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M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 7 • 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 • 7 3 in pony kegs at the bar itself and run through underground lines. "That ended up giving us these cool towers with one on the top of the bar and the other hang- ing from the ceiling," says Smith. Operating in a Construction Zone One of the biggest challenges of this project, though, was self-imposed. Instead of shutting down during con- struction, the restaurant stayed open throughout the entire project. The reason was simple: This location is one of the top performers in the entire Tony Roma's system; the company didn't want to lose its revenue, even for a few months. What's more, by staying open, the restaurant didn't risk being forgotten by regular customers or concierges at nearby hotels. At the start of the project, the contractor built a demising wall that split the operation in two. Construction then began on the left side of the restau- rant, which included the patio and new indoor/outdoor bar. The right side of the restaurant, with the legacy bar still up and running, stayed operational with limited hours. A noise ordinance in the area forbids construction between midnight and 7 a.m., normally prime hours for this sort of project. That meant contractors had to work from 7 a.m. to about 3 p.m. Dinner service began at 5 p.m. Once the left side of the restaurant was completed, service shifted to that area. To make this possible, the contrac- tors moved the demising wall a foot to- ward the already complete section, then put up additional walls to create a cor- ridor to the restrooms. The demising wall was removed entirely in the last days of the project, allowing the construction team to complete the final finishes. According to Smith, the entire process was challenging. At times, the restaurant just didn't have everything it needed to take care of its guests. For the most part, customers were forgiv- ing. They did, after all, walk into the operation knowing it was a construction zone. The most significant pushback, though, came during the restroom remodel. "When you take people down to a smaller bathroom footprint, you're get- ting into their creature comforts. That's always a challenge." Back to Ribs With the new Tony Roma's open for several months now, the chain's focus is rolling out the new design system-wide. As existing stores are up for renovation and new stores are built, this will be the design they follow. Of course, some elements will vary by location. The patio may grow or shrink based on available space. Depending on what the market can support, the number of private dining rooms will also likely change. A restaurant in a smaller city without a large convention business may not need three private dining areas, Culley says. The exact specifications for each store, however, don't matter as much as the overall approach. According to Rogers, this new design works because it applies the spirit of the original concept to a modern restaurant environment. "We want to be true to who we are. I think that's something we have lost touch with in the last 10 years," he says. "This transforms the physical environment, but it also gets us back to who we are. We've gotten back to being a fun brand and innovating around what we're known for, and that's ribs." + The private dining areas can connect to the main dining room through windows and open doors, while carpeting dampens noise when doors are closed for a function. Project Team Project lead: Brad Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer Architect & interior design: Interplan LLC