Restaurant and Cafe Design – What’s Next?

Forecasting the future of the restaurant and cafe industry

Restaurants, cafes, and gastropubs will reopen safely again by following social distancing guidelines under the World Health Organisation (WHO). These establishments have been forced to revamp their business models almost overnight to survive the current situation. The concept of reopening is especially complicated for establishments whose entire existence is based on many people sharing food in a small space. So arguably, the trends most significant in the future of dining are layout and spacing, contactless dining, and food concepts.

Section of our Featherblade project

As you enter…

Door handles and touch-screens will become obsolete

There has been some speculation that public touch-screens or handles could spread the virus. Whether or not they are a hazard, heightened hygiene awareness may cause consumers to be wary of using them in the future. Public spaces will move towards the development of touch-less technology to stop or prevent the transmission of the virus. Expect automated doors and far more opportunities for handwashing and sanitising as you enter.

The Design…

HEYTEA Foshan Nanhai Vanke Store

Certain design elements that are already a standard in healthcare will now apply in restaurants and cafes, such as reducing the number of flat surfaces where germs can sit and installing ventilation systems that allow for removing of potentially contaminated air from any given area.

We will see an embrace for simple lines, strict geometries, and modern materials. There will also be a rejection of using ornamental furniture or detailing that can increase the collection of dangerous microbes.

HEYTEA Foshan Nanhai Vanke Store

Designers will increasingly call on antibacterial fabrics and finishes, including those that already exist – like copper – and those that will inevitably be developed.

As for the issue of ventilation, it’s not so easy to re-engineer every cafe and restaurant’s ventilation system but might be worth considering for future projects.

Christophe Gernigon’s hanging shields

One designer making a run for practical creativity to make safe dining more convincing to customers is Christophe Gernigon’s suspended shields. Like pendant lights, these transparent plexiglass shields surround each person’s upper body. The hanging cones ensure that diners can still see each other and their meals. They are lightweight and easy to clean between sittings.

% Arabica Kiosk, Tokyo

How about using Plexiglas as the main design material for a cafe and not just a mere window installed at the counter, for example, % Arabica’s kiosk in Tokyo.

The Open Space…

While social distancing would seem to be paramount, if (hopefully) temporary, it’s reasonable to think that concerns about future viruses might encourage architects and designers to design with an eye towards open spaces that enable and encourage people to spread out.

Open space that enables and encourage people to spread out

There are still consumer expectations for speed and convenience despite the current events. This will mean increased visibility for drive-thrus and pick-up areas, smaller, more efficient kitchens, and a more customised in-store experience overall.

Pick-up only stores will likely now see a much faster and broader rollout. Restaurants will start to accommodate deliveries and pick-up only customers more efficiently. Enter, the temporary set-up street-side table for meal sales and evolving kiosk designs.

KUBE, Hong Kong

Creator Burger in San Francisco has cleverly created a solution to deliver germ-free burgers.

The chamber protects the inside of the restaurant from the outside air and has a self-sanitizing conveyor surface. Notably, the food order is sealed and packaged twice with a plastic covering.

Importance of plastic food packaging

Speaking of packaging, food will either need to be sealed and packaged or be displayed behind glass instead of being fully exposed.

This method might just be for display purposes only. Mintchi Croissant, São Paulo

Coppa Club, London

Some restaurants and bars are shifting their business models to match the current demand for “shelter in place” eating experiences. The Coppa Club, located at the River Thames in London is an example of how fine-dining meets the current moment with a cool concept and rapid innovation.

The question now is, what comes next. It will not be “business as usual” but instead, a re-think and collective adaptation of what hospitality means. As we adapt to the new normal, could this really be our future for dining in safety?