Driving the Right Impact in Restaurant Design

Driving the Right Impact in Restaurant Design

Driving the Right Impact in Restaurant Design 1440 850 Chute Gerdeman

Restaurant designs continue to dominate the market with upscale interiors and enhanced menus to meet diners’ ever-increasing expectations. How do you balance the “form” that consumers demand with the “function” that restaurateurs require to enable consistent delivery of the brand promise? After all, a restaurant concept that has an upgraded décor that can deliver a higher experience for the customers, can still fall short if the functional side of the design is not facilitating the employees’ ability to deliver an enhanced product and service experience. Similarly, a new functional design, one that delivers better customer service and product quality experience, can likewise fall short of fulfilling the customers’ hospitality expectations, if the retail environment does not provide a positive customer journey.

The Form and Function Conflict

Form and function, at times conflicting areas, can be integrated to deliver an optimum prototype design for the brand that delivers a higher level of profits and customer hospitality. What we have to do is to balance out the form aspect of design – which is the customer journey, what the customer feels and touches – with the function aspect, which is the employee’s journey, the equipment they have and the processes they have to follow.

One of the factors contributing to a form and function conflict is the increasing consumer demand for transparency in the dining experience, especially with today’s younger generation. If you look at a key element to many fast-casual concepts it’s a much more open kitchen, what we call the middle of the house, which didn’t exist years ago.

Now we’re even finding ourselves challenged to expose the back of the house. There used to be a kind of seal between the front and back of the house, and you could do anything you wanted to from an operational standpoint in the back. You could be as efficient as possible; no one knew and no one could see, and what went on back there was all about the business and operations.

Understanding the Equation

Working on the Checkers and Domino’s prototypes, we had to discover how to create successful, new designs that delivered on both sides of the equation, providing an enhanced customer journey and team member journey.

At Domino’s, a key part of the challenge was fusing the front and back of the house. With a newly proposed layout we had to understand how that would effect efficiencies. We had to evaluate if the preparation table should face the customers in order to give them a better view; or should it be positioned against the wall, which is more efficient but has the employee’s back to customers. We put it facing the customer because it was important to bring the art and skill of pizza-making front and center to create the Pizza Theater, a new focus for the brand.

We gave up some efficiency, but added additional elements throughout the journey to offset additional time. A new electronic Pizza Tracker was incorporated so that customers can track their orders, and comfortable seating and tables were added to provide a place to sit and wait, or dine-in.

With Checkers, the mission was to maintain the iconic form that loyal customers love while improving function. Speed of service for both drive-through customers and walk-up customers was bad. The experience needed refinement.

Though the brand is known for their double drive-through lanes, optimal efficiency could be reached with one. We had to find a way to maintain the brand, which meant keeping both canopies. By keeping the second canopy a more pleasurable outdoor dining experience was created. The order window was more prominently featured, and the ordering process was enhanced with the menu boards positioned inside the window to help reduce visual clutter on the exterior.

Removing the second drive-through window not only helped streamline production and attract walk-up business, but helped bring the average building cost down from $850,000 to $650,000.

Form and function can be integrated to deliver an optimum experience, but the entire equation needs to be evaluated from both the perspective of the customer journey and employee journey.

Juan Martinez, Principal & Founder of Profitality

Juan Martinez, a 31-year foodservice veteran, is Principal & Founder of Profitality, a consulting organization that helps multi-unit chain accounts and foodservice brands optimize their investment to support brand growth. Profitality’s consultants have worked with nearly 100 foodservice brands, applying the principles of Ergonomics, Industrial Engineering, and Operations Research to undertake the development of labor management systems, as well as facility and concept designs, resulting in higher unit profitability by reducing capital and operating costs, while increasing sales throughput capacities. A licensed Professional Engineer, Juan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech, and a Masters Degree and PhD in Engineering and Ergonomics from the University of Miami.

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