrace LEDs because they were very expensive and we didn't like their color ranges. But they've come a long way and we're embracing them more than ever. We're also using some energy management systems and some of the projects we're doing are LEED certifed. On the design side, we're seeing great strides being made with sophisticated rendering and 3-D modeling. They enable us to improve our decision making and give our team a much better feel for what we're trying to achieve in terms of the look of the restaurant. Ultimately, that means fewer changes out in the feld during construction. Equipping all of our people with tablet computers has also greatly enhanced effciency and accuracy. rd+d: When schedules aren't met, what's usually the cause? BM: Usually it's either permitting or plan related. In many locations building de- partments have been scaled back since the recession and haven't yet staffed back up, so we're seeing lengthier delays in permitting approvals. Another big issue is accuracy of plans. You always want to minimize surprises and do a good job with due diligence, but if we're retroftting a space we often run into un- foreseen conditions. We also sometimes have audibles called by inspectors in the feld that can cause delays. rd+d: Many of your restaurants are conver- sions of historic spaces. Any particularly memorable war stories? BM: Philadelphia Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse tops them all so far. We're in a building that was constructed around 1935 as a bank. It's a split-level: you go up a few steps to enter the main dining room and bar and down to a lower level, which originally housed the vault and safety deposit boxes. There was no way to x-ray the area so we weren't 100 percent clear on what we were getting into as we set out to convert the lower level into pri- vate dining rooms. We had to create three access points for the main room, which is in the old vault. The walls were 24 inches of steel-reinforced concrete sandwiched between 4 inches of solid copper. The idea was that if someone tried to use a cutting torch to break into the vault, the copper would liquefy and deter them. Our GC had to bring in a specialist to come up with a way to cut through and it ended up being considerably more expensive and time- consuming than planned. rd+d: What advice would you offer to some- one seeking to enter this side of the business? BM: Our business is very cyclical and the design and construction process is very collaborative, so having patience, keeping an open mind and maintain- ing a long-term view will serve you well. Also, do your best to align yourself with a company that embraces innovation and growth. That, as much as anything, will yield a rewarding workplace but also some attractive career prospects. + Del Frisco's Restaurant Group's newest concept, and the one it expects to expand with the most this year, is the upscale casual Del Frisco's Grille (left). To maximize the social nature of the concept, the design features an island bar to encourage interac- tion among the patrons.

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