Foodservice design consultant Jim Webb, principal of Webb Design, shares his thoughts on the top trends or movements in kitchen and hospitality design for 2010 and beyond. Ideas such as sustainability and multi-use spaces have been relevant for some time, but many foodservice operators are just now starting to implement them.
Multi-Use Spaces and Mixed-Dining
“We’re seeing more restaurants and c-stores bring in a marketplace-like setting, where customers may eat amongst food displays and the like,” Webb says. A lot of these spaces take on a European-market feel, with pretty displays of fresh vegetables and fruits, gourmet retail products, and prepared take-home meals. “Fine dining seems to be mixing with a sophisticated convenience store set-up,” Webb says. For example, many upscale restaurants across the country also have a retail section where customers can pick up bottles of wine, espresso drinks, gourmet chocolates, cheeses, and grab and go foods from the restaurant. These restaurants and stores are also sometimes linked or flow into bar and lounge areas to create a multi-use space within one location.
“Social media is huge right now,” Jim Webb says. That includes Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and sharing photos on flickr and similar sites. “Conceptually, it’s really fun for a restaurant buy into a social media program,” Webb says. That’s because these tools help restaurants forge stronger connections with their customer base and keep them informed about chef specials, menu changes, pairing dinners, and other events and activities. This is especially the case with younger generation diners who are quickly becoming the majority group of patrons out there. In many cases, these diners will be in the restaurant and be able to read the restaurant’s “tweets” via their mobile phone device, and perhaps the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi. “It goes back to the building of a community, similar to the mixed-use spaces or communal tables.”
Communal Tables and “Togetherness”
A trend that seemed to catch on a little over a year ago, this dining style has continued to remain popular, especially among urban restaurants with younger, outgoing diners. In cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York, long beer-hall-style tables where customers can meet each other or dine together in large groups seem to be popping up more and more.
Doing More with Less Space and Labor
As many chains have downgraded their physical size, including introducing smaller-model prototypes like kiosks and express units that fit into non-traditional venues like airports and colleges, other independent restaurants are focusing on creating more efficiencies in their kitchen to save on energy and labor costs. “Part of this is purchasing equipment that has multiple uses or tasks, such as combi-ovens,” Webb says. Also, rapid-cook and conveyor ovens can meet multiple cooking needs within one space.
Sustainable Food and Growing
No, the sustainable food movement hasn’t gone away folks, and it is likely here to stay. But sustainability is a trend on many levels. This includes the ongoing Farm to Fork movement: serving foods that are grown or raised on sustainable farms and ranches; using natural products without additives or chemicals; foods that cooked and presented naturally. In addition, according to Webb, more foodservice operators are creating on-site herb and edible gardens within restaurants or in adjacent spaces, such as on rooftops. These gardens are becoming more important to restaurants looking to not only cut costs on deliveries, but to market themselves as sustainable entities and serve their guests the freshest foods they get (or produce themselves, in this case).
Recycling, composting, sending off fryer oil to biodiesel plants - operators are beginning to become more conscious about what happens to the food products after they’re consumed or cooked in the kitchen. More vendors now than in years past are capable of composting both pre- and post-consumer food waste, and a number of companies now help restaurants safely store their fryer oil to be picked up for biodiesel transformation.
“Kitchens use five percent more energy than any other business,” Webb says. As a result, energy-saving equipment and supplies, thankfully, are becoming almost commonplace. From large-scale equipment benchmarked to save energy, such as refrigerators, to smaller supplies like LED lighting and aerators, specifiers have a wide-range to help their end-user customers choose from when it comes to energy-efficiency.
As with energy-saving equipment water-saving equipment also “have both quick and high return on investments,” Webb says. The price of water rapidly increased, especially on the West Coast. This will continue to be a factor for operators throughout the country. Operators would be wise to invest now in water-saving equipment that can save their businesses thousands of dollars during the next 5 to 10 years.
LEED Building Design
“LEED is very active right now in foodservice, with the adoption of LEED for Retail,” Webb says. Now that the U.S. Green Building Council has made LEED building design more accessible for restaurants and foodservice operators, and as more foodservice consultants earn accreditation as LEED professionals, manufactures are finding more drive to produce and promote energy- and water-saving equipment. In addition, the use of green roofs and recycled material for construction and interior decoration also continues to grow in popularity. “Younger customers are more aware of LEED now than even the operator in some cases,” Webb says. “It’s important that the operator wants to or is merchandising sustainability to its customers.”
Alternative/Renewable Energy Sourcing
Alterative, or renewable energy sources help deter us from exhausting our supply of resources like coal and natural gas. These renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and hydroponic power also burn more efficiently and do less damage on the environment. Many major energy companies now offer businesses the opportunity to section off a portion of their energy credits to renewable energy, to further promote the cause of such alterative forms of power. With increasing numbers of businesses portioning their credits in this way, it could lead to the development of more wind farms, solar power panels and other alternative energy tools.