How India’s restaurant industry could embrace design-driven solutions to tackle social distancing after coronavirus lockdown-Living News, Firstpost

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With new social distancing standards being implemented, we asked how SKID’s Shweta Kaushik sees restaurants having to change their design and layout to keep diners six feet apart.

In Mumbai, Shweta Kaushik’s restaurant consultancy, SKID, is responsible for some of the city’s best-loved restaurants – from the various outposts of the Middle Eastern restaurant Bayroute to the innovative Indian restaurant of Trésind. Her designs are specific to the mood each restaurant wants to create, whether it’s custom lighting fixtures or making every table Instagram-ready. However, with the implementation of new social distancing norms in the short and medium term, we asked her how she sees restaurants having to change their design and layout to keep diners six feet apart.

How are you preparing for a change in the way restaurants think about their interiors?

There has been a lot of discussion within the hospitality and design industry about what restaurant design would be like after COVID-19. The main focus is on how restaurants can provide a safe environment for their customers.

We have already started seeing footage from Hong Kong, Seoul and China of the measures being taken for diners. We have seen partitions installed between tables and stands, disinfectants at the entrance to restaurants, the spacing between tables has increased and additional measures such as the wearing of masks are taken by staff.

What do you think are some of the changes that will be required in the planning of restaurants and amenities? What design challenges do you foresee?

Hygiene and sanitation will be of utmost importance and there could be a scenario where there could be vestibules for customers to wash and sanitize before entering the restaurant. Other options include hygiene caddies provided at each table with servers wearing gloves and masks, and contactless menus over the phone through apps.

Representative image. PA

While distancing between tables would be the most obvious solution, it’s not a viable model for brands because rents are high and space is scarce. At SKID, we anticipate that open, communal table concepts for restaurants and bars could be abandoned in favor of intimate private seating. Introducing partitions between tables and banquettes that don’t take up much space would be one way to address both concerns in restaurants that can.

Besides the dining room, can you take us into the kitchen and how that might change with the design of the future restaurant? Chefs will also have to maintain social distancing guidelines.

Transparency breeds trust and I see a scenario where open kitchens, live kitchens or open food bars where customers can see their food cooked in hygienic conditions would take priority. However, in a city like Mumbai where rents are high and spaces are small, it is unimaginable to imagine large kitchens where chefs have to maintain social distancing. Therefore, the focus will be on general hygiene, sanitation and temperature checks before chefs report to work. Plus, brands that have built customer trust over the years by serving quality food would likely do better.

You’ve worked on adaptable designs in the past, which sees spaces come together and change as needed. Do you think it will become more relevant?

We have already seen an increase in delivery-based models in restaurants across the city, which is expected in the current scenario. For the next few months, it has been suggested that when the lockdown is lifted, restaurants could start with 30-50% occupancy, as has already started in places like Hong Kong, China and South Korea. In this scenario, the existing kitchens should be sufficient to serve customers and the delivery model.

How will restaurants adapt to the changes needed to keep social distancing standards in place? Is the typical restaurant designed in an adaptable way?

Unfortunately, a typical restaurant is not designed in an adaptable way. Maintaining the highest standard of hygiene will be paramount. Fewer servers per shift will ensure that there are not too many staff in the restaurant, large groups may be discouraged and limitations on the number of people at the table may be exercised.

Eating out was driven by food and hospitality; how do you see restaurants operating in design-driven solutions to be warm without encouraging unnecessary contact?

Today’s crisis is unprecedented, and we feel that until the situation is under control, eating in restaurants will be limited to what is strictly necessary. However, having said that, hospitality plays an important role in restaurant dining and I believe this can still be achieved by staff who care for customers and make them feel safe in the restaurant environment.

The general consensus is that these solutions we are considering taking today are temporary and there is hope that life will return to a vague sense of normalcy, but with better standards of hygiene.

Read also : As India’s restaurant industry eyes post-lockdown reopening, plenty of soul-searching on what it will take to succeed

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