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All Posts By

Theresa English

Restaurants of the Future: Experience and Technology

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by Theresa English, Principal

February 23, 2022

Restauranteurs and designers are rethinking how they will be designing in the future. Some of the trends you see now started prior to the Pandemic.  Self-ordering, kiosks, and grab and go were a few but some, like AI-assisted ordering, were accelerated by technology developments that happened during the Pandemic.  The typical time frame for technology development was greatly compressed by the need for innovation created by the Pandemic.   The events of the last couple of years are leading the way for these changes. Curbside is here to stay. Drawing people into a physical restaurant becomes more of a challenge.  Combining automation with the dining experience makes a new experience to pull customers away from their couch and the drive-thru.

Creating the experience: Customers want to be entertained. Food prep is one source of great entertainment. My nieces and nephews favorite restaurant was an open kitchen wood-fired pizza place. They would drag chairs over and press their noses against the sneeze guard. When they were watching, instead of pressing the dough into the pan, staff would toss it in the air and the kids would go wild. They were amazing and patient and would answer questions and chat with their audience. That kindness kept us coming back.  Panera announced their “Bakery Theater Experience” earlier this year.  The Krispy Kreme in Times Square includes an amphitheater.  The flagship Starbucks in Chicago includes roasting that patrons can see.  These restaurants create an allure for guests that can keep them coming back.

Automation:  The pandemic has already advanced apps, artificial intelligence, and online ordering, the next innovations will be staff efficiency. The push for increasing food industry wages has been exacerbated by the shortage being seen now.  The staff shortage contributes to the need for efficiency.  Automation is key for the future. Automation development has accelerated and now there are more options for preparing any type of food. Whether it is artisanal coffee or a full meal with sauces and a variety of ingredients. And do not forget the alcohol. One of the benefits of automating alcohol-related services is widening the pool of potential hires because you no longer need staff to be older.  Japan has probably the most extensive existing automation in restaurants, including arcades that are all claw machines for food.  The intrigue of seeing automation at work ties directly into the new experiences restaurants are looking to create.

The combination of curbside and automation makes for a great kitchen theater for those patrons dining in. Curbside makes for more food being prepared which provides more activity during a guest visit. Making the process visible provides something for guests to watch and enjoy.  Adding in automation imbues it with curiosity and allows staff to be more customer-oriented.  The patron experience will continue to expand. Design is the thread that will allow the multiple aspects to be woven together.

Have more questions about the future of the restaurant experience? Ask! Email me at tenglish@tkarch.com

Theresa English, Principal

Resiliency for Cinemas to Rebound and Thrive

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DECEMBER 8, 2020

Resiliency is not a new term for the Cinema Industry.  The industry has faced adversity in the past but economically has always been the Teflon industry.  Cinema has survived TV as noted by Greg Marcus:

“My grandfather, I know one of the ways he built the business after TV came along — so let’s talk about the fact that this industry does endure some significant shocks. And it endures. The keyword being endure. He went around to people who were getting theaters back and said, ‘Look, we’re going to partner. Because it’s going to come back at some level.’ And he was right. So I think there could be opportunities like that as we look forward.”

Greg Marcus

Marcus Theatres CEO Says Biz Endured “Significant Shocks” Before — Q3 Earnings – Deadline

After TV, cinema has survived the rise of VCRs, DVDs, and streaming.  At TK Architects, a nearly 40-year-old firm that has specialized in Cinema, Entertainment, and F&B since its inception, we believe cinema will survive the pandemic and can thrive again.  Building on our expertise, we challenge our architectural and engineering staff to develop dozens of concepts for cinema business post-pandemic.  We have also seen our vendor partners with longer histories than us pivot and provide creative solutions that are helping cinemas (and other industries) meet their immediate needs during the pandemic.  To move beyond surviving and back to thriving the question needs to be what is next for cinemas?

Converting to recliners and elevating food offerings implementation continues to be key improvements for re-inventing the industry.

Examining what is next for cinema is something TK thinks about every year since our creation but in a formalized way for the last 9 years.  Provoking a conversation tailored to a client’s individual needs while thinking about those needs differently is what we strive to accomplish with these concepts.  Sometimes the ideas push the envelope with a dreamer’s surrealism and other times they are perceived as achievable with some additional creativity. One of my favorite activities has been showing them to various clients and hearing their responses.  Clients can visualize them for their own brands.  Deciding the factors that go into the path to resiliency are unique to each location.

Covered speaker concept that was later executed by a client.
Urban outdoor cinema concept.

Right-sizing for new construction and re-demising for renovation are parallel paths that clients have taken and both remain relevant.  Reducing screen count is one approach.  This can provide negotiation options for discussion with the Landlord by giving back space.  Another approach we see as viable is repurposing the extra space for new entertainment uses.  Reuse ideas can include an expanded bar or a kitchen to convert the facility to dine-in.  Bowling, arcade, or trampoline are also repurposing options.

Re-demised cinema that reduced screens from 24 to 14.

Concept for repurposing an auditorium as a bar adjacent to the Lobby.

Repurposing for event cinema, e-sports and gaming or other experiential cinema helps to diversify revenue streams making a location less dependent on Hollywood (or local content as the location may dictate). All of these alternatives can draw audiences to a facility at varied times beyond the prime Friday and Saturday night slots.  Finding the right mix for your facility requires research and testing.

Capitalizing on the information and data that an exhibitor has access to from their loyalty programs can factor into additional amenity research.  As cinemas diversify their offerings, avoiding the struggle cinemas experienced when first managing kitchens for dine-in by adding people knowledgeable in these different areas will help the ventures succeed.  The road to rebounding and thriving will be paved with combinations of the elements mentioned here.  We look forward to helping to steer clients to the road that works for them.

Theresa English