Restaurant Development & Design

MAY-JUN 2018

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5 0 • 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 • M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 8 GOLDEN CORRAL FEELS LIKE HOME Corral's previous design placed these on a side wall, running the entire length of the restaurant. This approach presented some challenges for the customer. Ex- pecting guests to walk the entire length of the restaurant to see their options is a big ask, Conklin says. In addition, the layout exposed many seats to the noise and commotion of the line and kitchen — a direct collision with the goal of cre- ating a more open, relaxed environment. In the redesigned space, the kitchen/ buffet has been moved to a corner of the restaurant; instead of a straight line, it is L-shaped, with three island bars sitting in the middle of the area. Locating the buf- fet in this more concentrated space allows guests to wander a bit and see all their options while also limiting the number of nearby seats impacted by the activity. The space was also calmed by changes made to the kitchen. While the previous design had the kitchen wide open, now much of it sits behind a wall. Customers are given curated views into just a few select spaces, such as the grill, carving station and cake-decorating station, allowing the chain to highlight the work it puts into its food while keep- ing the messier, noisier aspects of a professional kitchen hidden. The overall look and feel of the kitchen/ buffet has changed as well, going from an industrial feel to a more residen- tial design. The islands are wooden with paint and laminate, while the tops are a bright solid surface. The stations along the line have tiled back walls and over- head wall coverings with a wooden look. Once guests have their food, they move into the dining area, where they have plenty of choices for seating, including booths with vinyl upholstery and laminate four-, six- and eight-tops. In addition, the seats are broken up with various dividers, helping create more intimate zones in a large space. The decor in the dining area in- cludes artwork that stresses food qual- ity and the effort that Golden Corral puts into its cooking as well as small plants that someone might have on a kitchen windowsill. The new prototype hits the residen- tial theme head-on with the new dining room's centerpiece: a two-sided gas-fired fireplace. This piece is clad in stone and includes a mantle where the chain places small branded art pieces and a few small manageable potted plants. The fireplace, says Conklin, has proven popular with guests, and nearby seats are typically the first to fill up. " Few things are as inviting as a fire — the idea of gathering around the hearth," he says. Minimal Adjustments, Value Engineering With the new prototype in operation for just a few months, the chain is still kick- ing the tires on the new design, Conklin says. So far, though, Golden Corral has only found a few adjustments that need to be made thanks to the exercise with the full-scale model. The company is in the value engi- neering phase of the project, looking for roughly equivalent materials and finishes (such as a panelized faux stacked stone for the exterior tower) to lower build costs. Overall, though, the chain is pleased with the new look. More impor- tant, customers are responding well, especially at the first prototype location. Their response, the chain hopes, will be echoed as more new stores are rolled out, according to Conklin. "Guests walk into this restaurant, and they just stop," he says. "This was a teardown replace- ment. The customers were used to the old design. To see them walk through the door and be in awe — it's just fun." + Snapshot Headquarters: 5151 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, N.C. Concept owner: Privately owned Concept: Family buffet Segment: Family dining/midscale Location: National brand with locations in 41 states Units: 489 Opened: 20 units in 2017 Size: Approximately 10,000 square feet Real estate: Freestanding, in-line, endcap Design highlights: Exterior: oversized windows, stacked stone towers, red awnings and a wood trellis. Inte- rior: warm, homey feeling; hearth and home environment. More spacious seating, quieter dining room, fire- place, wood-tone ceilings, oversized windows. More efficient kitchen layout and food bar design. Build-out time: 120-150 days Guest seating includes a room that can be closed off to serve as a private dining room.

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