Restaurant Development & Design

July-August 2017

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

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4 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 • J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 7 FUNCTIONAL BY DESIGN B efore tucking beautiful images of newly designed projects into their portfolios and moving on, perhaps every designer should be required to work a few busy shifts in the restaurants that they've designed. It could be a real learning experience. When functionality and creative design come together, the end result is a beautiful thing. Designers who manage to hit the sweet spot for functionality as well as aesthetics make true magic for clients. That's because no matter how great a restaurant looks, it's how the space actually functions that directly im- pacts operational success, from simple capacity to guest comfort and safety, from FF&E lifecycles to the ability of the staff to provide great food and service smoothly and efficiently. "When you have a real, serious commercial business that has to deal with food in, food out, where do we store everything, how is it loaded in, loaded out, where is it prepped, how do guests get to the restrooms without running into staff loaded down with trays and all of those sorts of things, function absolutely has to be carefully considered," says James Geier, founder and president of 555 International, a Chicago-based de- sign, development and fabrication firm. "It's not just painting a bunch of pretty pictures that your client then ultimately has to make work. Yes, our projects have to be great-looking, but they also have to be functional. We're solving problems and making it easier for the owner to Designer: 555 International Highlights: Space-saving seating, service stations Eight years after opening Gemini Bistro in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, owners Ryan O'Donnell and Pauly Graves felt both the space and the concept were due for a refresh. They brought in James Geier and his team at 555 International to lead the redesign effort and assist with concept reprogramming. That includ- ed dropping Bistro from the name, expanding the bar and reconfiguring seating for better space utilization. It also included giving the formerly dark, traditional restaurant a brighter, more mod- ern aesthetic without sacrificing its comfortable neighborhood vibe. The building's unique shape — somewhat triangular, as it sits on a corner lot flanked by two diagonal streets — made creative space utilization paramount. Seating: "It's a uniquely shaped building, so you can't just fit what you want into some areas," Geier says. "We went around and around on the best approach to seating and settled on a combination of booths and loose table seating in the main dining area." The arrangement includes a cluster in the center of the room, positioned behind the host stand. It's comprised of a U-shaped booth with seating for six flanked by two angled banquettes. To provide some separation between that center cluster of seating and the entry/host stand area, 555 fabricated a cabinetry-style millwork half wall that includes built-in storage recepticles for menus and other hosting materials. While the design works visually and helps to maximize seating capacity, flow was a major consideration. "We had to be very conscious of leaving enough space for traffic in the aisles to the left and right," Geier says. "We did a lot of testing to make sure guests, staff and food could move in and out smoothly once people were seated at those banquettes." Service Stations: Gemini has two designated service stations that aesthetically play off the concept's original bistro roots. The larger of the two (right) is positioned along the back wall of the dining room, near the bar and hallway to the restrooms. "It's beautiful and gives the staff their own area, visible through open shelving to the dining room but out of the way of general guest traffic," Geier says. "The cabinetry has woven wire mesh door inserts, coffered details, and the whole area, upper and lower, features great materials. It could be a butler's pantry in a beautiful home, so you don't mind walking by it, but it's also highly functional and well organized to ensure that staff has easy access to everything they need." A second, smaller service station is positioned in the main dining room along an angled wall. It, too, cleverly marries form and function. "There's an interesting junction point between the angled wall and the flat wall, and it's a point that we knew could be too congested for seating," Geier says. "We felt it was the perfect place for a piece of millwork — not a full service or bus station but a simple, hutch-style piece where servers can pick up water glasses, flatware, napkins or B&B plates right on the floor." Built into that hutch is a center rod that holds a large, bistro-style butcher paper roll that's used for communicating menu specials. "As we thought about what to put there, it seemed an excellent place for that type of messaging op- portunity," Geier says. "It's highly visible, looks great and makes it easy for the chef to change out the specials from day to day." Gemini, Chicago Go to for more on Gemini's design Photos by Erick Leinberg for 555 International Service Station

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