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What we learned about designing restaurants during this pandemic? Go back to basics.

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

open space alfresco dining with plants

Much has already been said about how the pandemic has changed the way we live: the new normal as they say. In restaurant design, we learn that the way forward is to go back to the basics. We sat down with Arch. Alan Casas, and talked about trends in restaurant design and the industry as a whole this year.

Architect Alan Casas is the Founder and Director of ArchVista Design and Construction. In the last 10 years, he has worked with restaurant, commercial, hospitality, and corporate clients.

Back to Basics: What we have always known

In the last two years, there has been a shift to alfresco in restaurant dining. There was a time when indoor dining was more premium but now outdoor dining has garnered the same level.

The challenge now is how to take the alfresco experience to the next level and create a mood and ambiance fit for the setting. According to Architect Alan, the selection of furniture and lighting are the most important factors in really owning and carving out the space.

Open spaces and alfresco dining, however, are not new. It just reinforces what we have always known before: open spaces are good for people because we need fresh air. Somewhere along the way, we just forgot…even worse, it was not reinforced. The pandemic basically pulled us back to what we already know.

Design for the people

Architect Alan said one of the most important factors in designing restaurants is the concept. What’s the storyline? Where do we want to take guests when they enter the restaurant? When you think of the concept, another basic idea: you think of people first. You put yourself in your customers' shoes and think of how they will experience the place.

A common mistake in design is putting style first. Good design puts people first: people’s ease and comfort.

Design for the community

The pandemic democratized restaurants now that different restaurants are being opened in nearby cities of the metro and in different cities as well. We see different restaurants that can compete with ones in Metro Manila opening up in Antipolo, Pampanga, Marikina, Laguna… the list goes on. It used to be that people would have to go to the city to be able to get a good culinary experience. Now that restaurants are coming to where the people are, they do not have to go so far. Design-wise, this has implications: we have to keep the community in mind. What kind of people are in the community? Are they bikers? Retirees? Restaurants' designs need to cater to the needs of the community around them and have to fit the neighborhood it was built in. A reinforcement of what we already know in restaurant design: people first.

Back to our roots

The trends we see now in restaurant design just reinforce what we already know not just in architecture but also as a people. The traditional Filipino house, the bahay-kubo, actually has all the good design elements: good ventilation, open spaces, comfort for the dwellers, and the fit for the community.

Time and time again, good design puts kapwa first. We need to apply this when we build our homes, our neighborhoods, and our cities. The pandemic did not only teach us to go back to basics, but also to go back to our roots. Here, we find that at the core of each and every one of us is a human being that needs to be looked after and needs to look after another.

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