The restaurant of the future involves privacy, partitions, and sexed-up lighting

Giant teddy bears seated at restaurant table
Photo: Xinhua News Agency (Getty Images)
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It’s pretty clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has forever altered life as we know it. That includes restaurant design—at least, according to a recent article from ADPRO, Architectural Digest’s industry publication for architects and designers. The article features several well-known restaurant designers who explain the ways the COVID age will impact restaurant design for years to come.


The ADPRO article focuses on a few things: namely, how designers will “create spaces that accommodate social distancing requirements while bringing back the delight and romance of the dining experience.” First and foremost, that means privacy. It looks like restaurants aren’t likely to return to what the article describes as the “elbow-to-elbow charm of a buzzing, tightly packed dining room,” at least for now. “We’ll be designing restaurants where privacy is key, so that small groups can gather in intimate spaces, well distanced from others,” designer Patricia Urquiola said, explaining that designers are using furniture, greenery, and lighting to create a cocoon of sorts.

That also means continuing to creatively utilize outdoor spaces, like the greenhouses and huts of the COVID age. (Think pocket gardens, tented parking lots, and designed pavilions, all with “lounge furnishings, accessories, and even art.”) Finally, designers are getting creative with barriers, ditching the safety plexiglass in favor of “comforting extensions of the brand” like partitions and screening and playing up dim, sexy lighting to enhance coziness and intimacy.

Curious about how post-COVID dining might look? Ready to leap feet-first into the cocooned booths of tomorrow? Check out the full article here.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.



These designers are either high, or not familiar with the restaurant business. The elbow to elbow thing, communal tables etc didn’t just happen. Once upon a time private rooms, booths, separated bar areas (often multiple small ones) were the norm in restaurants.

Still survive in certain old school spots.

Restaurants, especially in the US, are laid out the way they are the maximize capacity and traffic. It’s a business with incredibly tight margins and overall capacity has a massive impact on ability to stay in business.

That’s not going to change because of COVID. These ideas all eat spacing. Many of them won’t work outside of very large restaurants. Chiefly chains and those associated with hotels and resorts, or those is wealthier areas in a more expensive market segments.

Capacity reductions, the expense of dividers and what have are already cutting the guts out of most restaurants. If they were paying rent and other bills currently, or running their full staffing levels. Most of the restaurants around you would have gone under all ready.

We’ve sort of forgotten how hard pressed the industry is, since it hasn’t come to a head just yet. Without support it’s gonna be a god damned massacre when those bills come due.

I think the only prediction amid all this nonsense that holds any water is increases in outdoor dining. The necessity of doing that has shown a lot of municipalities how easy and beneficial it is to work it in without disrupting anything. But that was always a desirable thing. People seek it out, many restaurants were already looking to include it. And a lot of the ones I work with simply got an easier approval for something they had been waiting on approvals for.

Even from a public health standpoint. The idea that we will just keep quarantining (which is what we're doing here) just in case. Is bizarre. Especially given that we never really committed to the idea in the first place.