Mexico City has earned a reputation for being a food lover’s mecca. So it’s no wonder that the city’s restaurant design has taken an innovative and artistic turn. Fueled by a Mexican cooking renaissance thanks to menu globalization, diners have become privy to creative menu items served in intoxicating environments. These two restaurant designs are as architecturally inspiring as the food they serve.

Connors Steak & Seafood recently opened its fourth location, this one in Franklin, Tenn.

During rd+d’s recent webcast, Designers Dish, Live! (you can hear the whole thing for free here), three seasoned designers shared insights on some of the biggest forces and trends shaping their restaurant projects today. Top among them is the move to create integrative, immersive designs that bring diners closer to the action, that eliminate traditional barriers between front of the house and back of the house.

While many chain restaurants are making moves to bring in Millennial diners, not many recognize the need to start drawing in these younger customers as much as Burton’s Grill.

"Authentic” and “natural” are big buzzwords driving restaurant concepts and design today. Brands attach them to their menus, ingredients, cooking styles and, increasingly, designs. Grace Jeffers, who for the past 20 years has researched, wrote about and lectured on the history of materials, argues that sentimentality for supposedly “real” materials such as wood, stone and leather is often misplaced.

Why is it that we always start on a design with extremely high expectations yet never want to spend the time in the beginning to make sure the outcome meets all those expectations?

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: Restaurant designers are really tired of reclaimed wood, Edison bulbs and rustic, warehouse, industrial chic. If you’re a client or brand chasing that look right now, chances are you’re getting gentle (if not exasperated, eye-rolling) pushback from your design partner. It’s time for fresh ideas and insights, and we’re serving up plenty of both, courtesy of this year’s Designers Dish! panel.