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howsmatt

Designing my restaurant

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I am about to buy a bistro-cafe that will serve high quality comfort food with a twist type sandwiches. I like the chalkboard, wood and white walls with a touch of green and industrial materials thing but, obviously it's been done.

The question then is what is the next "chalkboard" for restaurants such as mine?

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The chalkboard persists because it is immensely practical and evokes a certain comfortable image. Are you sure that you want to lose it?

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One tiny comment on chalkboards....those of us with poor vision absolutely hate them. It's embarrassing to ask someone to read the specials to you and/or to repeat them because you're hard of hearing. It isn't so hard to handwrite & photocopy a small menu insert for specials, or to display them at each table (table tent or other stand-up item).

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I'm one of those who has to get up and walk close to the chalk board. Partially eyesight, but also because a lot of places don't wash the chalkboard so earlier erasures leave it a dusty white. Also many times the person wielding the chalk has either poor penmanship or gets carried away with flourishes. And hosts seem to like to seat me where the view of the chalkboard is either obstructed or behind my back.

It is so easy to turn out daily menus on a computer. Still room to be individualistic with fonts, paper, and display stand. Maybe mock up individual table chalkboards for tables or something industrial to match the ambiance.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

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How about a black whiteboard or one with a different finish? Hand written menus are great as long as your calligraphy is nice.

On what street are you opening?


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

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If you're feeling flush, spring for an LCD television. You don't need anything fancy - just purchase a fairly average display, turn it 90 degrees so that it's taller than it is wide, and connect it up to a PC set to operate in "Landscape Mode." The whole setup should cost you a few hundred at most, and unlike traditional cathode ray tubes or plasma arrays, an LCD won't suffer from fading or burn-in.

I very much enjoy these in airports and convention centers - why not feature one in a restaurant?

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If you're feeling flush, spring for an LCD television. You don't need anything fancy - just purchase a fairly average display, turn it 90 degrees so that it's taller than it is wide, and connect it up to a PC set to operate in "Landscape Mode." The whole setup should cost you a few hundred at most, and unlike traditional cathode ray tubes or plasma arrays, an LCD won't suffer from fading or burn-in.

I very much enjoy these in airports and convention centers - why not feature one in a restaurant?

Oh for the love of God no. Why would you want a signboard that obnoxiously demands attention AND increases your electric bill?

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I agree, a flat monitor will immediately give you the airport/train station look.

However, a LCD projector hooked up to a PC/laptop can let you do some fency stuff.

dcarch

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A projector's a great idea, even if it just means your specials menu appears in a black or self-coloured fonr on one of your white walls.

You didn't specifically state your target market is / what kind of people are in the area. In a flash, I'd put flat screens into a young person's cafe / diner and let them take turns choosing their favourites from Youtube. I'm guessing though that high-qulaity-comfort-food-sandwiches entail 25-and-up-professionals or some such demographic - anyway one which will have the same reaction as you're getting here.


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I agree that the chalkboard is the most practical way to do it. LCDs and projectors are expensive as well as additional expense to your electric bills. It's just that LCDs and projectors looks class and presentable specially if you have some digital posters that you can put in an animation. I think it's just a matter of budget.

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I can see using a projector to show a menu, then show a clip as the chef is preparing the dish, then back to the menu, then show tomorrow's menu, next weeks menu, ------ then project on a large screen Superbowl game, or any current hot sports events -----.

LCD projector is not that expensive and not a big electric hog.

dcarch

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I can see using a projector to show a menu, then show a clip as the chef is preparing the dish, then back to the menu, then show tomorrow's menu, next weeks menu, ------ then project on a large screen Superbowl game, or any current hot sports events -----.

LCD projector is not that expensive and not a big electric hog.

dcarch

And I can see half the potential audience refusing to set foot in the place due to the presence of AV equipment in the dining room. If the proposed restaurant is a sports bar, AV away. Otherwise, you're sliding into chain restaurant territory....not the sort of folks who'll pay top dollar for tarted-up comfort food.

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I can see using a projector to show a menu, then show a clip as the chef is preparing the dish, then back to the menu, then show tomorrow's menu, next weeks menu, ------ then project on a large screen Superbowl game, or any current hot sports events -----.

LCD projector is not that expensive and not a big electric hog.

dcarch

And I can see half the potential audience refusing to set foot in the place due to the presence of AV equipment in the dining room. If the proposed restaurant is a sports bar, AV away. Otherwise, you're sliding into chain restaurant territory....not the sort of folks who'll pay top dollar for tarted-up comfort food.

It's a matter of design. All you need is a 3" x 3" hole for the projector to project. The projector, which normally has electronic auto parallax correction, can be mounted at an angle and the image still will not "key stone". The screen can be incorporated into the overall design theme, it does not have to look like someone just stretched a white sheet on a wall. LCD projectors have very high brightness, and can be very visible in a relatively high ambient lighting environment, especially if you have a high-gain surface material.

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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I'm fully on board the luddite boat here. There are 4 factors which will affect the venue massively.

- Frontage. People walking by on the street need to see a busy restaurant, regerdless of if you're 20% or 90% occupied; clever bottle necks and section placement will see to this.

- Ambience. A decent sound system placed properly has a very low cost price, what it will cost you from a professional is something different. If you know ANYONE with A/V, sound engineering, etc experience, pick their brains before going anywhere. The same applies for lighting.

- Service. If you've got to poach people from other venues, offer high salaries or offer stupid benefits make sure you attract the correct employees. Hire as many industry professionals as you can. If you treat them right they will make you stupid amounts of money, this applies to all employees, down to the kitchen hands (dish boys).

- Menu. Overthink it, overthink it twice more, cut it down to confetti and repeat at least twice. Relevance is a big factor. The locavore and slow food movements are gaining more popularity than ever through consumers who don't give a second thought. Seasonal menus and specials are great as are the consistent use of fresh ingredients (It's easy to get fresh onions, line caught seafood from 8 hours prior and bread baked in-house or up the road make a difference, get a good chef; not a cook, a chef.)

In conclusion, money goes only so far. I've seen enough venues fail spectacularly despite millions (literally) in investment. The best investments are esoteric. Make sure that this is the kind of place you'd take your mother to meet a new significant other along with an old friend for a birthday dinner. If the kitchen doesn't meet your highest standards, it isn't good enough. The second a waiter gets arrogant or flustered nix them, despite an chocker-block resumee there's a reason they're applying at a new venue; find it.

I'm a very discerning eater and drinker, a new restaurant/cafe/bar is an immediate attraction for me and despite the amount I cook at home I continue to support exceptional venues. Regular trade will be the best tool you can use, without it, you are dead in the water. Impress the pants off the first 500 covers, find out why, do it consistently. 200 of those 500 will be back in 24 months; 100 in 12, those 100 will get you 50 more of you do it right. those 50 will bring you another 20 in 12 months in addition to your existing repeats. Cover numbers will rise exponetionally if you refuse to get complacent and genuinely care.

Golden rule: You've been cooking for X decades. That doesn't mean you can chef for any for than X seconds.

Good luck with your new place, I hope it does well. Once it opens shoot us all a website and some photos.

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I'm not crazy about the chalkboard, LCD, or other ideas where there is only one menu in a fixed place. I don't want to have to turn around in my chair or squint across the room. I've also seen smaller chalkboards with the specials carried around by the servers to each table, and that is just awkward.

What is wrong with a paper menu?

I like clean modern design, even that industrial/reclaimed aesthetic. If a place has great wooden beams from a century ago and vintage brick I enjoy seeing them exposed. There are a lot of newer places with too many hard surfaces that bounce sound around in an unpleasant way, so if you do go industrial, pay close attention to acoustics. Seems like a big trend is lots of super low wattage retro-style lights, either in big chandelier-like clusters or lined up along the bar. I like the look but I wonder if it is going to look dated in a few years.

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I read the original post as a general theme/design question, not a specific on blackboard yes or no or other.

Pastrygirl offered this:clean modern design, even that industrial/reclaimed aesthetic. If a place has great wooden beams from a century ago and vintage brick I enjoy seeing them exposed

I'm wondering if its soon enough for the wicker/greenhouse look to make a come-back. The cushions can change for two looks - summer, vs winter. Its comfortable and attractive (and made of plastic).

A local place is using black wrought iron and chintz, but they've a big patio and are tying the indoors look to that. Might not work so well in your neck of the woods.

If chalkboard as actual chalkboard, I like the idea of printing a copy of the specials and inserting in menus or placing on tables. I hate getting up and walking back to read the board.

Good luck!


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I think chalkboards are spectacular:

they have a personal element and they demand very high end calligraphy

thats the key: you present your menu as you present your plate.

all that other stuff id Hocus pocus

maybe you want those dum a**s flat pannels to show football?

think this: as you say you are going to do some sandwiches

think this: very rare to fined:

a long time ago in Toronto the had the Danish Import Center or what ever a few doors from Four Small Rooms and the Windors Arms:

open face scandinavian sandwiches

focus on that! your goal is delissious !!

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- Ambience. A decent sound system placed properly has a very low cost price, what it will cost you from a professional is something different. If you know ANYONE with A/V, sound engineering, etc experience, pick their brains before going anywhere. The same applies for lighting.

I can't agree with you more. A few specifics to consider:

1. Noise damping. A little white noise in a restaurant is a good thing: it creates a sense of action and excitement, and prevents the adjacent table from hearing the finer details of your conversation. Too much, and people start yelling, which only makes the problem worse. Hardwood floors, concrete wall, and tile of any sort can make this a nightmare. Fabric on the walls or ceiling will help dampen the noise, and acoustic tile or "sound traps" (irregularly-shaped structures that diffuse reflected sound) can help a great deal. It's also possible to hide fiberglass batting inside a stretched canvas; while I wouldn't recommend turning a prized masterpiece into acoustic tile, every bit helps.

2. Speaker placement. Placing a speaker next to a boundary can cause a huge increase in volume at only a small fraction of a speakers' spectrum of output. Placed next to the wall can be problematic if the speaker is not designed for it; placing it at the boundary between wall and ceiling even moreso, and placing it in one of the corners of the room worst of all. It's possible to purchase speakers designed for wall or corner use, and they're sometimes fairly inexpensive.

3. In-wall speakers require professional installation, create code hassle, and cost a fortune. (A $1,000 in-wall speaker is often comparable in quality to a $300 "bookshelf" unit.) However, there are a variety of easily obscured setup options, including wafer-thin flat wires almost invisible under a coat of paint. Because they don't run in the walls, you can install them yourself - just unpeel the adheisive backing, and away you go.

4. Be prepared to spend some money. Buying basic-tier "audiophile" speakers will not only result in better sound, but a substantial increase in physical quality and longevity. The corners cut in cheap speakers can result in premature failure, especially under stress. I'm quite fond of Paradigm's "Atom" series, which I've seen used to great effect in a local bar, though SVS, Aperion, Bohlender-Graebner, and others all offer good value for money in a variety of form factors. While it is possible to purchase decent stuff from Best Buy, I would avoid it; most of their products are divided between low-end items like Boston or Klipsch designed for ostentatious appearance and shouty sound, and high-end items, often featured in a "Magnolia" center, that offer poor results for your dollar.

Most important advice? Monophonic sound is usually the way to go for dispersed sound, and NEVER BUY BOSE.

5. Don't underbuy your sound system. A setup that sounds piercingly loud in an empty room may become lost under the buzz of a busy restaurant. A speaker working near the limits of its' capacity will distort heavily and have a shorter life, while an overworked amplifier will often burn out, taking the speaker with it!

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Let me first say how wonderful it is to get some many responses. I am in the old port 243 notre dame w. and hope to open before September or first week of. It was a general design question, I wasn't even talking about menu boards but having a chalkboard wall with a few little sayings or quotes or whatever. I was thinking of printing the menu to make it look like chalk but be easier to read.

I don't like TVs for anything but canadiens games. I find they are cold. I am in a high end business district with 25-45 crowd. They know food or at least pretend to. That being said I am the little guy and will not try to compete with more expensive places, I'm making sandwiches after all. I am the chef, so hopefully that job is well taken care of.

I won't likely have time or money to dedicate towards sound design (certainly not before opening) but there is a stereo in the space so my goal with that is to have the right mix of music.

The question still remains I believe, as a design aspect of the space (not a practical one like menus) what is there besides pain, chalk and TVs? The wicker is an interesting idea for a few seats.

Matt

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I heard an artist once said, "There is no such thing as an ugly color; there are only ugly color combinations."

Similarly, there is no such thing as bad seasoning; there are plenty of bad recipes in using seasoning.

I believe you should not rule out any thing in the conceptualization of the design. It is the total gestalt of the end result that is important. If you focus on any single element then the statement/image of what you are trying to convey will be distorted.

Start with the menu, the customer base, your budget, ----------------- then think outside the box, let your imagination go free.

The problem with most restaurants is that, they are ugly, everyone thinks they are the greatest designer.

A properly designed place can make the difference whether you succeed or fail. Get professional advice. Professional designer can be expensive, but failing is even more expensive.

dcarch

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I have a pro designer. These are some of the things that we like and that work for the customers, sPace and budget. I would like to see if the collective minds of egullet have traveled the world to see some other cool ideas that fit with this type of feeling.

Again my place isn't necessarily trying to be cutting edge, it's soup, salad, sandwich give or take. I'm just looking for cheap design options or ideas.

Also still need a name. Must be French or a word that doesn't exist in English (sacwich or something). I would like it to say "homey, comfy, lunch, hug, warm, good but not shee shee or pricey, yummy and a bit nostalgic. I considered smunch (hard to say in French) and urban farm (I would like to refer more to food or lunch or perhaps something random with the right feel- olive and gourmando is the name of a place like mine nearby that does great business (I find their name does sound like a fancy sandwich type place).

Thanks again.

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Also still need a name. Must be French or a word that doesn't exist in English (sacwich or something)

I'd suggest trying to find a French name that Americans already know, or bears a strong resemblance to a familiar phrase. Words like "masion" are a lot easier to remember than, say, "embrayage".

After running a few words through Google Translate, I am especially enamored of "déjeuner," which I'm at least 70% sure is the correct term for "Lunch."


Edited by jrshaul (log)

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