Designing Your Own Restaurant

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We've all had one. A hair in the soup. A churlish waitress. A lengthy wait. However, despite the blunders, restaurants continue to woo us back. What is it about that cake-in-the-name restaurant with its warm yellow walls and comfy booths? Or that French café with its long wooden community table? There's something about a restaurant that keeps us coming back for more — and I'm not talking about the food. Whether it be mood, lighting, or overall design, restaurants serve as our safe-havens, our romantic get-aways, our let-your-hair-down-and-chill pads. They feel like home or, conversely, as far from it as possible. But either way, we love them.

Since the 12th century, restaurants have been providing food and ambiance for diners. Hangzhou, China, was the city believed to have started the craze. With a population of over one million people and a culture of "hospitality and a paper currency," Hangzhou was "ripe for the development of restaurants," says Wikipedia.org. But possibly the oldest restaurant to date began in 1153 AD in Kaifeng, China. Remarkably, the restaurant, Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House, still serves meals today.

The word restaurant, however, did not arrive until the 16th century. Derived from the French word restaurer, to restore, "the term restaurant…referred specifically to a rich, highly flavored soup… [and] was first applied to an eating establishment in around 1765 founded by a Parisian soup-seller." Finally, in 1794, Boston saw the opening of the first U.S. restaurant, Jullien's Restarator.



Today, there are a myriad of steps that go into designing your own restaurant. Not just the menu, but the overall design elements, seating areas, lighting, sound system, tableware, service stations, and security systems need to be considered when creating a restaurant worthy of return visits. So read the following, get designing, and make it one we love.

Overall Design

Formal? Informal? Thematic? Raucous? Romantic? Choose your setting and your design will follow. Formal conjures up images of white table clothes, dark wooden floors, and crown molding, while informal conjures sawdust-covered floors. There are also numerous themes to choose from. Go Greek or Italian. Try a diner or a "rock 'n' roll" café.

Or choose your design based on your menu. Italian? Create a romantic atmosphere with stucco walls and frescos. Seafood? Decorate with roughed-up wood like you'd find from a sea boat. Add nets and life preservers to the walls.

However, be cautious — keep your design practical and comfortable for customers. The last thing you want for your Italian restaurant is for diners to sit inside gondolas, floating on individual ponds. Pretty in concept. But not quite in actuality.

Seating Areas

Once again, your seating areas must be comfortable. But being creative can follow next. Again, focus on the style of your restaurant. Would sleek booths add class or contradict with your finger food menu? How about tall tables with stools? Benches that could seat 30?

What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create? If it's cozy, try small alcoves where diners can feel separated from the crowds. An atmosphere of community could include a "communal table," which, according to French café Le Pain Quotidien, "welcomes everybody, allowing everyone to relax and enjoy the unique atmosphere."

Lighting

Like in any artwork, lighting sets tone and mood. Steer away from fluorescent lights if you're setting a romantic mood. Instead, try low hung chandeliers with a candle on the table. However, even with romantic atmospheres, light that's too dim can cause diners to have trouble identifying their food.

Sound System

"Make sure the music matches the vibe of your restaurant," says an article on About.com. If you're designing a small night club, try incorporating live jazz. This will not only be your music, but it will also add a festive, vibrant atmosphere. Just be aware of your space. If it's small, make sure the music isn't deafening. Customers should still be able to talk to the person they've come with.

Also try CDs with compilations from jazz music (for cafés) to rock music (pubs) to pop (diners). Jukeboxes make for perfect soundtracks at any diner.

Tableware

"In today's competitive market a successful foodservice operation distinguishes itself from the crowd by giving guests a memorable experience from the moment they walk through the door. Dinnerware plays an important role in creating this experience and customized dinnerware makes a unique statement on the table. Whether a simply elegant logo or a complex design that integrates decorative elements of the room into the décor of the dinnerware, Fortessa excels at custom work. We take a project seamlessly from a design concept to a beautiful execution," says Fortessa.com.

Service Stations

Don't forget about your servers. Be sure to set up easily accessible and organized stations for them to plug in orders and ring up bills. The more efficient these stations are, the faster your servers can get their work done, and the happier your customers will be.

Security Systems

And like your mother always said, "safety first!" About.com says, "Invest in a thorough security system and limit the amount of people who can access your code."

According to Navco.com:

Without the right security, restaurants can get eaten up with losses from employee theft and frivolous litigation. It doesn't need to happen. NAVCO specializes in cost-effective solutions for the food service industry that:
  • Reduce risk
  • Limit liability
  • Control access
  • Deter theft
  • Protect your bottom line

On the net:Parkway grill
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Café 322
www.cafe322.com

Joe's Crab Shack
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