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 9 designers would like them to be but darker paint or tiles on the walls can help "shrink" the space, Bueche says. From there, he says he plays tricks with the lighting, the color scheme and patterns on the foor "so it can seem that it was intended to be that way and not for special needs." Designers should also consider rest- room sinks. Trough sinks may be in vogue but most are poorly designed for acces- sibility, Thilenius adds. "If a trough sink is part of a design, I try to make certain there is plenty of deck space for people to put personal effects down without getting them wet. Depending on the location, it can be benefcial to include a lower shelf or cubby as part of the sink front. Purse hooks and hangers near the sink are also very useful for people who require a tem- porary place to put a cane, jacket, medical bag or toiletry pouch." Trough sinks can also be very chal- lenging for the visually impaired, he notes, since these people often use individual sinks (both recessed and surface mounted) to help orient themselves with the faucet. Senio Moents The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the elderly population will double by 2050, which will equate to 83.7 million people aged 65 and over in this country. "Not only is the elderly population growing dramatically, but we're living longer and have a desire to be relevant lon- ger," Thilenius says. "If we don't design for this group of people, we're missing a huge opportunity of people who want to eat out and have the disposable income to do so." Sound can become perhaps the biggest deterrent when elderly people pick a restaurant. It's not just the music, but also the general clatter and chatter of a restaurant with not enough sound- absorbing materials. Table orientation in relation to wait stations and kitchen access is a big factor in controlling noise. "Designing these with appropriate shielding, either through walls or screens, can dramatical- ly help sound levels," Thilenius suggests. Sound absorption materials can help, too. Absorption panels have come a long way, Thilenius says. Designers can choose from customizable options with multiple texture and printing options. Vendors can make the sound absorption panels look like hanging works of art or incorporate them into light fxtures. Dropping the ceilings represents another sound-quelling approach, says Josh Zinder, principal of Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design in Princeton, N.J. He often places acoustical panels on the higher ceiling, and has made an additional lower ceiling level be more decorative. "The idea is that when you light the space your eye catches that lower ceiling but your body still feels it's in that larger space," he says. "We've also sometimes painted the space above it blue so it feels like the sky." For the sound of the music itself, cer- tain options give diners some control since so many devices incorporate Bluetooth technology, and designers can choose from a seemingly endless array of speaker options. "These can be cleverly integrated into a table, or even the table setting and there are companies that can customize a Bluetooth speaker into most anything you can think of. So it isn't diffcult to imagine that even a chandelier could have built-in speakers that guests or servers can control from the table," Thilenius says. Each speaker, he adds, can have a preset volume but each table of guests can adjust their volume to what suits them personally. In terms of lighting and better enabling guests who are older or visually impaired the ability to comfortably read menus, Davis has a simple solution: Put a dimmer on the light above each table, he says. It's an inexpensive feature and it also means staff can crank the lights up for cleaning. For lighting to be both useful and warm, Michael Davis, principal, Michael Davis Architects in New York City, strives to always have more than one source of light, which distributes it more evenly. "If you have sconces on the wall, or a table lamp [in addition to ceiling lights], all these dif- ferent sources work together. And it helps if these are on dimmers and can offer a brighter scenario in the case of special needs guests." A restaurant's choice of chairs, too, makes a big difference in the dining experience for seniors. "You have to consider the weight of chairs; they can't be too heavy for an elderly person to pull out and slide back in," says Thilenius. And make sure the table's not too fimsy, he adds, since seniors will often use it for support to sit or stand. A good seating arrangement for older diners is high-back booths, says Bueche, because they help obstruct sounds from other tables. However, lower backed seats can be better for support for older people, he says. "They can use the backs of the booth as a balancing point." Chairs with backs and arms also make things easier for elderly people, he says, and if restaurants go the extra step and have cushions available or built into the chair, it can provide additional sup- port for those who need it. Color is also an important consider- ation for seniors, Kwan explains. Contrasts between the table top and the chair make it easier for people to see where to sit and how to get into that position. In fact, using contrasting colors for the chair, table, placemat and foor is ideal, he adds, because they aid with depth perception. As for otherwise disabled guests, bathrooms can be tricky territory for seniors, too. "We always put extra seats in [the] bathroom so people can rest," Kwan says, and he always uses contrast- ing colors here, as well. "We fnd dark colors make it diffcult for the elderly to have depth perception so we have a lot of contrast and the room is very light— both from colors and the light itself." In general, these designers say, incorporating such simple and low-cost strategies that help make seniors and oth- ers with special needs feel welcome, safe and comfortable, isn't done enough in the industry. Demographic trends, however, increasingly suggest that it should be. Comfortable guests, after all, are far more likely to be loyal, proftable guests. +

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