Are designers thinking about pandemic concerns and trends when designing restaurants today? A clear majority (62.50%) of restaurant development + design readers surveyed in February said that they are taking pandemic factors and trends — like social distancing and improving/expanding outdoor dining spaces — into account when designing new restaurants. Only 16.07% of survey respondents said they are developing designs as if COVID-19 is behind us and no longer a factor.

The remainder (21.43%) offered a mix of responses with one key theme: flexibility. One participating restaurant design is designing as if COVID-19 was no longer a factor, “but with way more flexibility to accommodate change.” Another designer is “developing designs that meet COVID regulations but that can be easily transitioned into a post-COVID world.”

Accommodating and improving off-premises dining remains a key concern, according to survey respondents. One key change is designers now “incorporate spaces for third-party delivery services” as a standard element, and that takeout has been elevated as “equals comparable to dine-in,” particularly in segments where that previously wasn’t the case. That means more space dedicated to “pickup and delivery orders and the added prep, cook, and hold space.”

Other respondents noted that they are “adding more ventilation” to projects and/or “improving HVAC systems” to require more fresh air.

One respondent noted that “everyone wants everything to go back to normal. This is magical thinking. No owners are seriously looking at the potential long-term effects of the pandemic: fewer people eating in restaurants, stripped down menus and ongoing seating restrictions.”

rd+d launched a yearlong research project in December 2020 that will periodically survey qualified subscribers on the state of restaurant development and design. Each issue in 2021 will feature new data collected from very recent reader surveys.