Restaurant Development & Design

July-August 2015

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 5 • 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 • 4 7 Wheelchai Welcoe Wheelchair-bound guests have particular challenges navigating and being comfort- able in many restaurants. For example, most restaurants have a bar either for waiting guests or for drinking clientele. But wheelchair-bound guests typically miss out on being able to enjoy the convivial atmosphere at the bar because they're too high, says Thilenius. He has overcome this at a restaurant at an as-yet unnamed hotel on Walnut Street in Chattanooga, Tenn., which has a very long, 50-seat bar. He designed it so about half the bar is high-top seating, but at a curved section the bar drops into a 48-inch wide, wheelchair-accessi- ble communal table. "Not only is it accessible, it breaks up the bar by offering a variety of seating options," Thilenius says. "It's an integral part of the experience — the bartender can engage the table and bar while serv- ing both." Brent Bueche, president and owner of BBI Architects in Baton Rouge, La., notes that communal tables also typically fail to take wheelchair-bound guests into consideration. Often fanked by single long benches, communal tables force wheel- chair-bound guests to sit conspicuously, and often uncomfortably in the way of servers and other guests, at the ends of the table. Bueche suggests a simple solution of breaking up communal table benches or using freestanding chairs, enabling a wheelchair user to pull up mid-table. Floors can present an even bigger obstacle in restaurants for wheelchair- bound guests and those with diffculty walking. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and falls are respon- sible for the majority of general industry accidents. Together they cause 15 percent of all accidental deaths, which puts them in second place behind car accidents as a cause of deaths in this country. "Slippery foors and one-step transitions in restaurants are the biggest tripping hazards of all times," Thile- nius says. "Sometimes single steps are unavoidable. If that's the case, I try to O n July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Since then, restaurant designers have been following the ADA to make sure anyone, no matter what their special needs may be, can access the dining establishments of their choice. But the challenge is in thinking beyond the basic mandates of the ADA to create seamless design, and to go that extra step to make people with special needs feel taken care of — ideally without them knowing it's been done deliberately. "Restaurants are becoming darker and louder and more confusing," says Jackson Thilenius, senior design director for PULSE by Gettys, The Gettys Group, Chicago, whose designs include Orms- by's, a neighborhood restaurant in Atlanta, and Elevage, a mid-scale restaurant in Tampa, Fla. Often, as operators chase younger consum- ers with trendy, Millennial-friendly designs, they and the designers who work on their projects lose sight of the need to tune in to consumer groups who may fnd such environments less than welcoming.

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