Restaurant Development & Design

MAR-APR 2018.

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

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M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 • 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 • 3 5 Once Upon a Restaurant E very restaurant tells a story. Its design not only establish- es the setting but it brings guests right inside to experi- ence the owner's chosen narrative in multisensory ways. For designers, getting to the crux of that story to the essence of the owner's vision for the concept is job No. 1. Only then can they begin to weave together design approaches and elements that support and reveal the story in ways that bring it to life and give it meaning. Most are quick to point out that designing to tell a story is distinct from designing to a prescribed theme. We've all seen eatertainment-esque theme res- taurants that create over-the-top, easily replicable iterations of a concept's narra- tive and do so loudly and proudly. But as collective cravings for authenticity and localism grow, so does the need for more subdued and complex approaches to storytelling through design. "Storytelling and theming are very different things," says Dwayne MacEwen, president, creative director and prin- cipal at DMAC Architecture P.C. in Evanston, Ill. "A client may come in with a particular narrative or theme for the story, but if you try to force a narrative onto the design process, it can end up feeling contrived. The story needs to sort of sneak in the back door in the design process so it fits. And the story needs to connect to the place, the culture and the people associated with it. If you're just decorating a space to produce a theme, you end up with a commodity that lacks soul." Subtlety, Layers Add Richness MacEwen, whose team recently designed the third Michael Jordan's Restaurant, opened last summer in Oak Brook, Ill., says the polished-casual concept is a stellar example of one that could easily have swayed toward theming but didn't. Instead, the designers were asked to create a comfortably upscale space that would convey the essence of the legendary Chicago Bulls star without, as MacEwen says, just using a bunch of basketballs and memorabilia. Key storylines centered on using design elements to subtly convey Jordan's finesse, strength and gravity-defying move- ment on the court as well as his dynamic personality and pursuit of excellence. "I definitely had a preconceived notion of Michael from watching him play basketball over the years," MacEwen says. "I also did a lot of research to try to under- stand who he was before basketball and tried to capture that nuance in the design. The challenge was how do we make it an immersive environment and still keep it simple, sophisticated and reveal the story over time? We wanted a design that wasn't sentimental or overt but somehow lets you feel like Michael is in the room." Jordan is in the room, vicariously, through a featured "wall of fame" dis- playing exclusive photos of his career and life. While celebrity photo walls are common in restaurants, this one, which provides separation between the dining room and bar areas, is all about Michael and was inspired by his athletic abilities. "We took the idea that Michael had this almost unearthly ability to defy grav- ity when designing the wall," MacEwen says. "There's actually no wall; the photo frames are the wall. They're suspended from this sort of cage that you see through, and some of the frames even wrap around the corners. Like Michael, they're not limited by the physical space. Most people probably don't get that con- nection, but it's a design solution that's important to the space and that helps to tell the story. And if people do figure it out, they feel smart." Such clues and storylines can be found throughout the restaurant, creat- ing a many-layered storytelling approach. It begins on the exterior with a facade marked by a large red swoop, inspired by the flight path that Jordan famously took on his way up to the net. Chains strung between planters on the outdoor patio are a nod to the chain basketball nets commonly seen in urban neighborhood parks. Decorative screens and a half wall separating the entry area from bar tables subtly evoke basketball skin and ghosted net designs. Custom pendant lights over lounge booths are an abstract ode to basketballs. Softly lit lockers on the back bar wall hold a small selection of memorabilia, visible through net- like mesh doors. Bar walls are clad in salvaged basketball flooring, and large dome lights in the main dining room are another abstract take on basketballs. "Conceptually, the idea for those lights was, 'What would it be like to be inside of a basketball?'" MacEwen says. "It's sort of weird, but we were looking at STORYTELLING BY DESIGN BY DANA TANYERI

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