Restaurant Development & Design

MAY-JUN 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 Y / J U N E 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 • 4 9 the model bars and equipment. Setting up the space took about a week, while the prototype team performed its walk- through in a single afternoon. The exercise allowed Golden Corral to build a better, more functional res- taurant with its very first store, limiting the number of changes it plans to make to future stores. "If we had to move the bar three feet this way or two feet that way after we had built it, it would have been extremely difficult and expensive to do," says Conklin. "We attribute a lot of where we landed and how happy we are with where we landed to that process. Cardboard and paper and wood is a lot easier to move around than the real thing after it's built." Homey but Efficient The real-world efficiencies of the new restaurant can be seen not just in the buffet and kitchen but in the dining room as well. According to Ruef, the space is designed to be easy to service. This is achieved partly through the use of seating zones. The area, he said, is designed to be filled by guests from right to left, with the zone on the far left serv- ing as a private dining space if needed. By subtly encouraging guests to sit in specific areas, the chain can limit the number of steps staff need to bus tables and refill glasses. Another key efficiency in the dining room is achieved through the creation of a new server station. Located in the middle of the dining area but shielded with millwork, this station is used to store silverware, the soda fountain, and trays and carts for bussing tables. " It's basically a concealed area for the staff to be able to clear tables and not have to go all the way back to the kitchen if they're in the back of the dining room," says Ruef. Efficiency, of course, is only one of the goals of this new prototype. Creating a more welcoming environment is another. Golden Corral's new residential feel starts from the outside. While the previous design emphasized the brand's signature red, the new prototype brings in more natural tones and elements that impart a feeling of warmth. One of the exterior's key features, for instance, is a stacked stone tower that adds a sophisticated element. Highlighted by a yellow LED strip, it also serves as an ideal spot for the chain's signage. The new exterior includes a wooden trellis, which breaks up the building, making it warmer and less boxy, says Conklin. Branded elements include a large painted Golden Corral stamp-style logo and a red awning above residential- style windows. These windows give the space an open and inviting feel from the outside — almost glowing at night, Conklin says — while providing plenty of natural light. When guests enter the restaurant, the Golden Corral customer journey has them join the POS line. While this leads to a transaction, the new design makes it feel less transactional than before. The lighting in this space was warmed up, for example, and residential-style touches were added to the space, such as millwork guides (instead of metal) for the queue. The chain also removed its self- serve beverage machine, adopting a model where servers provide beverages and refills. In addition to offering guests a higher level of service, says Conklin, this change has eliminated visual clutter at the entry and sped up the POS line. The overall layout of the entry and POS system has also changed to provide a more limited view of the restaurant itself, says Ruef. After paying, he says, "You walk into the space, and there's this release or unveiling of the warmth and invitation of the buffet and the seating area." When they enter the restaurant, longtime guests will notice another major layout change: the location of the kitchen and adjacent buffet line. Golden Project Team Project lead: David Conklin, Golden Corral Architect: Ray Thornton, National Restaurant Design Kitchen supplier: Coastal Equipment Interior design: Aaron Ruef, FRCH Design Kitchen design: Juan Martinez, Profitality The chain's new buffet includes island bars, allowing guests to browse their options more easily than the straight line used previously.

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