restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.
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4 8 • 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 • M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 7 DESIGNERS DISH! Polonsky & Morris: Research is crucial. Our approach to design is holistic, and we'd never create a space simply based on personal preferences. A strong design is the result of hours of brand positioning research, a constantly updated knowl- edge of the market's past, evolution and trends, endless dialogue with the client's team and visual documentation. Lam: Agreed. In interior design, research is a day-to-day exercise. We're always looking for the latest and greatest in hotels, restaurants and retail spaces around the world. But we also do a lot of project-specific research. For example, if a client comes to us and wants to open a Peruvian restaurant, we do area and geographic research to see who's out there, what has opened with that cuisine and aesthetic, who goes there, what's the price range, etc. Everything is calculated and data- driven. We also do materials research in terms of what we can source, what's going to be long lasting, trendy but not dated quickly, etc. All of this happens well before we even start designing. Given that we handle projects from concept to completion, the bulk of research we do relates to the branding of the cuisine and the concept because that defines the attitude of the restaurant, and everything else flows from that. How about the role of technology in your own work or in the projects you're designing? Thilenius: We're constantly exploring new ways to use technology to tell our stories. We've been incorporating virtual reality into our client pitches, planning and development. By virtually placing our clients into the proposed design, we're able to map things out, identify and solve problems in advance in ways we never could before. It's an extraordinary tool for communicating design intent early in the process, and it's reshaping the way we document our progress. Lam: At the restaurant level, there's definitely more and more embedded technology, from AV and sound equip- ment to POS and automated lighting systems. It allows for much greater con- trol of the energy and ambience within a space. In most concepts, it won't be in-your-face high-tech but very integrated and experiential. As for the studio, the average age of my staff is probably 30, so they're very tech-savvy in their own world. Within the next couple of months, we're rolling out a new program where we'll be doing more experiential work — 3D, IR, VR. We're not completely infused with it yet, but it's coming. Pope-Westerman: Within our process, we start looking at spaces in 3-D almost instantly. We use Revit and can start walking people through the spaces be- fore we actually start designing them. It helps clients understand the 3-D volume of the space and have a full sensory experience. In the actual spaces, we're seeing parallels to what's going on at retail, with fewer cashier stations and fewer traditional host stands. Clients are also investing a lot in higher-tech order- ing processes and menus. We're working on a fun project right now that includes backlit, illuminated menu booklets. They're dramatic and enable the space overall to be more dimly lit, but they're also flexible as the printed inserts can be easily changed out. So overall, technol- ogy is something that clients have to think about and budget more for at the very beginning of a project because it's so integral. What's your strategy for conveying authen- ticity in design? Polonsky & Morris: We always start our projects with a brand Q&A so that we can fully understand what the client's vision is. To us, that is what an authen- tic design is: something that is true to the owner's dream without trying to be trendy, perfect or expected. Engaging in constant communications and remaining rational and not megalomaniac with the DOUGLAS DEBOER Rebel Design+Group, Marina Del Rey, Calif. How I spend my time: I spend a lot of my time cul- tivating new business, design- ing, and managing creative staff and budgets. When you're the head honcho, everyone looks to you for guidance and to set the tone. One challenge: Aligning client ex- pectations and timelines with their budget. Rarely do the two meet. Inspirational icon: Jay Kimmelman, co-founder of Bridge International. It's a nonprofit that brings high-qual- ity education to low-income families. His innovation and commitment inspires us to pay it forward through volunteering, supporting arts and education organizations, and being active members of the design com- munity for the greater good. Rebel Design+Group recently completed a new pro- totype for Char Pipino, a Latin fusion restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, where dramatic use of color and bold graphics combine to create a unique experience. Photos courtesy of Rebel Design+Group