Authentic Local Flavor in Hospitality Dining
Within the matrix of amenities that hotel developers consider when creating a new location, the standalone restaurant is becoming a must-have. Yet more and more, these spaces aren't being filled by corporate chains. Instead, hoteliers are looking to bring an authentically local flavor to their properties by partnering with area restaurateurs.
The rewards of such a relationship are clear: For the hotel, it's a unique amenity for guests and a new destination for area residents. For the restaurateur, it's an opportunity to open a second or third location and connect with a national brand. But a successful venture is not without its challenges.
Unlike the clean, relatively easy retail box, restaurants are infrastructure-intensive spaces, requiring accommodations for gas, water, ventilation, and the logistics of constantly moving product in and waste out — operations that must be invisible to both diners and the hotel's guests. Although architects try to account for these things as early as possible, even in a hotel's schematic design, it's often not until a deal is final that the spatial reality, based on a particular restaurant's needs, becomes clear.
Here's an example: DLR Group is currently working with a hotel property to redevelop a historic Minneapolis building with a major entry at each corner. The restaurant partner negotiated one of the best entry points for itself, which put it farthest from the loading dock. As a result, we've reworked the hotel's floor plan and back-of-house spaces to allow for a new, restaurant-only elevator that uses the basement for loading dock access. In other words, a restaurant's design can directly impact how the hotel itself operates.
Then there is the issue of hotel-restaurant access. Hoteliers generally seek restaurant brands that are sympathetic with their brand and aim to strengthen this connection by having the restaurant directly accessible from within the hotel. Unfortunately though, restaurants do fail, and the next tenant might not be quite as desirable. Thus a design needs to be flexible enough to enable that direct connection, but also to be able to close it off without major disruption to the space on either side of the wall.
Designing at the intersection of restaurant-hotel design is a challenge. But it's a satisfying nut to crack — not least because the process can often involve many delicious sample meals as part of the research process. Bon appetit!