The restaurant industry is far from recession-proof. However, many new restaurants do succeed despite shaky economic conditions. So, what will make this year's newest crop of restaurants successful? For many, it starts with the predesign phase.
From Blue Sky to Bottom Line
It happens all the time: Chefs, investors and restaurateurs partner together, hire a design team and quickly realize that the restaurant is over budget and not at all what they had planned. Waiting until the construction phase to discover differences in design tastes and vision is costly. A thorough vision session will allow you and your design team to reach a consensus, expedite the entire design and construction process and prevent unnecessary fees for redesigns, materials and labor.
The initial design phase is more than aesthetics and big dreams. It's the time when you align your financial resources with your vision, but not in a limiting way. Once your vision and resources are clear, your design team will know where to focus your budget and tackle any design challenges head-on with resourcefulness.
There have never been more affordable alternative design furnishings and materials. A talented design team will be able to create a design that reflects your vision while being respectful of your budget.
Creating Your Vision - A Primer
It's one thing to say your vision is a modern European bistro. It's another to say your inspiration comes from a fireside meal you had in Spain where stone floors, exposed beams and communal seating were paired with minimalist furnishings. In short, you and your design team have to dig deep into your experiences, inspirations, influences and design tastes.
Here are several things to think about:
Determine the Players: It's important to clearly identify who has final say on budget and design style. If you have a landlord, be clear about what he or she is providing. For example, will the landlord provide a fit-up allowance or a grease trap?
Detail the Experience: Don't forget the details. What do you envision for staff attire? What will the table settings and menu design look like? These details give your team an understanding of how comprehensive the design should be and what budgets should include.
Prioritize Goals: Create a list of the top five areas where you would like to spend your budget. This list should be referred to throughout the design process to be sure your high-priority design goals are being met accordingly.
Establish Benchmarks: Whether it's your competition or someone in an unrelated business that you respect for their product or reputation, study the imagery and identity of those designs. Examine how you can integrate those influences into your design.
Manage Expectations: Even if you don't know how much certain things cost, you must know your budget. Set the ceiling and be clear.
Be Specific on the Nonaesthetics: Creating a design vision includes meeting your operational goals. How many seats do you need and what type? Do you plan to extend your restaurant into catering? Defining your vision in-depth may be the most fiscally responsible step you take. A clear vision and design can play a critical role in procuring financing during difficult economic times. Regardless, it will yield a powerful design, while laying the foundation for more cost-saving opportunities down the road.
Lucy Aiken-Johnson, ASID, is a partner with ai3, an Atlanta-based design firm. She can be reached at 404-223-3304 or [email protected].