Beyond COVID-19: How the pandemic will shape restaurant design

As the pandemic continues, there is a change in how we live our lives in all aspects. It is commonly referred to as the “new-normal”.  With this restaurant/bar concept we focus on a rooftop design, as outdoor spaces are proven to be safer in preventing virus spread. Could this be the “new-normal” in restaurant design?

Floorplan of restaurant

RESTAURANT / BAR

This floor plan depicts our Room-within-a-Room™ philosophy, which is critical today, not only for social distancing but for the security and safety of the guests and staff. As you walk through the space, you can see the fiancée meeting the parents of the bride for the first time; a group of guys getting together in a room to play games and watch sports; the book club that meets every month; family gatherings; the couple out for a date; the single business travelers wanting a drink while catching up on emails and the happy bar fly wanting to socialize with others.

Rendering of bar with rectangular counter in centre of the space with hanging storage overhead.

The bar limits direct contact between the bartender and patron with a deeper counter surface and a conveyor system behind Plexiglas. When the drink arrives at the allocated seat, the small glass panel will retract into the bar and redeploy once the drink is safely in the hands of the thirsty customer. To separate the bar guests, there is a glass divider panel between each grouping of two people. The dividers can be lowered to allow groups of three to four to sit together. In addition, the glass will be digitally interactive where menu items can be ordered, and where weather, sports and the latest news can be viewed. 

Throughout the restaurant, individual booths give off a sense of being ensconced in a comfortable cocoon with full wall surrounds, a Hepa filter cleaning the air inside. These booths are popular as they add privacy and an air of exclusivity.

The Room-within-a-Room™ concept works well as the world slowly transitions to the “new normal”. It offers customers the comfort and security needed to enjoy a night or day out from isolation. Also it provides instant recognition by the guest that these individual spaces distance them from other guests, making it feel safe to enter. To top it off, it has multiple unique pockets of interest that creates a fun roof top bar drawing people to this hot spot.

Beyond COVID-19: The future of hotels?

The COVID-19 pandemic has people feeling insecure about their surroundings and their connection to nature is more important than ever. It’s a well-known fact that the virus spreads less in open spaces and that nature brings a sense of peace, serenity, and security. Our post-pandemic hotel takes an old 70s & 80’s atrium lobby converted into a modern biophilic space.

The repurposed atrium space easily allows for social distancing and immediately transports the guest into a sense of well-being through the biophilic environment. The impression of an indoor park psychologically conveys the message of distancing as people understand organic spaces. Meandering curves meaningfully direct the guest through tall bamboo trees that stretch to the sunlight and fresh air from the operable skylights. Water features further promote the sense of nature and serenity and add sound masking through fountains and running water.

Sketch of a post pandemic hotel space.

The multi-purpose reception desk has an interactive transparent glass screen that can be used for self check-in, information, and navigation. When the desk is unmanned, a fun and interactive display will be projected. Contactless credit card readers are installed at the front of the desk.

Rendering of post pandemic hotel space design.

Decorative light fixtures including pendants, wall sconces, table lamps and an illuminated tree are equipped with UV lighting that are activated during sanitizing periods. Materials and finishes will be treated with anti-microbial/antiviral coating in addition to the regular cleaning by the hotel staff.

The bar is designed to allow one-way traffic by staff. Interactive glass separators keep patrons safe in groups of 2, and dividers can be lowered to allow for large groups. A diversity of seating options is achieved through booths, deuces, and bar seats.

This design addresses not only our version of physical distancing but also repurposes an old-fashioned building into a unique experience. Biophilic design, a trend gaining popularity, also attracts a younger demographic. We wanted to create confidence in the guest that this is a safe, clean space, and to be considerate of the health of the guest.

Bringing Home to Hotel Design at the Kimpton Saint George Hotel

188 guest rooms, fourteen stories, and one common goal: to integrate elements of Toronto’s culture and personality and provide guests with a distinct sense of place. Our team responded to this vision with a design that communicated a narrative of local pride, diverse heritage, and contemporary culture to create the Kimpton Saint George Hotel.  The boutique hotel brand, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is renowned for individually designed boutique hotels positioned to reflect the cities they inhabit. Completed in 2018, the Saint George Hotel, Kimpton’s only hotel operating in Canada, is situated in the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. 

Interior Designer: Stanley Sun, ARIDO; Ashley Rumsey, ARIDO
Design Firm: Mason Studio
Design Team: Marti Hawkins, Intern, ARIDO

Project Photographer: Naomi Finlay

Its design celebrates Toronto’s layered history and sensibilities. An investigative approach was taken to dissect and analyze the city’s vernacular to better understand key materials,  patterns, and nuances that would resonate as indicators of local culture and significance. The diversity of the city’s heritage and culture with its distinct neighbourhoods is explored through locally designed furniture, original artwork, natural materials, and strong interior architectural forms that pay homage to Toronto’s varied architectural style and eras. The design concept is expressed in every facet of the hotel, beginning at the street level with an exterior black wood awning punctuated with small pin-like lights, spelling “Kimpton” in Braille lettering. This lighting feature is a subtle nod to the iconic marquee signs that once occupied the neighbourhood.

Upon entry, the reception area features a marble desk framed with wooden arches, backdropped by a hand-painted mural of a misty Toronto-inspired scene. Adjacent to reception is a guest lounge, designed to feel like a living room. The space is occupied by a collection of bespoke furniture, artwork, lighting, and objects, many crafted by local makers that continue to tell the story of local culture and design. A 400-square foot lounge situated on the main floor is realized in darker, more saturated tones to convey a feeling of warmth and intimacy. The adjacent 1,100-square-foot meeting space, named the Peregrine Room, is, by contrast, bright and spacious. The change in mood between the lounge and the meeting room reinforces the concept of distinct neighbourhoods within the city. 

The guestrooms, suites, and generous presidential suite are a continuation of the nostalgic nod to the layered heritage of the neighbourhood. The rooms were designed with a residential approach including a collection of art, custom-designed furniture and lighting, seemingly collected over time. Every element in the suites is carefully designed to provide guests with an experience parallel to a well-appointed apartment in the neighbourhood, offering guests a warm alternative to more traditional hotel accommodations.

This project was also awarded an ARIDO Award of Excellence in 2019.

Nothing strange about the design for this java joint

Strange Love Coffee is a growing Toronto-based coffee shop focusing on providing a unique coffee experience by utilizing specialized treated water and one of a kind roasts which are hand picked by a Coffee Sommelier. The intent was to create a space that communicates Strange Love’s obsession with quality coffee experiences in a setting that helps drive revenue. Our client leased a humble corner in a busy section of Toronto’s PATH Network, off the main corridor sandwiched between dental offices. 

Interior Designer: Tatiana Soldatova, ARIDO
Design Firm: Syllable Inc. 
Photographer: Revelateur Studio

The site was awkwardly shaped and hidden from view to the people passing by during their busy commutes to and from work. The two key challenges were to fit a complex coffee production program within a triangular 275 square foot space, as well as drive passerby attention to an easily overlooked spot. We were required to integrate a 26’ counter space into an 8’ storefront where five staff would seamlessly produce 1,500 coffees per week. We chose not to fight the existing site and insert a traditional linear counter. Instead, the team used the shape of the site to inform the design. 

The counter follows the main feature wall and bends inward to extend counter space –this approach maximizes linear workspace and, functionally, breaks apart the baristas from cashiers while creating additional space for patrons to order. The cafe’s production line was carefully studied and barista equipment was arranged to minimize travel and movement for all staff. This counter was also mounted on hidden wheels to allow easy access for workers. 

The second challenge was drawing customers, corporate professionals with stressful jobs, to the cafe. Located below a main staircase with a staid wall, it’s easy for potential patrons to miss. 

Our team diligently built a positive relationship with the landlord to convince them to permit a floor-to-ceiling sign by the staircase wall to entice patrons. A loud and inviting custom wallpaper adorned with tropical plants introduced a biophilic experience into a small space with a restricted budget, and Strange Love Coffee became a tropical retreat within the PATH.  

As a sophisticated re-engineered mineral water is one of the secret ingredients behind Strange Love Coffee’s award winning recipe, we celebrated the filtration system by creating an illuminated display that showcases the raw industrial beauty of the system itself. 

The shop has a weekly rotation of custom roasted coffee, which is placed at the front counter where the Baristas can proudly introduce the different roasts. Additional products on open display atop custom wood shelving with brass hardware are available for purchase.

From the bold material finishes, a flexible counter which snakes through the awkward site, water filtration and produce showcases, we created a space that puts the client’s story on display and entices passersby to stop and smell the roasts.

A new interior design for this business etiquette school works like a charm

Quartat Lifestyle Management provides well-heeled clients with traditional training in the art of charm and etiquette so they may advance in modern-day business. In this redesign, they sought a modern, inviting space to express their mission, and host a range of etiquette courses, including dining etiquette, personal style development, and social networking skills, with a hint of traditional flair.

Interior Designer: Sue Bennett, ARIDO
Design Team: Janet Ho, ARIDO; Jennifer Torok, ARIDO; Andrea Doak, ARIDO; Riley Short, Intern, ARIDO
Design Firm: Bennett Design Associates
Project Photographer: Jim Sandik

Quartat provided program descriptions which informed the basis of the design team’s concepts. The space was tailored to align with the functional requirements of each course. In this cozy learning environment, students are welcomed at the main entrance by an eye-catching custom millwork element embellished with the company logo.

From there, an open classroom leads into an elegant and modern dining area with glazed partitions that mimic the glass backsplash tiles in the kitchenette.

Technology was integrated throughout to display any course materials. The furniture was selected to the client’s personal taste yet reflects the designer’s vision for the overall design concept: high-end, elegant, and versatile and fun. The client has hopes of expanding their space in future, and the design team’s use of an architectural wall system allows possible relocation of all offices.

Each room in this Markham hotel was designed for openness and flow

With the base building already constructed, mechanical, electrical and plumbing of suites already laid, the design team had free rein to propose a fresh update to the room standards of the Marriott Markham.

Interior Designer: Erin Cram, ARIDO

Design Firm: Quadrangle

Design Team: Caroline Robbie, ARIDO

As a hotel primarily serving guests travelling on business, most of the rooms are king sized rooms. However, each suite demanded custom measurements, so the design team simplified the millwork to a modular kit that could be tailored to each layout.

One design element they eschewed almost completely? Drawers! Instead, the desk in each room extends as a long counter, where guests can store suitcases, in an open shelving system, instead of a typical closet with doors. With this revamp of so many familiar elements, the balance of the room is shifted to have a more continuous flow. Even the artwork is stitched into the design, and tailored within the millwork.

The vibrancy of South African visual culture informs this Nando’s location

Every Nando’s location is unique, and with over 1,200 open around the world, it proves to be an exciting challenge for any designer to create a one-of-a-kind identity while maintaining the Nando’s soul and brand.

Interior Designer: Olga Evstifeeva, ARIDO

Design Firm: Stoa Design Collective

Photographer: Steve Tsai

This 70-seat Nando’s location is a celebration of South African colour and craft layered within an already charming building on Queen Street East. Stoa Design Collective wanted to create a laid-back atmosphere which would welcome beach goers and the close-knit community that makes up the Beach Village in Toronto.

This restaurant project was an exploration of colour and pattern blocking, along with interpretations of traditional African weaving techniques while reusing the raw identity of the envelope. The design team preserved the existing historical raw brick walls of the space as a backdrop to the overall design, layering on new tin ceilings with vibrant South African personality.

Local collaborations with artists and fabricators, as well as the incorporation of South African-sourced art and products, enabled us to create a space with authenticity at the forefront, where wood is wood and leather is leather, and most importantly, craftsmanship and detail is cherished.

To create multiple experiences in one space, the design team created distinct dining zones defined by furniture, lighting, and art – each offering something special. Leather tufted banquettes run along the exposed brick walls and are complemented by custom copper light fixtures and wall art respectively. Along the storefront, tall windows open to the busy street allowing for indoor/outdoor bistro style dining in summer months. Curved bench seating pods, each with a stunning South African-made beaded light fixture, occupy the central space, while a counter height round table with an oversized custom dome pendant hangs front of the open kitchen.

Playful African-inspired textiles, colours, and textures reinforce the vibrancy of South African visual culture while attaining a level of sophistication for the brand that is reminiscent of their European ventures. The carefully selected materiality and thoughtful planning throughout the restaurant creates a well-balanced aesthetic and flow and retains the eclectic and vibrant attitude of the brand.

Carter’s Folly becomes a triumph with Mackay Wong redesign

Interior Designer: Ronald Wong, ARIDO; Gordon MacKay, ARIDO
Design Firm: Mackay Wong

Housed in the beautiful Samuel F. Carter building, the JW Marriott Houston Downtown is the brand’s first adaptive reuse project in Texas, celebrating the flavour of the city with refined design and thoughtful amenities. Originally built in 1910, this historic building has been preserved with its original architectural and heritage elements. From the original exterior walls, floor plates, and steel columns and beams, this 105-year-old steel-framed skyscraper underwent an $80.8 million restoration in collaboration with the city of Houston. The design of the interior spaces was focused on creating spaces that drew inspiration from the building’s heritage structure and local creative culture. The exterior façade was largely restored to feature iconic Art Deco ornamentation complete with original terracotta motifs.

Located at 806 Main St., this hotel features 323 guest rooms, an art gallery, featuring local and international artists, restaurant, boardroom, banquet halls, and an executive lounge, and has caused a sensation in the Texas hospitality landscape.

When the Samuel F Carter building was erected in 1910, the community shunned it as ‘Carter’s Folly’, wary that a building that tall was surely unsafe. Now, Houston’s first skyscraper has been refreshed as an eclectic and energetic heartbeat in the city’s Art District. Respecting the historical context of the building led the design team to focus on refined Industrialism, incorporating industrial details from the furniture all the way down to menu design. The design team played with scale, placing a huge bronze Griffin, hand crafted by a local artist, cutting through a corner of the building.

The result is a balance of tailored sophistication and whimsy, enhanced through an eclectic mix of local artifacts and art pieces. Machine age influences, including steam power locomotives and the advent of electricity, are all given subtle nods throughout, including bespoke shadow-box coffee tables featuring a collage of gears and machine parts. Inspired by the innovation of its grand beginnings during the birth of Industrial Design, the interior spaces balance respect for the historical with a contemporary twist.

This landmark has been given new life and has become a magnet for visitors in the downtown landscape; moreover, it’s award winning, as Mackay Wong won the 2015 National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

This Bird’s got people squawking!

New to Toronto’s revitalized Queens Quay Terminal, the one and only Joe Bird has quickly become a popular hang-out for local foodies, and a must-see destination for visitors.

Interior Designer: Joseph Persia, ARIDO
Design Firm: Green Tangerine Design Inc.
Photographer: Riley Snelling

Maybe it’s the can’t miss, 1980’s RV parked within the façade (highly ‘grammable), which serves as the restaurant’s take-out component. Perhaps it’s the interior’s rusty, boho vibe overlooking the lake? Or, the juicy chicken it serves up? This Bird’ has got people squawking!

The design team was engaged in the early stages to create an identity for this non-chain eatery on a budget, of course. The 2,500 square foot unit was uninspiring, to say the least, situated dead centre between two other establishments in the Terminal. The client tasked Persia and team with creating a ‘one of a kind’ experience; a ‘staple’ restaurant and bar unlike what Toronto has seen before.

The designers met this challenge head-on with an unexpected take on the ‘typical’ mall eatery. It all started with a wild vision by the project’s designer to incorporate and repurpose the aforementioned RV and park it well within the restaurant’s footprint. The design team fit out the RV as the restaurant’s take-out counterpart, that also serves as a focal point, grabbing the attention of locals and tourists alike. A take-out space was not in the client’s criteria- but they immediately fell in love with the idea! The Joe Bird RV can now be found on a multitude of social media posts from around the world.

Exterior view of Joe Bird Restaurant with van and neon signage.

The interior was designed to follow suit with bright, funky and boho styling. An exaggerated custom neon sign hangs over the large concrete and reclaimed metal oval-shaped bar below. Tables and most of the seating within were custom designed and fabricated with mixed, reclaimed materials. Graffiti tags and edgy art can be seen on the restaurant’s walls and above on duct work and mechanics.

All existing finishes in the Terminal were incorporated- some worth noting, repurposing the existing terrazzo floor, and unmasking columns, walls, and bulkheads previously hidden under built frames. Custom millwork and furniture were constructed with reclaimed wood and metal; all of which were locally sourced.

An 11th-hour request from the client to create an ice cream shop within was answered with a colourful, graffiti-bombed nook from floor to ceiling. ‘The Fix’, not only serves as Joe Bird’s dessert component but has a garage door that opens directly to the Harbourfront Trail. With its vibrant ‘pop’ of art and colour, it’s hard to miss!

'The Fix' ice cream bar at Joe Bird with handpainted graffitti inspired signage.

Reports from the design team indicate Joe Bird 2 is currently in the works …

Three different moods for three distinct spaces at Victor Restaurant

Interior Designer: Allen Chan

Design Firm: DesignAgency

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Hotel Le Germain Mercer Street in Toronto invited the design team to transform its on-site restaurant, Victor. With the multitude of surrounding condos, this district is quickly becoming a neighbourhood in its own right – within five years, almost 40,000 people will live within a two-block radius- and Le Germain wanted Victor to become a destination for morning coffee, business lunches, and late-night dining.

Before, the space had no connections with the street, and the only entrance to the restaurant was through the lobby. The design was dark, uninviting, and lacked flexibility, and the venue only functioned as a nighttime establishment.

With the redesign, Victor has a distinct and cohesive brand identity. Now, a highly fluid space comprises a dining area with leather banquettes, a chef’s table in a side alcove and open counter beyond, an intimate bar-lounge, and a cafe with communal harvest table – all of which meld and transition seamlessly into the hotel’s lobby, which the hotel also redesigned to complement the new hospitality space.

Custom-designed specialty lighting was central to setting a new ambiance – one that is approachable, universal, and versatile enough to attract both hotel guests, daytime business visitors, corporate event attendees, and special occasion groups taking part in the city’s adjacent entertainment district for concerts, theatre, screenings, and more.

To impart a sense of vitality and character to the restaurant, the design team hung a custom-designed chandelier of brass tubing, strung with white globes, layered and rotating at different angles. The eye-catching fixture swoops above diners and is visible from the street, drawing interest from passersby. It glows in contrast to the gravel-grey ceiling, and visually drops the ceiling height to a more intimate level.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Entering the intimate lounge, hanging wall lights made from brass tubing and white globes maintain a connection to the feature chandelier in the dining room. LED-lit shelves are artfully decorated with crystal, silverware, and bronze and gilt chargers, and deco lamps line the bar to give extra lighting for guests. Even the inevitable television monitors disappear into smoky mirrors when not in use.

In the cafe, a bright palette creates an airy, daytime feeling. White marble counters and a fluted barista station with a glass display case heighten luminosity. Discreet rows of pendant lights hang over the harvest table and add to the guest experience.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Throughout, fabrics and materials were chosen for their ability to absorb and reflect light, including bronze accents, natural stone, warm wood shelving and millwork, plus playful patterned concrete tiling in the cafe floor, soft sage green tabletops, and serpentine banquettes upholstered in tufted, peacock-blue waxed leather.