This fast-casual comfort food concept draws inspiration from autumn in Northern Michigan to meet the needs of its diverse customer base.

Element's entrance greets guests with a taste of what's to come, including repurposed materials such as reclaimed barn wood and original brick walls juxtaposed with contemporary design elements.

Ted's Montana Grill has been awarded LEED Gold certification under the LEED for Interior Design and Construction: Retail rating system for its Alpharetta, Ga., restaurant, which opened in October 2014. This is the chain's first restaurant to be LEED-certified.

When Nathan Andrew of New York-based The Department of Interiors took on the job of converting an existing restaurant and bar space into the comfortably stylish Pounds & Ounces, he and owner Etai Cinader knew a large communal table had to be part of the plan.

Restaurant designers were among the culinary world's glitterati feted at the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards gala, held May 4 in Chicago. Those taking home top awards for outstanding recent restaurant design or renovation projects were Michael Abboud of SOMA Architects in New York, for Workshop Kitchen + Bar (76 seats or over), and James Gorski and Tom Nahabedian of Bureau of Architecture and Design, Chicago, for Brindille (75 seats or under).

Georgia-based fast-casual chicken phenomenon Zaxby’s will get a new look, just in time for its 25th anniversary this year. Operating as a big company with a small-company culture, the primarily franchised concept has seen rapid growth and expansion in the past two decades, but the last two years have been particularly productive.

Glen Coben, Glen & Co. Architecture, New York

La Brea Bakery

What's in, what's out, what's coming up next? And how do you factor in answers to all three of those overarching questions to create relevant, fresh expressions of brands that work not only for today but for a few years down the road? Such are the issues that keep many in the restaurant design and development community up at night. To help provide some insights, rd+d tapped a panel of designers and architects around the country for their takes on the current state of restaurant design, trends they think are past their prime (hint: a certain type of wood and a certain type of bulb lead the list) and what clients can do to help ensure more successful design projects.