Progressive Grocer

Grocerant February 2017

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28 SOLUTIONS FEBRUARY 2017 clustered together and is also comfortable for single diners," says Arlene Spiegel, founder of Arlene Spiegel & Associates, a restaurant, retail and foodservice consulting firm based in New York City. Agata & Valentina, a specialty food retailer in New York City, installed a natural wood communal table at its Union Square location to serve dine-in customers. On a larger scale, Dallas-based Bruegger's Bagels adopted a communal table in its prototype design for all new units and plans to use the tables in future renovations of existing sites at the 280-unit chain. Even McDonald's has installed communal tables at many of its locations during the past several years. Starr says diners want to feel both protected and anchored while eating. Booths and high-back seats can provide that experience, as can a counter or table placed against a wall, but communal tables provide an anchor through sheer mass. Experts recom- mend that communal tables seat from eight to 12 people and be at least 30 inches wide to ensure enough space for both food and electronics, particularly if the tables include power strips to charge devices such as laptops and smartphones. "e most effective commu- nal tables are those that pro- vide mass as well as a means of dividing the table into smaller units," says Starr. "You can accomplish that by vary- ing materials on a long table either with color or inlays, so there's a visual division." Starr says communal tables at Plano, Texas-based Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar, for instance, have wooden dividers that slide across the table to create a separation between diners. While regular tables work best in small spaces, bar-height communal tables with stools blur the distinction between counters and communal tables and can create a visual element for the eating area too. "High-top tables started in Chipotle, and now you see them everywhere," says Knight. "e tables are space savers, and their tall height makes it more comfortable for diners seated around people who are standing while they wait for their food." G When it comes to tables and chairs, more restaurants are choosing real materials over synthetic choices and moving away from primary colors to more soothing naturalistic color stories. "Fast casual restaurants are getting away from bright colors and molded plastic seating and moving toward natural woods and exposed bricks," says John Knight, principal of Maverick Consulting in Allendale, N.J. Steve Starr, president of Starr Design in Charlotte, N.C., says restaurant operators are opting for natural or "authentic" materials to reinforce their positions as purveyors of natural foods. "Chipotle's focus on integrity of ingredients in its menu extends to the materials it uses in its décor. They use plywood and steel and don't cover the materials up with anything else," he says. Wood, especially reclaimed wood, is making an enormous comeback, along with natural stone and brick. Natural bam- boo is also being used more frequently. Chick-fil-A's location in Pasadena, Calif., is a good example of this style of authentic décor: The eatery pairs bar-height communal tables made of wood with metal stools in a white subway-tiled setting that reads as clean, fresh and modern. Bar-height communal tables are more likely to be made of rustic or industrial materials that can meet the demands of high-traffic areas and at the same time look sleek and mod- ern. "I'm seeing more wood and faux cement finishes along with industrial zinc, copper and other metal coverings making a resurgence," says Karen Malody, a foodservice consultant in Portland, Ore. Material facts "The in-store dining section has to offer a different experience." — Steve Starr, Starr Design A mix of regular and bar-height tables adds flexibility.

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