Taking a Bite Out of Today’s Restaurant Experience

Taking a Bite Out of Today’s Restaurant Experience

Taking a Bite Out of Today’s Restaurant Experience 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

When you think of a truly exceptional restaurant experience, what characteristics come to mind? Maybe it’s delicious food, kind and attentive staff, a sense of community, or simply a fun and welcoming atmosphere. Some of these attributes are obvious, but the long-lasting effects of the pandemic have increased our attention in the new world of restaurant experiences.

Kelsey Willmes and Laura Yoder, our very own design co-ops, recently put their thoughts together on today’s restaurant experiences and why the expectations are vastly different than the standard we once knew.

Pandemic Pandemonium – Laura Yoder

Cramped by the solidarity of the pandemic, I’ve had the itch to sit down with loved ones and enjoy my favorite dishes. 2020 was a hard year for that, especially within the restaurant space. I’ve been searching for ways to keep myself occupied in the changed world we live in, and many other consumers can relate. Instead of just “something to do tonight,” a restaurant should be my place to make memories… a place that I want to come back to whenever I need a good time. Post-pandemic foodies, myself included, are ready to rebuild their trust in dining out, but not if they’re met with an uncomfortable experience. It’s nothing for us as consumers to run right back to our quarantine impulse-buy air fryers.

Comfort doesn’t always come with convenience. Some consumers thrive on hometown hero experiences, while others live for fine dining. Everyone craves the feeling of belonging and there is a unique comfort in combining elements of something nostalgic with something sophisticated. I don’t need to have the same experience every time, but there needs to be a sense of familiarity or belonging in these moments. It starts with being welcomed, treated with respect, and an accessible experience where no one is alienated. Inclusive design resonates with people because it puts them first. As a co-op with Chute Gerdeman, I’ve been able to be involved in the entire design process from start to finish. It starts with listening to a client’s real wants and needs, and always ends with a successful, thorough solution. While designing for people, you have to look past what just makes design look good, and focus on how design can make people feel good.

Throughout 2020 consumers filled their time by learning how to cook, leading them to rethink their restaurant budgets. There is a sense of intimacy that cooking offers that just isn’t available in the restaurant experience. If we’re being honest, customer service hasn’t been holding up its end of the bargain either. We live in a new era of brand experience, where custom menu items are not a bonus, rather an expectation. It’s clear that a space where people are respected and the staff is fully present weighs more than the price tag. Simply put, restaurants bring people together and there is no room to build negative experiences around the table.

The Fine Dining Disconnect – Kelsey Willmes

On a recent trip to Chicago, I passed by a restaurant that visually caught my eye. It hit all the trends: green walls, bright neon lights, swings, and everything you could aesthetically imagine for an Instagrammable moment. Curious if I should see it myself, I asked my friend if she had been there. Gently put, she told me her experience was terrible. She had horrible service, mediocre food, and struggled to find positives other than the fact that it looked cute. What is the point of a beautiful restaurant design if it’s not going to give me that well-rounded dining experience I came for in the first place? It may catch your attention on Google when searching “trendy restaurant in Chicago,” or it may get you that Instagram-worthy picture, but it’s all for nothing when you step into a restaurant and receive a subpar experience. In a large city like Chicago, with “trendy” restaurants in every nook and cranny, what’s going to set these restaurants apart from the next? Good service, a comfortable atmosphere, and familiar faces never go out of style.

Right now, fine dining restaurants are struggling with a disconnect between the space, the employee, and the guest. As tech dominates restaurant innovations, it’s been easy for brands to skip over a key experience component – human interaction. During my time with Chute Gerdeman, I’ve worked on projects that truly champion human connections. Each project is more than a pretty environment, but a purposeful position for brands and consumers. Having a role in creating solutions that connect the human desires of the user to the environment has been a rewarding experience for me. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you and many of these restaurants need to get back to the basics.

Retaurant design cannot be clout-driven or defined by the number of likes on social media. All the signs are leading to a massive renaissance of human experience and restaurants just aren’t hitting that mark. All of us are searching for something authentic. We want to feel something. We want to feel like we belong, are safe, and always have a seat at the table.

Craving more restaurant perspectives? Check out our insights article: The New Restaurant of the Future Formula.

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