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Ask the Expert: Design Tips

While restaurant operators try to think of every detail when opening or remodeling a restaurant, critical elements of the restaurant design can be overlooked. The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, taking place at McCormick Place in Chicago from May 21 through May 24 2011, is hoping to answer all questions of restaurant operators with the Ask the Design Experts, a free 30-minute private consultation with leading front- and back-of-house designers and management consultants.

This year's experts join the show from some of the top restaurant design agencies in the country specializing in front-of-house (FOH), back-of-house (BOH) and management advisory services (MAS), such as Polished Service Consulting and Think Tank Hospitality Group. The following "preview tips," straight from the experts, are some of the most frequently overlooked design elements:

"The single most important element is process workflow. Food and non-food products should transition easily through the operation from the receiving door to the customer with all phases of storage, pre-preparation, cooking, holding, and service, unimpaired or minimized due to good design." -- Ed Norman, MVP Services Group, Inc., BOH

"Never develop a menu until a full-fledged, articulated concept has been developed. Sounds simple - but it the first fundamental step in creating success. A menu becomes the primary vehicle by which life is breathed into the concept - it brings the concept to life." -- Karen Malody, Culinary Options, MAS

"The focus in the front of the house should be on the guest experience. Acoustics are appropriate to the theme, light levels and gentle transitions help to set the mood and the colors in the room contribute to why guests are having a great time. These simple details are extremely important." -- Gregg Hackett, Partners and Sirny Architects, FOH

"For small owner operated restaurants, space is of course always an issue. By the time the build out starts, every bit of spare footage gets eaten up by unforeseen code requirements, problems with venting, bearing walls, etc. The first thing to be jettisoned is a place for the employees to park their belongings! Consider your internal customers as well as your external customers when designing for service." -- Dorothy Frisch, Polished Service Consulting, MAS

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