Restaurant Development & Design

FALL 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 • F A L L 2 0 1 4 For chef David Burke's new restau- rant, David Burke fabrick, in the Archer Hotel New York, Coben created a unique quilt to mount on the ceiling. Composed of remnant fabric pieces sourced from an upholstery shop, the colorful creation jux- taposed against the white ceiling surround- ing it is a conversation piece. It doubles as an acoustic-dampening element. Empellón al Pastor, a bar and tortilleria opened in September 2014 in Manhattan's East Village, features a ceil- ing mural painted by a graffti artist. It may not attract as much attention as the overhead view of the Sistine Chapel, but the Mexican-themed restaurant's ceiling, which features visuals depicting immi- gration, guns, money and other elements makes a strong, unique statement. Red Robin features Americana- themed works of pop art at its 450-plus locations, such as wall murals composed from old 8-track audio or VHS video- tapes. Sometimes, the ceiling is the setting for these features. Budget: The Limiting Factor Designers and owners may enjoy exercis- ing their creative muscles when design- ing interiors, but a project's budget always looms over planning. Certain ele- ments, such as the size and placement of tables, go a long way in determining the site's capacity and directly impact the bottom line. The ceiling design can contribute to the vibe and atmosphere of the establishment, but its return on investment is rarely quantifable. "Is it going to get an extra seat flled?" Dwight asks. Not likely — thus the relative rarity of distinctive ceiling design. With ceilings not usually top of mind during the predesign phase, their costs can catch owners off guard. In addition to the most visible elements, such as drop ceilings and light fxtures, more hidden components, includ- ing HVAC vents, sprinkler heads and acoustic-dampening panels, add costs. These mechanical elements are typically not very attractive. Designers try to fnd ways to hide them or blend them into the rest of the ceiling as best they can. In an open ceiling concept, designers may paint these mechanical elements a bold color to make them stand out. Sometimes, simple concepts make bold aesthetic statements economi- cally. At a Legal Sea Foods location at Reagan National Airport in Washing- ton, D.C., GrizForm employed smoked acrylic panels placed within a brass grid drop ceiling. Typically used as vertical dividing elements, the panels are highly unusual as a ceiling feature and add a distinctive look at a reasonable price. "Using standard things in an unusual way helps to keep the budget down," Dwight says. When unusual objects such as the 50 keg tops at The Freehouse come into play, construction may become complicated. In this case, each keg top weighed about 50 pounds, making installation diffcult. "Getting the kegs to be at the same height and pitch was tricky," Burley says, and that added hours to the construction process. Ongoing maintenance cost consider- ations must also factor into ceiling design. Replacing light bulbs in ceiling fxtures can be time consuming, so using long- lasting LED bulbs is desirable even though the initial costs of the bulbs is higher than alternatives. Flat surfaces in light fxtures and other elements hanging from ceilings tend to collect more dust than others. Red Robin's new interior design takes that into account, swapping conical fxtures for multishaped ones to reduce the need for employees to fetch ladders and spend hours cleaning ceiling items. Codes: Rules Impact Design Yet another consideration is that novelty in ceiling design gives building inspec- tors pause and can complicate permit- ting. At Barbatella in Naples, Fla., Griz- Form attached 1,400 plaster medallions painted bright green to the walls and ceiling. The local fre marshal was used to seeing fat tile ceilings in restaurants, Dwight says, and gave the medallion features extra scrutiny. "He wanted to know how they were hung, whether they would block sprinklers, and had many other questions," Dwight recalls. The main challenge to installing these features, however, was convincing the contractor that the concept would work and to do the considerable amount of labor involved. "It took a bottle of vodka and a lot of pleading," he laughs, but in the end all went well. In the back of the house, health codes pertaining to kitchens limit choice of materials and design of ceilings. They must be easy to keep clean to prevent mold and mildew. As a result, they tend to be "very dumb and generic looking," Dwight says. In establishments with open kitchens, designers typically hide these generic-looking ceilings using drop ceilings with front-facing soffts or metal screens. Indeed, when you look overhead in a restaurant, you see the result of numerous choices and factors that go well beyond visuals. Whether sporting distinctive, attention-getting elements or more conven- tional materials to blend in with the overall interior aesthetic, the design of the ffth wall merits careful scrutiny. + Fifty beer keg tops, some of which are fashioned into light fxtures, adorn the third-foor Volstead Lounge ceiling at The Freehouse in Minneapolis.

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