How did you start designing restaurants?
have been fascinated by the restaurant industry since I was
a kid. My brothers and sister must have caught the bug too
because they are still in the business. My parents first owned
a catering company and then an 800 seat supper club in Massachusetts.
I spent time in the back of the house doing everything from
washing dishes to cooking on the line and manning the dessert
and salad stations. Then I moved to the front of the house
as a server, a host and maitre d'. I loved the restaurant
business where I acquired my nuts and bolts education through
lots of hands on experience. I took this knowledge, along
with what I learned at Arizona State University where I received
my architectural degree, and started designing restaurants.
This way I could still keep my hand in the business I loved
by creating the visual component to go along with the owner's
How can a chef find an designer/architect that specializes
in restaurant design?
When you see a restaurant that you like, ask who designed
it. Another good way is to ask friends in the business. Nothing
beats a personal recommendation from a peer that has already
successfully used a design/ architectural firm. The next option
would be to contact the restaurant association. Another way
to go, is to call your State Building Association. They will
have a list of approved design companies, obviously make sure
they realize that you are looking for restaurant/hospitality
What questions should chefs and/or owners ask when interviewing
sure they can offer what I term as a seamless service (also
known as one stop shopping). By seamless, I mean look for
a company which offers a predesign service - this is vital.
The prospective restaurant space needs a professional evaluation.
You will need the company to review the site and calculate
the space to ensure the square footage will accommodate the
number guests required to pay the rent. I just completed a
project where there was not enough space to do this. To make
the location viable, we decided to add a mezzanine floor.
A good designer/architect will also understand the local building
regulations and clean air policies. Additionally, they will
be able to identify the landlord's responsibilities. In many
situations in order to lease a space, the landlord will have
to pay for some alterations. Ask your prospective firm for
previous projects they have worked on. Find out what is done
in house and what work is farmed out. Most companies will
use food service consultants to design the kitchen, but your
designer/architect should be the one who figures out the location
of the delivery and storage area, where the kitchen is going
to be and pencil in the sauté, pantry and pastry stations
. Ask firms you are considering if they have first hand hospitality
experience? Many of the key players at JBD have worked in
restaurants or come from families who are in the business.
That I think is one of our greatest qualifications, it enables
us to visualize how a restaurant will flow on a busy night.
Ask if the prospective company can also handle the small details
like signage, graphics and menu design. These areas may seem
less important at the beginning of a project, but as completion
nears, they become large issues. In order to have a uniform
statement when a restaurant is finished, I think it is important
every aspect is discussed and conceived at the beginning of
the project so the package is complete.
all, whether you select a sole practitioner or a larger firm,
make sure they have restaurant/hospitality experience. It
goes without saying, like with any partnership, you should
like and respect the person or people you're going to be working
with throughout this process.
Do design/architectural firms find sites for clients?
Often for regular clients a design/architectural firm will
spot a space and recognize that it suits a client's requirements.
Who selects the construction company for the client?
This is the client's decision. The designer/architect will
suggest firms in the area based on the project's criteria.
Construction companies bid for the contract, and the client
makes a decision. A designer/architect can add valuable advice
during this time period.
much does an architectural firm charge?
That depends on the scope of the project and the design/architectural
firm's experience in the field. Naturally, the project's budget
will also play a role.
What's the best advice you can give someone who is looking
to open their first restaurant?
Hire professionals with experience who see your vision and
can turn your dream into a reality. Choose people you have
confidence in who can see the job from start to finish. Opening
a restaurant is extremely stressful. The last thing you want
to do is bite off more than you can chew. Hiring a good designer/architect
will make swallowing much easier.
Brown, ASID, is the founder and president of JBD in Warwick,
Rhode Island. The 25 person staff conceives restaurants and
country clubs all over the country. Their design of Naked
Fish resulted in a Hot Concept! award in 2000.