The future of restaurant design after COVID-19 | Modern restaurant management

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In a post COVID-19 world, restaurant design must evolve and adapt to the new normal. As hospitality design evolves, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems will need to adapt to changing architecture. Additionally, restaurants will experience a significant shift in technology and customer service. In this article, we discuss the evolution of restaurant design due to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight how we need to rethink the consumer footprint to make the restaurant experience more sustainable and build trust among consumers. consumers.

Architectural considerations in HVAC

While no mechanical system can eliminate the spread of viruses like COVID-19, the American Society of Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has made it clear that mechanical systems can help mitigate risks. Good design practices should be the industry standard, but better systems and equipment should be considered. Mechanical systems must be designed to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) of the spaces they serve. Studies have shown that better IAQ reduces the risk of airborne viruses such as COVID-19.

Good mechanical design begins with ventilation, filtration, and a good airflow relationship. All of them help reduce the spread of viruses. Mechanical systems should be designed to encode minimum ventilation rates. However, improved ventilation rates should be considered. Engineers have long known that “dilution is the answer” when it comes to reducing indoor pollutants. In other words, the greater the quantity of outside air, the more the pollutant is diluted in space. Extra care should be taken to ensure that outside air sources have proper clearances to other sources of building exhaust such as grease or toilet exhaust. Airflow in restaurants needs to flow from cleaner sources to dirtier sources – from dining rooms to kitchens, toilets to pickup / delivery spaces and more. In addition to improving ventilation, upgrading air filters with higher Minimum Efficiency Ratio (MERV) 13 filters is a good place to start. Air filters work by filtering out particles to which air pollutants attach themselves. The higher the filtration rate, the cleaner the air delivered to people inside the building.

For restaurateurs who are able to focus on providing an even higher degree of safety for customers, consider replacing the HVAC system with a system that uses 100% outside air for air. backup and 100% evacuation. The energy impact can be minimized through the use of energy recovery devices. Properly designed energy recovery impellers or plate heat exchangers can recover 60-75% of the exhaust air with minimal cross-contamination.

Other considerations include the introduction of an anteroom or restricted confined space for pickup / delivery personnel. In ghost kitchens or for those where delivery / pickup is a significant part of their business, localized exhaust or HEPA filtration in this enclosed area reduces the potential for transmission between people using that space.

Confined and / or crowded areas in restaurants are also a concern. In the toilet, all devices should be contactless and a fully depleted toilet that has full height dividers will provide a more hygienic environment. In both washrooms and near the entrance where people congregate, UV lights from the upper air / ceiling can be a potential consideration.

Future restaurant designs should consider the use of displacement ventilation systems instead of traditional overhead power systems. A traditional HVAC system uses overhead diffusers to deliver conditioned air at a high speed. The system encourages mixing of ambient air with supply air for even temperature distribution. Return air is usually channeled into the plenum above the ceiling to return to the air handling unit. While the system is cost effective and comfortable when designed properly, air mixing does not improve ventilation efficiency. Displacement ventilation systems can improve ventilation efficiency when cooling. In this type of system, the blown air is introduced at ground level at low speed. As the air heats up, it rises and is returned to the air handling unit to be filtered or exhausted out of the building. ASHRAE studies have shown that displacement ventilation systems improve IAQ. IMC recognizes improved ventilation with a 20% reduction in zone air distribution efficiency when cooling.

Rethinking the consumer footprint

Restaurant designs of the future will be influenced by low-contact, high-impact experiences. Brands will need to dramatically reduce the number of physical touchpoints throughout their customer journey. Touch screens will be a thing of the past and built-in technology will work to minimize the angst surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases, but eliminating contacts doesn’t mean the connection will be lost. Low contact intensity solutions can and always should have a positive impact on the overall experience.

Photo credit: Courtesy of KFC SOPAC

There are several ways to successfully achieve these low-impact, high-impact experiences: empowering consumers, embracing technology, rethinking the consumer footprint, and fostering a culture for staff that leads to top-notch service. .

Giving control to consumers through their own mobile devices will be critical to success. From booking in-person meals and take-out pickups to scanning a QR code to access a digital menu, customers should be able to use their mobile devices for every touchpoint in a restaurant. Handing over control to the consumer will help them feel safer and more comfortable.

Adopt different culinary experiences

The consumer’s footprint will be more different than ever. Dining rooms will be smaller and the back of the house will expand to meet increased demand for online orders and third-party pickups. Creative concepts that minimize time spent inside the restaurant will also become more prevalent. Eating outdoors will no longer be a temporary fix to social distancing guidelines, it will become a staple for years to come. Walk-in windows and drive-thru restaurants will also become increasingly popular for all types of dining experiences, from quick service to fine dining.

Technology will save the day in many cases by eliminating the number of surfaces that guests have to touch. Tabletop kiosks, manned POS systems and self-service beverage stations will be re-evaluated with contactless automation in mind.

Finally, the most important element in sustaining these high impact experiences will be the level of service provided. Restaurants will need to revamp their training process, create more robust development and growth programs, and deliver valuable benefits to employees. Focusing on culture and service will have a significant impact on how customers perceive the overall experience. If customers are confident in their service, they will feel more comfortable in the restaurant.

Top Photo Credit: Courtesy of KFC SOPAC


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