Though the coronavirus outbreak has shattered a large number of businesses, restaurants have been notably hard-hit. Earlier in the pandemic, many dining establishments were forced to limit their offerings to takeout and delivery only. Even now, one year later, many are still operating under strict regulations where they're forced to limit indoor dining capacity to just a fraction of their normal load.
All of this is taking a toll on restaurants. But on a positive note, it's also forcing restaurant designers to think more creatively. In fact, in the wake of the pandemic, restaurants could begin to look very different. Here are six changes that may be in store.
1. Indoor setups that allow for better distancing
Even high-end restaurants have a tendency to pack diners in with close-by tables, with little passing room in between. Going forward, restaurant tables are likely to be more spread out, and features like lighting and greenery will be used to delineate separate spaces.
2. More robust outdoor setups
Outdoor dining has saved a lot of restaurants in the course of the pandemic. New eateries will likely feature generous outdoor spaces, with features that allow them to stay open even during the colder months of the year.
3. Partitions over plexiglass
Providing physical barriers between tables has been important from a social distancing perspective, and while plexiglass has been getting the job done, it's hardly pleasing from an aesthetic standpoint. As new restaurant designs emerge, we're likely to see more artistic partitions, which lend to a dining room's ambiance rather than detract from it.
4. Separate waiting areas for customers
Even once things improve on the pandemic front, some restaurant patrons may be hesitant to return to indoor dining, conducting themselves with caution upon entering an indoor space. For this reason, future restaurants may employ separate waiting areas for customers, with takeout on one side and a separate spot for those whose tables are being prepared.
5. Spaces that convert easily
In some parts of the country, outdoor dining only works so well during the winter months. That's why new restaurants will likely feature spaces that can easily transition from indoor to outdoor setups and vice versa using retractable doors and other structural innovations.
6. A farewell to communal tables
Many newer restaurants have made a point to feature communal dining, as facilitated by large tables hosting several dozen strangers who can get to know each other over a meal. Going forward, it's likely booths and smaller tables will make a comeback until the idea of breaking bread with strangers becomes more palatable.
The Millionacres bottom line
As things evolve on the coronavirus front, restaurants will need to follow suit in order to thrive. The good news is that design innovation could be just the thing to save existing restaurants and set the stage for profitability among new ventures. That's good for the commercial landlords who rely on existing restaurants for rental revenue and for those with vacancies that a host of newly designed dining establishments can fill.