Sifting and winnowing through the big, wide world of products to find just the right mix for creating unique and competitive restaurant environments is no small task. And neither is keeping up with the steady stream of new options, enhancements and product technologies hitting the market. rd+d’s Products Guide is here to help.

Front-of-house trends may focus on Instagram and experiential design, but in the end, every successful restaurant experience comes down to the quality of food and the service. And an operator’s odds of scoring high on both of those fronts increases exponentially if the back of house is designed and equipped in ways that empower employees to produce the very best version of every menu item efficiently, consistently and safely.

Selection and installation of effective, efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems is expensive and not exactly sexy compared to other key elements of restaurant design, but it’s among the most critical to get right.

Designer Insights: Jessica Lotner, Senior Interior Designer, The McBride Company

Trending: There’s a lot of outside-the-box, creative thinking when it comes to materials right now and a lot of focus on using found objects and curated collections to create interesting designs and more authentic experiences. I was doing research recently for work on a new Peruvian restaurant and came across a place that just blew my mind.

Bars are definitely having a moment, with programs touting top-tier trends such as craft and culinary cocktails, micro-breweries and distilleries, artisan ice, specialty mixers, wine and cocktails on tap, and countless versions of flavored spirits fueling rapid change. With such dramatic program changes also come dramatic new opportunities — and growing bartender demands — for better, more functional bar designs.

Flooring plays a big role in a restaurant setting. As one interior element that touches every single customer and every staff member, and one that has major implications for aesthetics, acoustics and safety, the selected material must perform well on many levels and do so in high-traffic settings with minimal maintenance.

Designer Insights: Keiko Matsumoto, Senior Designer & Kevin Tyjer, Project Designer, Wilson Associates

Trending: The recent interior design trend divides into two extremes. One is minimalism, which celebrates combinations of vivid colors and patterns with a bold and ornate architectural idea. There’s also an upshot of a very warm and earthy materials palette, with tones of a similar color range (tone on tone).

Designer Insights: Anita Summers, Principal & Lighting Designer, The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry

Trending: Decorative lighting is back in a big way — lots of pendants, repeating ceiling fixtures, floor lamps, sconces and table lamps. Restaurants aren’t as dark and moody as they once were. There’s a trend towards a soft, brighter glow on each table. Everyone wants to look good on Instagram, so it’s brighter but it’s not a bright light from above, it’s individual points of light all over the restaurant.

When the weather is nice, the view is appealing and/or the ambience is just so, restaurants with outdoor dining spaces often find it’s hard to fill seats inside — everyone wants to enjoy the outside experience. With the appeal of dining al fresco growing, smart operators pay more attention to patios, rooftops, sidewalk cafes and terraces and invest dollars and design efforts accordingly.

Yes, Instagram-worthy restrooms are now a thing — but that should come as no surprise. After all, restaurant guests today have a big appetite for recording and sharing images of just about anything that catches their fancy — even if it’s in the loo.

Designer Insights: John Paul Valverde & Miguel Vicens, Partners, Creative Directors, Coeval Studio

The big picture. Too often, when people think of wallcoverings they only think of wallpaper. We think about the category in a bigger way. It might be wallpaper, but it can also be a finish or a material like a veneer, or graphics, or tile, or a custom-printed vinyl that reinforces the brand. You can even find a lot of great natural materials like paper-thin wood that you install like wallpaper.

Unlike many other aspects of a restaurant’s design, doors and windows must be carefully selected with multiple mission-critical functions in mind. First, they have to look good and contribute to the restaurant’s brand messaging and ambience from both inside and out. After all, an entry door provides guests with their first up-close visual and tactile interaction with an operation.

Part art, part science, menu boards and signage serve as important communication tools in a restaurant — QSR and fast-casual operations, in particular.