RDA have unveiled their vision of the restaurant of the future as part of a global industry focus group.
The task force was brought together by leading food services providers, ISS, in an attempt to meet the unprecedented level of challenge facing the food and beverage industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. ISS asked RDA to collaborate after seeing Covid-19 Hygienic Solutions, the brochure of short-term industry solutions the award-winning family business published in May.
The facility, depicted below, is the result of a discussion with industry leaders – including all levels of the workforce, from global operations directors to front line workers – each with a perspective on how the temporary solutions currently in place in many catering operations may need to be adapted for the longer-term.
“Catering outlets of all descriptions and their supply chains have been left reeling from the impact of COVID-19,” said RDA’s Design Director Nick Bradley. “And so when ISS asked us if we’d like to help them imagine what post-coronavirus catering could look like with an initial focus on a workplace setting, we jumped at the opportunity.”
The think tank compiled a dizzying range of service and hygiene solutions, including essential shopping drive-thrus, antivirus paint, hands-free equipment and menu simplification. “The final design serves as a hypothetical ‘look book’ for a number of the proposed ideas rather than a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Nick.
The design includes a smaller regen kitchen to provide more space front-of-house for ease of social distancing, with the assumption that more facilities will rely on off-site central production facilities in line with the already-trending dark kitchen concept.
“Some of the elements you’ll see on this plan are already commonplace, installed largely as quick-fix solutions as we all scrambled to reopen – for example, the array of screening and hand-sanitising stations,” said Nick. “Others are discreet, more visually appealing but more realistically achievable in a full refurb situation or new-build. Currently, service and hygiene systems are being broadcast via garish signs and temporary protective screens, but as time goes on we anticipate that consumers will be happier with more subtle – although no less effective – measures.”
More discreet design details include the chevron-style floor which indicates the direction of flow without the need for floor stickers. The different floor colours, from light, medium to dark wood, indicates three different service routes correlating to different levels of consumer comfort.
“The light flooring indicates an area where customers can interact with staff, choose their food from a servery and pay, while the darkest flooring section is set up with a grab and go offer and a touchscreen honesty payment system. The middle section is effectively a screened-off passageway where customers who have pre-ordered can head straight to their seats or pick up their meal at an agreed time at the service hatch,” explained Nick.
An alternative option is that customers can use the middle route to go straight to a booth and make their order via a touchscreen, or even from their smartphone depending on the restaurant’s POS strategy. “Flexibility and technology were already key considerations in a number of the sectors we work in, but they’re going to become even more important post-coronavirus.”
Ultimately, Nick feels the industry will need to be led by consumers’ varying attitudes and comfort levels. “Our role as designers is to observe and respond to consumers’ behaviour. With coronavirus, this has become even more critical. As time goes on attitudes will undoubtedly change, but we may be dealing with a spectrum of comfort levels for a significant period of time.”
“Despite the difficulties of the last five months, we’ve been encouraged by the collaborative attitude we’ve seen right across the food and beverage sector,” Nick concluded. “We’re all hoping for an industry bounceback, and so it’s been a really positive experience to work on some solutions which will hopefully help us towards that.”
Andy Tester, Food Service Director for ISS, said: “Our priority is to welcome customers back to their workplace restaurants safely. At ISS, we take great pride in creating excellent dining experiences, so have been looking at how we can ensure safety measures are robust, without detracting from the way people enjoy our food. This approach allows us to respond to our customers’ needs – at the moment there’s a huge variation in what people want from their out of home experiences and it’s our role to support those and be agile to change.”