The COVID pandemic has laid adverse effects on the hospitality sector of society. Restaurants, cafeterias, hotels were forced to shut their doors for customers. Though some restaurants kept their delivery and take-away services intact, the interiors of the restaurants were unused. This scenario made the owners face a financial crisis; therefore, new strategies for restaurants’ design are the need of the hour. The spaces should be concerning laws protecting occupants’ health, safety, and welfare in a built environment.
Re-thinking Outdoor Seating
The coronavirus is less infectious in the open air. In the current times, restaurant design does not incorporate spaces outside the restaurants. A connection between the indoor and outdoor will help in the future. Outdoor seatings should be designed as there is lesser human interaction and fresh air circulates in the space. Restaurants will have to involve spaces in the open air, and they should be expandable and contractible conveniently.
Researchers have found out that the spread of the virus is easily possible through air conditioning. Therefore, the interiors should also have strategies for natural ventilation and should not depend on artificial ventilation only. There should be provision for continuous flow of natural air inside the restaurants for a healthy space. The primary focus is to build a safe environment inside the built environment.
Variable Seating Arrangement
Flexibility in the movement of tables will help in accommodating large groups of people without much change in the overall furniture placement. The table should be 6feet apart to allow social distancing. One likely measure to keep the social distancing norm followed is incorporating mannequins and stuffed animals. It is recommended that high tops and bars would be difficult to adapt and should be phased out as the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed, and a high risk of contamination of exchange zones will exist.
Booths can be placed close to each other to cater to an increased number of people, but high barrier walls should be placed in-between them to prevent the exchange of air-borne diseases. The barrier walls should provide safety and privacy, and should not be drilled for installation; it should be convenient to remove and add anytime. Also, the number of entries should be reduced as the count of people inside the space at a particular point in time should be maintained.
Kitchen and Food
The concept of open kitchens will be phased out because it is difficult to keep food safe in an open environment with the existence of air-borne diseases. Also, the vertical circulation service cores should be away from the kitchen areas as the footfall in these spaces is more.
The take-away facility is encouraged as there is least interaction in this program. The pickup point should have enough space for the cars to wait for their order and the “order here” space should be designed carefully. The take-away facility should not overlap the check-in areas- they should be distinct. In all the efforts to create a restaurant design, one must be conscious about the waste generated and dispose or recycle it efficiently. Designs should be optimized to use resources and minimize waste generation.
Adequate sanitization booths should be installed for people to sanitize themselves. The flooring and walls should have tiles that are easily cleanable or have anti-bacterial surfaces. Porcelain is bleach-cleanable, and the copper floor is anti-bacterial. Surface materials should be virus-resistant and chosen carefully, as they will be cleaned and sanitized regularly, and no damage should happen to them. “High touch” spots like doorknobs, entry gates, etc., should be mapped in plans, and they should be sanitized frequently.
Customers and authorities will have high expectations from restaurant cleanliness once the pandemic has passed; thus, building a well-built strategy for a clean and healthy environment now will lay a strong foundation for clean restaurants design in the future.
The concept of “touchless bathrooms” will be emphasized. Motion sensors, foot-pulls on doors, and hand dryers will be imperative in restaurant design. The industry had already considered these aspects of a bathroom, but now it will become mandatory. Bathrooms should have large spaces to accommodate a group of users and allow them to conveniently distance themselves from each other.
The toilets should be placed away from the dining area and distinguished through a buffer zone to minimize traffic in the eating spaces.
In conclusion, the new strategies proposed here should be followed to their best. However, the designers should be mindful that the coronavirus pandemic will end one day, and there will be leverage in designing the restaurants. Too expensive changes should be avoided, and an alternative strategy should be cleverly devised. Restaurant’s designs face new challenges but, a minute and careful attention to detail will help solve their crisis in these gloomy hours.