In our fast pace life styles now we reward “successful quick”. The operative idea here is “successful”. The idea of sitting down for a lunch that is not a business meeting is becoming more difficult to do. Drive Thru or food To Go has been an answer to that call. Though some time may be shaved off the process for a meal there often is another cost namely- quality of experience. Very few foods can travel farther than the restaurant’s table and be an experience in quality food. We all know fries can’t leave the parking lot or when the delivery bags are opened and laid out on the table we discover the fare is a shadow of the restaurant we ordered from.
Packaging can delay the inevitable deterioration. Consider the life cycle from order to consumption with time the enemy. Phone ordering and payment on your way in(not the driver) and ‘to go’ parking stalls with curbside delivery can be the shortest time interval. Ordering in a drive thru and eating in parking lot is not uncommon.
At our Uturn BBQ and Brewery you can get the best BBQ (which travels great) and a 6 pack of beer out a drive thru window! It’s the first drive thru brewpub!
It’s important when considering accommodating To Go or Drive Thru to do it in the planning stages. Drive thru requires site layout considerations it’s especially important to have an outside lane to escape the line VS being stuck in it should a delay happen, and it will. Some communities discourage drive thru’s all together so check first. A drive thru requires back of house layout accommodations to get order assembled, packed, drinks, payment in an efficient station that ideally when slow can be run by the expo position minimizing labor. Labor costs are typically why you see fast food units with two windows only open one. For the To Go consideration again layout is important to maximize labor and provide quick guest service. Plan the shortest distance from the food window thru an outside door to designated To Go parking so the expo position, if slow, or wait staff can quickly deliver the packaged order, pre paid. There is developing technology supporting more efficient To Go transactions but minimally have camera on To Go parking so with guest’s description of their vehicle the food runner can respond as soon as they pull in.
In considering To Go or Drive Thru evaluate your menu for if it’s even realistic that some or all of it can travel before making construction investments in your building. It may be a disservice to your brand to have your product end up on the dinner table and ultimately be a disappointment. For example we discontinued door delivery service because of the inevitable things going wrong beyond our control. The bottom line was we didn’t want guest disappointment to reflected on our brand. For those who can…. come on inside!
For years in the restaurant world there were just “mom and pops” restaurants. Then came “chain units”. The latter took great efforts to make each new unit look and feel just like the last. There was an inherent understanding that consistency of the experience from one city to the next had value. Of course, there were some of us who sought out those funky joints back around the corner that had the best chicken in the county… especially if a local had introduced it to you. Granted, it often took courage to give it a try. Admittedly, half the time the experiment was disastrous – BUT the other half equaled an ample reward for the pioneering spirit. Those great discoveries remain top of mind because of the absence of predictability in location, building, menu, food quality or service. Certainly, with the many safety regulations in the industry, the risk of getting sick are minimal. Not only is there an openness to try the unusual, but many markets demand it.
Restauranteurs who come to Trapp Associates are looking for creative and unique architecture and design solutions that will have that “one of a kind” market presence. Placing value in the “one of kind” feel can be carried along with growth while still keeping the essence of the brand. Growing the “brand” may be more powerfully realized within the food and service quality, not with using the same design, chair, light or logo. We are seeing “chain units” reverting away from prototypical and formulaic design and resorting to unique experiences at each individual store without adversely affecting their budgets. Let us know if we can help you!
Restaurant projects typically start off with great enthusiasm and expectation of smooth development all the way to opening night. Too often however building code, health department, ADA concerns, contractor delays, even inspector’s personal red flags can stall opening schedules. The depth of experience of your design/architectural team can avert many potential delays and get your CO. Having executed over 370 restaurants, Trapp Associates has experienced both smooth and troubled openings. The following is a partial check list to keep in mind during the final push to opening:
- START EARLIER: Much time, confusion, and misunderstanding can be averted by meeting earlier with city building and health officials to discuss your concept and understand what their
- concerns might be. Public employees really don’t want any conflicts at the end of your project. Get to a level of open communication of the city’s concerns (IE “you guys always forget cove in restrooms”) and by understanding their red flags early, you will avoid struggle at the end, your project will likely be less expensive, and gives you time to respectfully challenge any issues. Meeting early and complying to City’s concerns gets acknowledged at the end and often buys you points in averting new city issues. Be sure you contractor is aware of agreements you make with the city.
- MID WAY CHECK: Ask for an on-site review by health department ¾ way thru so they are comfortable with your compliance. The contractor and subs are the biggest variable in opening on time. Your best tool is the construction schedule that’s prepared by the contractor which identifies work completion with a time line. If the drywall isn’t finished on the 13th you can have conversation about how that time is made up. It’s invaluable in reviewing the progress. So make sure you have it!
- FINAL PUSH:It’s prudent to have weekly conference calls with all parties to get ‘on schedule’ confirmation or identify delays and solve them early. Getting paid on time makes everyone happy. Be sure to check budget status and make sure subs are getting paid with GC’s draws. Create a hiring center as close to site as possible, as it helps to see the future work environment. A good Construction Manager is a valuable team member and can act as the ‘orchestra leader’ for the project. On projects without a Construction Manager to represent the owner, your experienced Restaurant Architect can develop a running list of all the variables/ concerns so they can be managed. This minimizes you getting blindsided by the unknown. Some examples of how your Restaurant Architect can help you:
- Licensing for brewing confirmation
- City planning department’s site requirements
- City signage allowances and production
- Construction completion level that the health department will allow food on site (which allows training to start)
- Floor/ wall completion allowing the furniture, fixture, artifact package delivery.
- Kitchen equipment package set and sub’s schedule for hook ups
- Have health department spot check progress
- Daily meeting with the GC and subs to confirm completion and or identify issues, early
- Schedule FF&A install, and training start, which can often overlap.
- Push the contractor for the CO or if there are issues a TCO and confirm with city you can occupy site and train
- Confirm all legal issues, licensing, liquor training etc.
- Create the master punch list from front and back of house
- Review all ‘adds and look for ‘deletes’
- Consider withholding a retainer until the punch list is completed…
Each site and project has their own set of challenges and even the most comprehensive list will miss something. The experienced Restaurant Architect can be you best associate because of their knowledge of construction, city demands, schedules/budget sensitivity, contractor management, and operational needs to get thru the 12th hour push to a successful opening.