Nearly half (48.45%) of rd+d readers believe dine-in experiences need to feel like an event post-pandemic — and that means designs will not be stripped down or minimalist in nature, according to a survey of qualified subscribers conducted in December 2020.

Some are particularly bullish about the future of restaurant design. 24.84% said that while menu simplification is important right now that won’t be reflected in design going forward — they believe glamorous designs will make a big comeback by the end of 2021. A slightly smaller number were a bit more pessimistic. 20.5% of survey respondents said that restaurant design will reflect the menu simplification trend of 2020 and restaurant design itself will be simplified for both aesthetic and budgetary reasons.

Among those sharing other perspectives, many predicted the splashy return of fine dining with a whole new set of aesthetic trends that hadn’t been seen pre-pandemic. However, one cautioned “this will vary depending on the type of concept.” Another respondent believes “QSRs and fast-casuals will become minimalists… [but] fine dining will still be expected to provide an environment commensurate with the cost.”

Many indicated the menu refinement trend of 2020 will result in be a bit of a split: diners and glamorous settings may come roaring back but “there will be renewed pressure on efficient kitchen design and integration with menu flexibility.” Ultimately, most “designs will need to accommodate multiple experiences in one: dine-in, carryout, curbside and third-party delivery.”

rd+d launched a yearlong research project 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.