Canadians are heading to a restaurant with a renewed focus on service and decor
It is not exactly a usual business to design a restaurant in the middle of a global health crisis. But Allen Chan kept his eye on the future when he was tasked to oversee the interiors of the Toronto Ritz-Carlton’s new restaurant, Epoch Bar and Kitchen Terrace. At that time, he focused on the future rather than the current pandemic.
When the founding partner of Design Agency and his team proposed what should the future of hospitality be like hotel and dining look like, “we all agree to design the place according to our desire because COVID is something we will get passed.” he says.
It is not the only optimism of the Chan but Canada’s restaurant’s annual report on the state of the country’s restaurant industry forecasts growth for foodservice sales in 2022, shows revenues in nearly $80-billion, 3.8 per cent higher than pandemic levels.
What is more pleasing, in the May 2021, survey conducted by Angus Reid, 89 per cent of Canadians are impatiently waiting to go out to restaurants with friends and family while 64 per cent said it will be an important part of their lifestyle to go out to a restaurant once the pandemic subsides. In short: Canadians are waiting to return to restaurants, as the restaurants open, it is the decor and services that will be under focus not the impacts of the pandemic.
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The recently opened Italian restaurant, Toronto’s Osteria Giulia, from Top Chef alum Robi Rossi and his partner, David Minicucci is a prime example in this context. Giulia occupies the same place that L’Unita, Minicucci and Rossi’s previous restaurant occupied in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood but now there is no resemblance.
“We did not build any such thing COVID specific here,” Rossi says. Giulia has a dining room with a subtle colour palette, ecru walls, soft but sufficient lighting, Italian limestone, subtle hits of texture which can be seen everywhere in the luxe paper menu and fabric-covered walls.
Chan wants to introduce a few long term changes to restaurant design trends due to COVID. “There are certain restrictions and barriers created by a lot of people but I think they are going to be temporary,” he says.
Physical distancing is likely to end shortly. “It costs huge economic loss to your revenue model, especially, if it is a smaller space,” Chan says.
Still, some physical-distancing guidelines are in place. Most provinces allowed the restaurants to operate at 50-per cent-capacity but there is some visible variation concerning the number of people at each table (for example, no more than six people are allowed in British Colombia while up to 10 people are allowed in Prince Edward Prince).
“With dining-room restrictions beginning to ease and table size increasing, we feel largely worried that people would have become accustomed to free spaces and avoid sitting in closer quarters,” co-founder Brock Unger says. “So far as we have observed during the pandemic restrictions is that, overall, the public opinion seems to lean toward the contrary.”
Giulia’s Rossi and Minicucci are also counting on it.