Ask a Space Design Expert: Rayvn Design

Rayvn Design

Even the most seasoned entrepreneur can be frustrated by the design and construction process. And nothing is worse than a project that goes over budget, over time, or produces a mediocre space. But how can you, as a client, improve the process? We sat down with the design team from Rayvn Design to get the inside scoop on designing and building successful spaces.

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What sort of knowledge or questions should an entrepreneur bring to a conversation with a designer or architect?

Before you engage with a designer or architect, start by doing your own research. Talk to other restauranteurs about their experiences in launching their projects to understand what you need and don’t need. Next, have a vision and know your budget. As designers, we are often given project directives that start and end with, “give me something cutting edge and creative.” This is extremely subjective, and the price spectrum is significant. That said, here are a few questions to consider for an interior designer or architect.

  • What services do you offer?
  • What is your experience within the food space? Could you share examples of previous work with cost estimates?
  • Could you give me 3-5 references to clients that you have worked with?
  • Come with pictures or strong descriptors to support your vision – Ask for new ideas and constructive feedback to make your vision a reality.
  • If you DO NOT have time on the project – share your budget with the architect to keep to your timeline. Ask to break down the projects into phases to see where you can optimize.
  • If you DO have time on your project launch – ask for an estimate but provide them with some guard rails that you would like them to follow.
  • Ask for project timelines and all the players that would be involved in the project (mechanical, electrical, kitchen consulting, etc).
  • Ask for a construction schedule.

Who are some of the key players that are required to help you design and launch your restaurant?

  • Interior designer (who may be an architect)
  • Electrical/mechanical engineers (also known as MEP engineers)
  • Kitchen consultant (especially important for first-time entrepreneurs)
  • General contractor and a project manager

What are the common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when designing their first retail or restaurant space?

  • Not having a strong business plan, and not having it reviewed by a consultant
  • Underestimating the cost to design and build a retail space or restaurant
  • Not knowing your audience, nor understanding their reasons to visit your space
  • Spending too much money in the front of house versus investing in good equipment to run your business
  • Not engaging the right parties for design and construction (such as kitchen design consultants, engineers, etc.)
  • Not using licensed contractors

How can interior spaces contribute to rich customer experiences?

To begin, create scenarios for the various customers and potential journeys. Walk their walk, by starting at the entrance and making your way to placing orders from simple to complex. Here are a few items to consider:

  • A memorable and recognizable name/identity
  • A thematic design consideration to cater to your primary consumer
  • Open kitchen design to give people the transparency and excitement that they are looking for
  • Proper lighting to be both highlight attributes of the space, merchandising, menu, etc. (Note: Lighting can also be used to hide flaws!)
  • Selecting the right colors, as it has a strong impact on the mood/emotion and vibe that you are creating
  • Seating layouts to host different journey types, such as groups, pairs or individuals
  • Good furniture for comfort, style, and versatility
  • Proper wayfinding (order/pay, pick up, restrooms) and signage (menu boards)
  • Restrooms that are clean, stylish and accessible
  • Proper ventilation to make the experience comfortable

Where might a budget-conscious entrepreneur cut costs, and where should they splurge?

The simplest way to decide on where to splurge should be prioritized by the ROI of that expense. A place could look like a million bucks, but if you don’t have customers coming, is it all worth it? Generally, here are some tips that we suggest:

Areas to splurge:

  • Equipment. These are the tools needed to sell your product. If you can afford new equipment, go for it.
  • Safety. Do not cut corners around making sure that your space is safe for both your customers and staff. For example, if you have space with a lot of seating, making sure you have multiple exits. Ensure that floors are made with the right material to prevent people from slipping. Some of these choices will be dictated by local building codes, but others require your good judgement.
  • Good furniture. For dine-in spaces, make sure that your furniture is comfortable, sturdy and versatile. We’ve all eaten in this chair, and we’ve all hated it.
  • Lighting. People eat with their eyes. A well-lit space highlights and draws people to what you want them to see.
  • Serviceware. Invest in good quality serviceware that is easy to maintain, rather than cheap throwaways that add up as you replace them.

Areas to cut costs:

  • Finished. You can get creative with finishes without having to spend too much money.
  • Flooring. This is usually a big ticket item, but for your first restaurant, if you have a decent floor to start, we suggest keeping it unless it fails safety standards.

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