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

Get the Most Value from Your Renderings: 5 Tips for Clients and Project Teams

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In the year 1415, Filippo Brunelleschi blew Italian Renaissance minds with the formalization of linear perspective.  It became possible to accurately draw a 3d building that had yet to be constructed.  For Architects, this method of 3d rendering worked for almost 600 years with few innovations.  Then came computers…and now our capabilities change daily.

With the right hardware, software, and a talented team, we are able to create immersive animations for the projects we are designing.  We can utilize software to analyze each space and find conflicts.  We even have the ability to hold VR meetings inside of the building that is being designed.  Scan the QR code for a small taste of how we can visualize a space:

Go ahead… Scan me! You know you want to!
(Or click HERE if on mobile)

But how do clients feel about this architectural software arms race? Do you feel like you are getting more value?  As someone who leads a team of designers and works with this technology every day, I can attest, there IS incredible value to be had! However, depending on your specific needs (and budget) there is a point of diminishing returns.  Below are 5 tips to make sure your project squeezes the most value from architectural rendering.

Early rendering for a destination auditorium in a theme park.

There are 3 main reasons we make renderings: Marketing, Testing a Design, and Presentations.  Each has a different focus, time requirement, and final product.  When the client and the architect are clear on purpose, we can tailor our effort.  For example, when a client is penciling out a business plan for a prospective site, we may be asked to develop a simple floorplan and exterior rendering to generate interest and investment.   With this in mind, we craft an exciting image focused on the big picture.   By contrast, a design presentation rendering that is focused on fine-tuning of materials, transitions, lighting, and wayfinding would require much more effort.   The extra effort may have tremendous value in communicating what the final product will be prior to beginning construction documents. 


One way to blow a budget is to over-render (i.e., model more spaces than are necessary).  To make sure our clients get value, we provide a list of views we will develop, then provide initial black/white views to confirm what is shown. Then we focus on creating renderings of those spaces.  So instead of detail-rendering every restroom in a facility, we’ll select a representative room to develop that view and communicate the design.   This targeted approach is part of a bigger design process with checkpoints that we map out with each client.

Restroom Rendering for Design Development Phase.

After years of weeklong rendering queues, we now have the ability to create real-time renderings.  Here’s what this means for our clients: we can get on a Zoom call and give them a photo-realistic tour of the design progress for their building.  These live progress reviews enable quick clarity about design intent and quick feedback.  If both you and the architect are okay with a less formal peek under the hood, this can simplify a weeklong back and forth email loop into a productive hour with clear follow-up.  Time-saved, budget saved, value-added.


Light Level Map.

Turns out, the effort needed to 3d model a design coincides with several other important parts of the project.  Having this level of accuracy and development allows us to also check for conflicts, quantify materials, test light levels, and more.  On their own, these efforts are significant, but once a design is modeled to the point of rendering, these benefits are within much closer reach.


Once you’ve spent the time and effort to develop images that show the experiential quality of a potential space, use it as a team resource.  While these images don’t illuminate the construction methods (nor should they!); can do a lot to get people oriented as they dive into a construction document set, ultimately, saving time and greasing the tracks for efficient communication.

In the world of architecture, we have more capabilities than ever before.  This will only continue to grow.  Make sure you get more benefits by finding an architect who communicates well and seeks to understand your business. (Here comes a bit of self-promotion) At TK, we’ve served entertainment and F&B clients for 40 years.  We’ve seen their businesses grow and change.  We are focused on bringing value at the right time, not just to rendering but to the whole project. 

Curious how we hand-craft our client’s design experience to meet their goals.  Drop me a note! sdragan@tkarch.com

Steven Dragan, Principal

Lessons Learned and the Way Forward in the Wake of the Pandemic

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September 2021 Michael Cummings, Sr. Principal

I was fortunate to participate in an International Cinema Technology Association panel discussion at CinemaCon.  ICTA President Frank Tees served as the moderator and ICTA Vice President (International) Jan Runge interviewed Thomas Van de Weerd, proprietor of the (Any)thing cinema with their first private cinema located in the Netherlands.  I was joined on the panel by creative, passionate, and driven exhibitors Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse, Bobbie Bagby of B&B Theatres, and (via video) Crispin Lilly of Medi-Cinema and former CEO of Everyman Cinema.

The exhibition perspective on lessons learned and the way forward was well represented, and I focused on the design perspective.  Four specific design lessons learned are touchless service, prioritizing cleanliness, importance of ventilation, and the increased role of technology.  Some aspects were going to occur eventually anyway, but the pandemic accelerated their implementation. 

Let us now turn to the fun design stuff

Touchless Lobby and Concessions

The transition to technologically enabled touchless service was occurring before the onset of Covid, but its adaptation was greatly accelerated.  The lobby and concessions envisioned below uses large graphics for visibility throughout the lobby, QR codes coupled with loyalty apps for ordering, and separated pickup conveniently around the corner.  The concession preparation area is enclosed with glass providing customer visibility into the kitchen while maintaining separation, cleanliness and avoiding direct contact between concessionaires and customers. 

What else have we learned from the pandemic? Without diving deeply into exhibition, the business partnership between studios and exhibitors has changed; by necessity during the “closure/lockdown” portion of the pandemic, and new rules on the relationship continue to evolve.  There is no doubt that this new relationship will result in a need for fewer auditoriums.  Movies will be in theatres for shorter periods and there will also likely be fewer exclusive theatrical release titles.  This should incentivize exhibitors to utilize auditoriums (and/or auditorium and lobby space) for other sources of revenue.     Among the diverse revenue-generating concepts are: 

E Sports & Gaming

This is not an arcade but a competitive eSports and/or gaming space.  It can be a competitive coliseum (like the first image) or a more socially oriented space.  Either approach works well with auditorium-sized spaces, as well as for other uses and content.  These fast-growing markets will surely bring new customers to your facilities.


Virtual reality, augmented reality, and/or mixed reality are key components of entertainment.  These gaming focused applications of technology are also “spectator sports’ and should be coupled with a bar and extended food service.  VR/AR/MR have also shown to be an effective medium for storytelling under the direction of skilled filmmakers.  There are exciting developments underway. 

Private Cinema (Flexible use Auditoriums)

Private Cinema rental existed prior to the pandemic but provided a real lifeline to exhibition during it.  What if you designed small auditorium spaces for a variety of uses including traditional private cinema?  They are in essence a private entertainment space that can include first-run feature films, legacy films, subscription service entertainment, sports, music, esports, and other events, meeting space, karaoke, and virtual reality.  The key is designing them to provide multiple uses. 

Adult Lounge

Many cinemas already include bars and expanded food services. What about providing adjacent entertainment options to keep customers there longer. Options include duckpin and mini-bowling, darts, billiards, pickleball, interactive walls, ax throwing, ping pong, foosball, air hockey, yard-zee, chess, Jenga, shuffleboard, cornhole, bocce, and countless others.

Outdoor Space as Revenue Generating

Can the space outside your building also be used to generate revenue?  If you changed your theatre from traditional to recliner seating, you may have more parking spaces than you need. Perhaps part of that space can be converted to revenue generation.  Drive-in theatres were the most common use during the pandemic.  Many people remain more comfortable gathering in outdoor spaces than indoor.  These combine to create a unique opportunity to monetize the parking lot and create a new first impression of your facility for your customers. 

Exhibition will be forever changed by the Pandemic.   It has survived for more than a century because it is resilient and changes with the times.  I believe that we have entered a new period of reinvention, and innovation.  Spurred by entrepreneurial exhibitors like Thomas Van de Weerd, Tim League, Bobbie Bagby-Ford, Crispin Lilly, and others who will be leading the way into the future and the next big things for exhibition. 

Michael Cummings Sr. Principal

To Lease, Own, Build New, Re-use, or Renovate.

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We are experiencing new signs of optimism and forward movement in the construction industry. More companies and financial institutions are undertaking new expansion and development programs, which in turn will increase the forward march of business and a much-needed social rebound.

The timeline to cultural and economic normalcy is still uncertain. Many businesses have been forced to operate on company savings rather than company profits and care must be taken. An important factor businesses are faced with, is, how much financial risk is too much.

There are many cost option considerations that can be explored by forward-thinking businesses.

The first decision is should we own or lease? Once this is established, you need to decide the type of project you are interested in:

There are pros and cons to all of the above, so lets dig a little deeper:


New Build – Developing and building a new facility from the ground up.

Renovate / Retrofit – Upgrade, change, add to an existing facility already in place.

Re-use – To develop an existing space that has been left vacant.

There is no one answer and many options. The web is complex but can be very rewarding to those that take the opportunities.

The items listed offer insight at most into some of the considerations involved in making a decision regarding the development approach. It is empowering and exciting to see the start of a revival in our lives. Long reign those businesses and entrepreneurs willing to step out and take the risks which end up benefiting us all. Investing in the growth of your company will pay off in the long run.

Principal Ian Wilson

TK Architects 40th Aniversary Celebration!

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TK Architects International is celebrating our 40th Anniversary as a firm. We wanted to reflect on our past, celebrate our present, and project our future. We wanted to share it with all the people that have joined us along this journey, including clients, contractors, vendors, friends, and family. As we have grown we have added services, sectors, and diverse international locales. Social media became the platform to bridge distance and a worldwide pandemic. We hope you enjoy the campaign and invite you to share your stories, comments, and memories with us.

Relive the anniversary content with us! Scroll through and see what TKA has been, and IS all about from past to present. Below is all of our anniversary content organized by sector.

Each image below is a playlist. Kick back with some popcorn, and see some History, and meet the people who built TKA. Also, enjoy content from: Cinema, Food & Beverage, and Entertainment!

We hope you will enjoy the content and join us on Facebook and LinkedIn to share some of your favorite moments with us!

Full youtube Playlist HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aZY9hedVAY&list=PLVqK0Gnu_6-gCnl2Zxps8jpDm5y-rXfre


Sr. Principal MIKE CUMMINGS kicks off our INTERVIEW SERIES and talks about how TK Architects got involved in the cinema industry. Follow along in this TKA HISTORY Playlist and hear from a number of our Principals including Jack Muffoletto, Tamra Knapp, Brad Reynolds, and more! This playlist is packed with TKA origin stories, memorandums, challenges, influences, and acquaintances that help to mold TK Architects into the industry-leading company that it is today.
(15 videos)


See where it all started in the CINEMA for TK Architects! Enjoy our story from the outside to the inside and all around. Grab some popcorn and join us down the promenade to the BIG screen!
(10 Videos)


Food and Beverage is not only a stand-alone market sector. It spans across various market sectors as a component of them.  TK has worked on a variety of projects encompassing all ranges of Food and Beverage elements from small kiosks and self-service counters to full-service restaurants.  Having engineering in-house is a particular benefit to the Food and Beverage sector work as F&B equipment is specialized and required focused MEP engineering. When you add our special relationship with equipment vendors, the project work is streamlined for client success.
(5 videos)


The evolution of TK Architects from Cinema to holistic Entertainment Facilities seemed to happen naturally due to the synergy that cinema and other entertainment opportunities bring. Entertainment Facilities offer a large revenue stream from Arcades, Bowling, Mini Golf, VR, AR, and Escape rooms.
(5 Videos)

Thank you for following along with our 40th-anniversary content and us over the years. We had a great time creating the content and hearing some of the stories from the past, from the people who built TKA to be what it is today.

Please follow along on social media as we open a new chapter in TK Architects history!