What is new for restaurants?
It is hard to imagine that it has been a year since most of us have been able to experience a normal night out to share a meal with friends, colleagues, or someone special. Across the country, restaurants that were able to survive have begun opening for in-house dining but there is something about being outside or surrounded by plexiglass that is not the same.
It’s a good thing that we rise from the pandemic even more cautious of good hygiene especially in food services. But it is another when we think about the ambiance and experience that we hope to have when visiting our favorite restaurant. The big question for restaurant owners, architects and designers is how to create a space that delivers a great experience without sacrificing safety for people.
Technology will play a big role in tomorrow’s eateries. The world relies more and more on smart devices to do work for us and it seems that everything can be controlled in the palm of your hands. Thanks to Masahiro Hara (credited for inventing QR codes), digital menus are already a thing and paired with digital payment systems, these technologies will further facilitate a touchless ecosystem throughout the industry. That’s especially good for those establishments that have adapted to curbside pickup and partnered with third party delivery services. But what about the experience during a dine-in meal? Technology will play a part in that too but designing a space that can function with technology is critical in making that a reality.
There is no common blueprint but moving forward, it will be a matter of making people feel safe and that will start with designing in flexibility. Both outside and inside dining should start with flexible seating and tables that allow for easy reconfigurations to accommodate variations in party size while providing more privacy and separation between groups to raise their level of comfort. New furniture designs will be essential in creating an ambiance that speaks to the quality of the restaurant which comes down to selecting appropriate materials and tastefully integrating dividers that will make the plexiglass sneeze guards a thing of the past. The new normal will be one of more intimacy, privacy and security that can be created with more modular furniture that can easily be reconfigured. Adding convenience can be done by designing in a new hardware solutions that can transform a table for example. From complex dual axis torque hinges and soft closing folding brackets that allow tables to change in purpose to standoffs and panel mounting systems that can tastefully protect patrons, exploring available products during the design phase is recommended. Even for products as simple as undermount hooks should be researched to provide a safe way to store a purse or bag without having to sacrifice form for function.
Outside dining we believe is here to stay but we expect to see a change as the landscape shifts from popup tents to one that uses greenery, well designed walls and pods to create separation amongst guests. As outside dining continues, materials must be selected to withstand the elements protecting tables and chairs from corrosion. Stainless steel, a material common in the industry will continue to be a top choice as it is long lasting, resists corrosion and is easy to clean. Similar to the reconfigurable interiors, outside seating and accommodations will also need to be flexible. Hardware products such as panel clips provide a solution to easily mount panels, artwork and the like providing even more flexibility with design and even furniture. Adding to the flexibility, many equipment manufacturers are increasing their production of portable of stainless steel modular serving stations and bars to accommodate changing needs in an outdoor environment. We have seen demand increase for products ranging from sealed magnetic catches, latches, locks and casters that are being used to produce more of these products.
We have already seen many establishments move away form the Host Podium and more are relying on technologies to greet, welcome and seat guests. But something new that is being talked about is transparency in food prep. What better way to raise the experience level than for some of the tossing, cooking and serving to be done right in front of guests. Think about mobile food cooking stations that have versatility and can accommodate small or large crowds. Designing these spaces smart with the right products and materials can improve efficiency and enhance the quality of the guests’ experience. This could be anything from a stainless steel retractable bracket that can add counter space when needed or a swivel torque hinge for use in mobile kiosks for a quick and easy check out between employee and customer.
Even the back of the house is seeing changes with the need for innovative warm and cold storage as well as easy cleaning materials which are arguably more important now than just a year ago. What has changed is the stress that this new normal puts on overhead for most establishments. Cooking equipment and stations we anticipate will become more modular and most owners will be looking for value in the equipment they invest in. As many establishments struggle to return after 2020, price will of course be important but the value that a long lasting, optimal performing piece of equipment provides will be the underlying factor of a smart investment. NSF certified products ranging from stainless steel waste lids that can be easily cleaned, locks, catches and latches are starting to grow in sales as manufactures look to develop high value leading products. Even cabinet designs in the back of the house continue to use stainless steel handles because of their durability and longer life span.
With that being said, technology could play an even bigger role at the back of the house. Cobots or Collaborative Robots are relied on in a wide range of industries and have proven to provide a high return on investment. With the ability to essentially do the work for a person, which cuts down the number of people required to run a business and make automation easier than ever. We imagine that many will reinvent how food is prepared, served and consumed and inquiries for high precision hardware used in robotics will increase. This demand we see increasing even more as Cloud and Ghost kitchens, small kitchens used for takeout and delivery only, continue to increase due to the want to eat at home instead of out in a large public restaurant. This cuts down costs on restaurant spending and property expenses. We are already working with clients to develop food warming and cooling locker stations which are starting to increase beyond fast food to higher-end restaurants that have begun to cater to that “pick-up” clientele.
Looking further into the future, third party services are beginning to look for innovative ways to even deliver food. Prototypes in Japan of delivery robots are in market and whether packages or food, the concept is essentially the same. Industrial casters, stainless steel drawer slides for storage, and small stainless steel catches can be used in creating these robots to improve automation. On the simpler side, more cold and warm storage units are being developed to integrate in vehicles to service food delivery.
The bottom line? The food services industry is evolving with everyone from restaurant owners and designers to equipment manufactures and product engineers, looking for the best way to create solutions for tomorrow. With so many options out there, finding hardware components that help to connect and facilitate the required functions for these new ideas is a daunting task. Sugatsune has a team of experts that can help you find the right solution and has a team of engineers that can design and customized products to fit your unique applications. Best of all, the company has a comprehensive line-up of NSF certified component hardware that can be safely used in these applications. It is Sugatsune’s mission to help people create the future and for an industry that will rely on change for survival, developing unique, convenient and safe solutions are essential.
Be sure to follow us on social media to see new ideas in the restaurant industry as they develop and find out more about the type of applications it is being used in. Also, don’t forget to contact your Regional Account Manager or our Inside Sales team at (800) 562-5267 for more information. CAD files and detailed specification for our products are available at www.sugatsune.com so please be sure to visit!