Cover story R estaurants may never look the same again. As designers navigate a landscape changed forever by a worldwide pandemic, we look at how social distancing translates into restaurant design. One lasting design legacy of COVID-19 will be a rise in escapist restaurant interiors, predicts a white paper by ROAR's Pallavi Dean. The design studio's trend report worked with 170 industry professionals and a focus group of nine experts to map the landscape of restaurant design after the height of the pandemic. Intended to help restaurant designers (and owners picking up the tab for fit-out) spot the difference between a short-term fad and a long-term trend, the white paper includes predictions that the pandemic will accelerate many restaurant design trends that were already in motion. These include increased automation through robots and apps; demand for greater originality and escapism in design concepts, the decline of buffets and sharing concepts and pressure on landlords to ease rents. Although some considerations are purely aesthetic - a desire for "slightly surreal" and escapist design is predicted - a mandated need for social distancing protocols means the appearance of dining out has to look different. Firas Alsahin, design director and cofounder at 4Space, says his firm has been exploring adaptable and portable designs that enable organically safe spaces for restaurant interiors, giving them additional and transformable spaces that can adapt to social distancing. He says: "Let's face it: we really do not know how this crisis will play out, and therefore the implications to restaurant design remain just as uncertain. "As such, the impact on restaurant design will remain a moving target for the foreseeable future. "To successfully navigate such a future, designers will need to take a transformational approach, one that embraces the spirit of continuous improvement and evolution, as the market evolves into the new normal. Pre-Covid, it was recommended that restaurants give Per Se is one of Tihany's design screen concepts 18 commercialinteriordesign.com July 2020
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