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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3 6 • 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 rd+d: How important is brand authenticity, and how do you defne it? Musco: Brand authenticity is key. Diners want to know more about the companies behind their food, and they want to know if their favorite brands share their values. They also want to receive communication that's clear and not "sales message-y," but rather, more honest and deep. For example, Popeyes recently looked to em- phasize its Louisiana heritage and history. They decided they have an authenticity story to tell and, rather than just trying to be hip, have focused more on that story. Now their growth has been strong in the stock market. Another example is Ben & Jerry's. They felt they weren't communicat- ing their authenticity as best as they could and wanted to communicate that better to their customers. They wanted to connect beyond just the ice cream and reinforce their convictions that they do things the right way. rd+d: Along the lines of brand authentic- ity, what is transparency — and what are consumers looking for? Musco: Transparency is more than just using some cool ads and powerful advertis- ing. In fact, there seems to be a backlash against overly slick marketing. Consum- ers want to know their brands don't have anything to hide. In addition, recent food safety scares have really hit home for the consumer. Brands are fnding they need to use fresher ingredients and show their customers that they are a company consumers can believe in. We did some work with Papa Murphy's, showing they have nothing to hide and bringing more attention to their food quality. Breaking down barriers between consumers and the product is important, and this translates to design. Concepts are more open and airy, and open kitchens create more of an open book atmosphere. Oftentimes, diners will speak directly to a staff person without large barriers like cash registers, and the lines between the front and back of the house are blurring. In fact, we have a new name for it: middle of the house. O'Hare: Everything seems to be all about authenticity, but we're not seeing the huge display kitchens from the '90s. Instead, we're seeing authenticity take shape in the form of staff members work- ing two feet away from customers, who can lean over a short counter and ask what they're doing. It's more about the naturally occurring action of preparing food and less of a "stage." Among inde- pendent restaurants you see this in the form of counter seating set up in front of or alongside an open kitchen. Poole: I agree with Patrick. Many of our independent clients are replacing walls and windows with a more open format where customers could almost reach over and touch a chef on the arm. We have also installed curing cabinets right next to the dining room so guests can see cooks pulling out bacon a few feet away. Setups like these make the dining room feel more interactive. O'Hare: Yes, and for another example, Boudin Bakery in San Francisco has a storefront window with a view into the bakery and speakers where cooks talk to people on the street. Musco: Design defnitely has a direct impact on this authenticity. We coined the term "food forward" with Wendy's because the chain wanted to prove that their food is fresh and made to order, and the best way to prove this is by showing it. You can hang fancy posters about how fresh your food is, but diners really want to see true, honest food prep- aration happening right in front of them. This directly impacts design and how the kitchen is oriented. Hot Dog on a Stick, a mall concept, allows customers to see their staff battering and cooking the dogs right in front of them so they know the food isn't frozen and premade. They also showcase their juicers for fresh lemonade. Domino's also has opened up its kitchens and added more lights in the pizza prep areas so consumers can see their food being made as they order it. In one store, we also moved the line around so that those passing by could see the dough being made fresh through the storefront windows. rd+d: What are some trends in general dining room layout? Poole: People are getting more comfortable with communal tables. While some say communal tables are out, I am actually seeing more clients requesting them. They are a little different than in years past, though. We recently had a client want to tie in communal seating with technology in the form of an iPad bar for customers to sit by themselves and do their own thing, or for small groups to congregate. Lopez-Rubalcava: I agree with Nicole. Chains are asking for those communal areas with an electronic element, such as charging stations or hubs for laptops and tablets. I am seeing this in the form of communal high-top tables as well as in lounge areas, even in fast-food chains. O'Hare: In the fne-dining world, menu trends drive the way dining rooms are laid out. So many restaurants are still using that shared-menu concept that it Our experts: Danielle Lopez-Rubalcava, senior designer/environmental graphic development at JBI Interiors, Long Beach, Calif. Tré Musco, CEO and chief creative offcer at Tesser, San Francisco Patrick O'Hare, vice president of business development at EDG Interior Architecture + Design, San Rafael, Calif. Nicole Poole, project designer at Aria Architects, Chicago

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