MANILA -- An interior designer sees outdoor dining as the new norm as restaurants need to focus on creating a "feeling of safety" for customers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a web forum organized by Enderun Colleges on Thursday, Michael Pizarro shared his insights on how restaurants can navigate the "new normal" from a design perspective.
"I see more use of outdoor dining facilities... and creating more private dining, and making everything fresh and clean," he said.
"In a closed environment, we feel unsafe because the air is not changing. It's fixed and it's just circulating... We feel safer outside than inside [the restaurant]," he added, noting that going al fresco lowers the chance of being exposed to the virus.
Pizarro, who focused on designing restaurants in his first decade in the industry, went on to stress the importance of assigning zones in the "new normal."
He said owners should consider the following: customer flow, service flow, and product flow.
"Zoning simply means defining and creating smaller spaces. The purpose is to isolate the services, and minimize contact points or touch point areas," he said.
He continued: "Don't just mind the people seated next to you, but also involve those who are walking around you... Clear out the spaces that customers and the service crew will navigate. Avoid seating clients in high traffic areas like entrances, accessways, and access to comfort rooms. Reduce the number of tables and simplify the layout."
Interior designers like Pizarro face the challenge of providing "the same comfort and dining pleasure" to restaurant diners amid the COVID-19 crisis, all while complying with safety guidelines set by the government.
"Eating is the only activity that we cannot put our mask on, so distancing is very important, hygiene is very important... And creating the feeling of safety is what we want to focus on right now," he said.