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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6 2 • 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 Seating W hen developing a restaurant, designers have no shortage of seating options from which to choose. From size to shape to color to materials, the sky seems to virtually be the limit. So how, then, do restaurant development and design professionals choose the right seating op- tions? rd+d asked Tom Ricca, partner at Ricca Newmark Design, to offer his per- spective. In addition to being a longtime designer, Ricca also teaches a course in seating at University of Denver's College of Hospitality. "Basic comfort, durability, aesthet- ics and acoustics and how they relate to the designer's vision are important. It is amazing how much of an impact a chair can have on the acoustics of a room," Ricca says. "The environment has to be in balance with the type of food the customers will receive and the price they will pay. The value equation has to be in line with the experience." Layout matters. "I believe strongly that dining room layout is the frst part of specifying the proper seating," Ricca says. "You have to maximize the revenue of the space, which means you have to get as many seats as you can in a comfortable environment. But you also want every guest to leave with a sense of wellbeing, of having enjoyed the experience. Those are the guests that will come back. We can impact that with design in so many ways. The layout has to organize people in ways so that every seated guest is in a place that's protected and can see what it is you want them to see. That way nobody feels like they are stuck in the corner." As part of the layout, Ricca encourages mixing in a variety of table sizes to help maximize the use of the space. "If your architect simply spreads a bunch of four tops throughout the room, at best you will get 60 percent seat utilization. Only parties of 4 will generate 100 percent utilization. You need a better mix of table size to party size to maximize space utilization." Booths enhance comfort, boost revenues. Ricca points to a Cornell University study that shows anchored seating, which includes tables against the wall, with dividers beside them and booths, generate 14 percent more revenue per person. "People are more comfortable in a protected or anchored seat," he says. "They digest better and feel bet- ter. It's kind of like why we don't put beds against the wall. If you give people the option of a table in the middle of the room or a booth, they will take the booth. That's because subconsciously they feel more protected." Some operators may be reluctant to go with booth seating because they feel it will take up too much space. Ricca disagrees. "Booths actually take up less space because they defne the aisles better and you don't have chairs migrating all over the place," he says. Banquettes represent an interest- ing seating option for many restaurants. A banquette includes bench-style seat- ing along a wall, with tables and chairs in front of it. "A lot of operators favor that because it's pretty fexible and can ebb and fow with your guest counts and party sizes," Ricca says. "They defne aisles well. You can create a nice fow and you can use them a lot of ways. But you can end up with custom- ers pretty close to one another." Beware of fying deuces. Ricca refers to any two-tops in the middle of the room as "fying deuces" and advises designers to avoid them, if possible, because customers tend not to be comfortable in those seat- ing arrangements. That's due in large part to their lack of privacy. "People will turn those tables down. There's a restaurant by my house where there can be an hour wait for other tables and yet they will still turn down that two-top," Ricca says. "Some operators feel they will turn those tables faster because people hate it. But that's not why they are in business. They are in business to maximize the guests' experience." Test for ergonomics. Sometimes restaurants will have tables higher than the chairs. Other times the table is too low or the seats are too far apart. Ricca encourages restaurant operators to enhance their guest's comfort by developing an ergonomically correct seating option — one where all of the components work in concert. The way to do this, he says, is simple: "Get a booth or chair installed and sit in it! It does not take a designer or expert to know whether it is comfortable." Durability and maintenance matter. Several factors come into play when looking at the durability of a booth, according to Ricca. How heavily built is it? If upholstered, will it withstand people sliding across? If it's a hard sur- face, how will that fnish hold up? Can you reach all of the crevices for clean- ing? Sweep underneath it? "Everyone drops food and your staff has to be able to clean it easily," he says. When it comes to chairs, styles that have cross braces and ties for the legs can be more expensive but will likely last longer. "The chair itself is all about the frame," Ricca adds. "There are some expensive and delicate chairs out there that look great but are not suitable for restaurant use because you have a variety of guests coming through." + Consider This

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