What effect might social distancing have on the experience of fine dining? We set about creating a restaurant concept to explore that question. One that takes as its starting point, the constraints of keeping customers apart.

The first important idea is to change the existing mindset around these restrictions. A great restaurant doesn’t let other health and safety requirements have a negative impact on customer experience, so why should this be any different?

If approached creatively, the requirements for physical distancing could be used to reinforce a genuine sense of caring hospitality. After all, you are doing it in order to look after people. Also, given that private dining has been increasing in popularity, the enhanced separation could be used as a way to create a more unique, special experience for guests.

The restaurant concept is called Alone Together and this is its story:

“As the warm light of dawn breaks and we step tentatively out of enforced hibernation, it feels like the world may have changed. Perhaps just for now (although we can’t be sure) we need to keep our distance from other people. One thing is certain though, we are social creatures and have missed our physical connection with others. We need to be Alone, but want to be Together.”

 Plan

  • There are separate entrance and exits, both of which are generous, revolving doors to adequately keep guests apart and reinforce a sense of specialness akin to a 5 star hotel.
  • Air filtration equipment linked to the HVAC system is installed throughout (which remove viruses from the air).
  • On entering, the generous lobby area includes hand washing stations for guests to use, plus space to have their temperature checked, if necessary, before heading through to the restaurant.
  • A glass wall runs the length of the kitchen so that standards of hygiene are clearly visible. This takes the open kitchen idea to its logical extreme.
  • The delivery orders are served via a separate entrance with a waiting lobby for delivery drivers to avoid them mixing with customers and staff.
  • Circulation spaces are generous and multiple routes around the space are possible.

 Overview

  • The main dining space sees well spaced tables combined with translucent curtains to provide reassurance and peace of mind.
  • Toilet cubicles are individual, self contained pods that keep people apart whilst creating a very Instagrammable experience. Doors, taps, soap and hand driers are all automatic to minimise points of contact.

Bar

  • The items that customers touch e.g. door handles, table tops etc. are copper. Viruses have been shown to live for much shorter times on copper than stainless steel.
  • At the bar, framed glass screens are used to separate customers and staff from each other with a small band of open space just above the bar top to allow for interaction.

     Dining

  • If taking coats, bags etc, these are taken to a separate cloakroom and will be disinfected for the guest before they leave. Coats and bags are brought to the table when guests leave to avoid any unnecessary congregation.
  • Tables are only served by a single member of staff throughout their visit.
  • Food and drink are brought to the table on a beautiful trolley. Guests can choose to take the food themselves or to move away from the table as their food is served.
  • Wine is left next to the table for guests to top up themselves.

Brand experience

  • The staff uniform includes tailored gloves and a face mask that feel part of the brand DNA as well as being functional.
  • Menus are delivered through an app on the guest’s phone or as a back up option, printed on disposable paper to then be immediately recycled. Payment is also taken through the app or via contactless card machines. No cash is accepted, including for tips.
  • As there are fewer guests to be served, a fine dining takeaway service is offered, including a beautifully boxed meal, access to the restaurant’s music playlist and a virtual chef’s table. This chef’s table is set behind glass in the restaurant and linked to a webcam to allow for live streaming of cooking demonstrations. Guests that order delivery are granted access for 1 hour, so they have the opportunity to engage with the restaurant and give live feedback or ask questions.
  • Alone Together invests heavily in developing an enhanced digital relationship through social media, a dedicated app and email comms pre and post visit, including a detailed explanation of how the experience will be tailored to them. Naturally, all guests are contacted after their visit to gain feedback on their experience.
  • To maximise revenue streams the brand has many different ways that it can offer additional customer experiences including:

a) Delivery

b) Click and collect

c) Cook at home meal kits

d) Ingredients to buy

e) Online cooking demonstrations

f) In home private dining experiences

So that’s it, a fine dining experience designed to be special, even in the face of social distancing. If you are looking for more general thoughts on what changes a fine dining restaurant may need to make in the face of social distancing measures, please take a look at this article here.

You can also download a pdf presentation of this concept here

Finally, if you have any questions feel free to get in touch with david@objectspaceplace.com

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