The foodservice industry is ever-changing. Chefs and owners are always pushing the envelope, seeking to combine menus, interior decorating, and even performance art to create an unforgettable guest experience. The emergence of the novel coronavirus made this more complicated, but restaurants are doing what they have to in order to still provide for their guests. Here are the seven foodservice design trends to watch in 2022:
1. SHIFTS TO OUTDOOR DINING AND FAST-CASUAL SERVICE.
One of the driving forces behind modern trends in restaurant design is COVID-19. During the initial lockdowns, many eateries pivoted to takeout versus dining in. As it turns out, their customers were only too happy to oblige -- research shows that guests still generally prefer takeout and delivery over dining in. As new variants of the virus emerge, some restaurants have chosen to make a more permanent move toward cultivating a better outdoor dining or fast-casual experience. This helps them emphasize takeout service, while still providing the menu favorites that their guests love. Dining rooms are getting smaller in favor of larger kitchens and outdoor seating areas, and some locations have chosen to forego dining areas entirely and convert to "ghost kitchens."
2. MULTI-BUSINESS BLENDED KITCHENS.
Following the above point, some locations that have significantly pared down their dining rooms are opting to turn into "blended kitchens." These allow multiple businesses to operate out of one building. Larger kitchens mean that two restaurants can serve their guests from a single location. Teaming up also helps smaller restaurants to cut costs by splitting rent and utilities between several partners.
3. COLLABORATIVE DESIGN SERVICES.
Collaborative design is shaping up to be a big trend, especially as more restaurant owners remodel their kitchens to account for lower demand for dine-in facilities. Collaborative foodservice design services like ChefVue give restaurant owners a way to create a functional, beautiful design that works around their menu, concept, and any appliances they may already have. Owners discuss their ideas with the service's team of designers and chefs. They then collaborate in a virtual space, so the owner can see the design process in real-time. If they have any tweaks or suggestions, then the designer can alter the plans right on screen. The end result is that restaurant owners get perfectly tailored designs in an efficient, streamlined fashion.
4. CHANGES IN INTERIOR DESIGN.
All of this isn't to say that restaurants will be eliminating their dining rooms across the board. Of those who still wish to provide a dine-in experience, many are adopting some key interior design features. One is "modern history," which blends comforting historical touchstones (polished wood, luxe fabrics) with a modern twist (clean lines, bright colors). Biophilia is still big, too. The presence of natural materials, live plants, and natural lighting create a sense of health, freshness, and vibrancy.
5. YEAR-ROUND OUTDOOR DINING.
As was mentioned above, many locations are pivoting to emphasize takeout and outdoor dining. Depending on the local climate, this can mean finding ways to keep patios open through rain, cold, and blazing heat. Fixtures like permanent roofs, patio heaters, and mosquito netting help provide diners with a comfortable experience, no matter the weather. Dining pods help guests feel like they're in an intimate seating space, even if they're outside. Outdoor dining areas also have superior ventilation when compared with indoor spaces, which reduces the spread of airborne disease and can help guests feel more comfortable dining in.
6. REDUCED DISTRACTIONS.
In years past, it wasn't uncommon to step into a bar or casual restaurant with multiple televisions. After lockdowns, guests are more likely to seek an in-person connection with the people they're dining with. Televisions and loud music then become more of a distraction than a feature. Noise can also overwhelm the senses, preventing guests from fully appreciating the ambience and food.
Restaurants shifting to a smaller front of house and larger back of house may get rid of televisions simply to keep their now-smaller dining rooms calm and peaceful. Those pivoting to year-round outdoor dining simply may not have a way to set up televisions outside. Even restaurants that aren't decreasing the size of their dining rooms are choosing to reduce distractions in order to help guests fully appreciate their carefully crafted menu and atmosphere.
7. FLEXIBLE SEATING LAYOUTS.
After long periods of not seeing each other, visiting a restaurant can be a special occasion for guests. As a result, restaurants may see an upswing in large parties. Flexible layouts allow them to cater to groups of any size, as well as control the flow of traffic, and efficiently clean and sanitize indoor dining areas. Restaurant design featuring movable tables, seating, and decorative partitions help shrinking dining rooms make the most of their space.
COVID-19 dramatically impacted the restaurant industry. Even once things reopened, everyone's priorities have shifted. More guests want takeout options and outdoor dining, and restaurants are working to accommodate them while still sticking to their original vision. These trends in foodservice design reflect this, with shrinking indoor dining rooms, fewer distractions, a shift toward collaborative design, and the evolution of a new aesthetic.