Culinary students and chefs know the importance of following restaurant design trends. These days, as the Internet isolates people, restaurants can encourage human contact.
"Restaurants have gotten louder, more casual and 'communal' as the Internet has become ingrained in our lives," says Michael Bauer, restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. Here are five restaurant design trends helping diners reconnect.
- Open kitchens. The wall between diners and the kitchen has literally come down. Open kitchens make restaurants more noisy and some chefs are uncomfortable always being on view, but many diners welcome the added sense of intimacy an open kitchen offers.
- Counter dining. Even upscale restaurants are adding counter dining — usually facing the open kitchen. People who dine alone often prefer eating at a counter where they can talk to other diners. A counter is also becoming an acceptable place to seat patrons who haven't made a reservation.
- Communal tables. Informal and ethnic restaurants have been using communal tables for years, seating strangers together as Old World inns and taverns do. Michael Bauer says, "Over the holidays, I went to a dinner party at a friend's house who had invited a couple she met at [a communal table]. They had such a good time over dinner, she knew they would fit right in."
- Mirrors. Diners facing the wall are often forced to look at the wall. Adding mirrors can help diners with their back to the room feel included.
- Enhanced lighting. Believe it or not, this lesson can be learned from McDonald's. Irwin S. Kruger removed fluorescent lights and installed softer low-voltage lighting in his six McDonald's units in Manhattan. Kruger says, "It's not uncommon for CEOs to come into our restaurants because of their locations and conduct business as though they were going to a tablecloth restaurant."
Chefs, restaurant owners and culinary students, take note: restaurants can satisfy the need for human companionship as much as they can satisfy the palate.