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 • 5 7 working behind it, the movement, but not necessarily everything that's going on." Putting the kitchen on display in a polished-casual concept meant that the designers had to upgrade the finishes in and around the space, added Williams. In this case, they added oversized por- celain tiles above the pass-thru window, then added LED down lighting, giving the tiles a slight sheen. Surrounding that design element are large beige tiles. Be- hind the cookline is another clay-colored tile, along with a few spaces that use a similar colored fiber-reinforced polymer. The dining area itself has three main sections, a larger space in the center and two smaller spaces on each side. The smaller sections are designed to be more intimate, with wooden ceiling elements lowering the ceiling height to around 10 feet, compared with the 18- foot ceilings in the middle section. Seat- ing in these sections includes booths, banquettes and four-top tables. Like in the bar, the tables throughout the dining room are made of a solid-surface mate- rial. The dining room tables, however, are shaded a bit lighter, helping the food pop a bit more, says Williams. Seating in the main section of the dining area is a mix of rectangular and round booths along with four tops. Dead center in this area is a long server station that holds menus, flatware and sparkling water, along with a floral display. Notably, this server station wasn't designed as a server station. "The intent out of the gate was to have a 16-per- son community table that could hold multiple parties or one large party," says Loftis. "It created a little too much con- gestion in the dining room, so we turned it into a server station." This conversion has helped Fire- birds from both an operations and a branding perspective: It has cut down on the number of steps servers take and allowed the chain to create a sparkling water display that highlights Firebirds' elevated customer experience. Going forward, the chain is intentionally designing a server station in that space, though it will likely be a bit shorter (perhaps allowing for a few more seats) and have an additional level, noted Williams. Value Engineering, Changing for Real Estate This was just one of the changes that has been made to the new prototype in the months since its opening. As with any new restaurant, the design and operations teams have found items that do and don't work, as well as what is and isn't preferred. The lighting package, for instance, is undergoing significant changes as new stores get built. The prototype's dining room includes large hourglass-shaped light fixtures that are being removed at the owner's preference. In addition, the LED track lighting in the space has changed. "The LED is really cold on the lighter tables, so we had to make a lot of adjustments to get LED light to be warmer on those tabletops. That can be done through the use of a lens or by moving to a warmer temperature fixture, going from a 2700 kelvin lamp to a 2500 kelvin lamp," Williams says. Other changes involve the Firebar. The dimensions of the U-shaped bar itself are a bit too large, says Williams, so it will be narrowed to cut down on server steps. More significant, though, are the changes to the bar top. While the charred fir is on point from a brand perspective, it's pre- senting maintenance issues in practice. "The problem with wood is that it moves. It shrinks and contracts, so it pulls apart. No matter how much we have sealed the thing, it keeps moving. That's the nature of wood. We're kind of experimenting to see if we want to move forward with that," says Williams. Then, of course, there is the usual economizing that goes on with any project. In the prototypes, the LED track lighting is hidden in an inverted king truss. While the design team is happy with that element, it's also costly. Going forward, the design- ers will use a straight joist. The height of the interior ceiling may also be lowered slightly from its current level of roughly 18 feet. While the high ceiling creates a grand space, bringing it down will allow for structural changes that lower construc- The colored bottle display carried over from Firebirds' previous design. The bar's beer taps were made more visible in keeping with the chain's desire to offer a more relaxed and approachable atmosphere.

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