Restaurant developers often need to consult with other professionals to make their vision become a reality. Third-party professionals can help with everything from finding an ideal location to decorating the space, and many developers work with designers to create an ambiance that reflects their restaurant’s concept and attracts customers. Restaurant developers should understand that every designer has a different aesthetic, and not all will have a vision that aligns with theirs. Hiring a designer blindly can result in disaster if creative expectations are not met. Therefore, understanding how to approach and vet designers is the key to making the most of what they have to offer. Below are the most important tips for restaurateurs to keep in mind when hiring a designer.
Do the necessary due diligence.
Hiring a designer is like hiring any other employee. Restaurant developers need to research both individual designers and design firms. Important questions to ask involve the designer’s overall philosophy and how he or she approaches the process of translating clients’ ideas into designs. Restaurateurs should ask for as many examples of the designer’s projects as possible to get a good idea of his or her personal style, and to see if the designer has worked on any similar projects. After choosing two or three designers to interview, the restaurateur should ask each what makes him or her right for the job.
Understand why the designer is necessary.
Restaurant developers should know what they want to achieve with the design of their restaurant, and they should understand why they need a designer to realize their vision. Restaurateurs should also be able to clearly articulate the characteristics they want their restaurant to embody, its price point and menu, and what makes it unique. This information gives the designer a good foundation from which to create a winning design. In general, designers want to make their clients happy and they will work with whatever guidance they are given. However, when the restaurateur has absolutely no vision and no ideas, the designer has no raw material to shape.
When working with designers, restaurant developers need to remember that designers are professionals who provide special expertise and knowledge that they lack. Sometimes, the designer will disagree with what the restaurant developer wants. These conflicts should spark further conversation, and the developer should take the designer’s opinions seriously.
Have realistic time expectations.
Too often, restaurant developers hire designers late in the project, and the result is that they have very little creative freedom to breathe life into the restaurateur’s ideas. Designing an excellent space takes time and collaboration. Restaurateurs can bring designers into a project before they have even secured a location. While this may seem too early, it allows the designer to help choose a space that is ideal for the concept. Designers bring a unique perspective to the restaurant development process and can often point out important considerations that restaurateurs may overlook. Bringing designers in only when it’s time to decorate the space can put a lot of pressure on the project and severely inhibit creativity.
Define the budget clearly.
Hiring a designer without first defining the budget is a big mistake. Designers can create impressive spaces based on both small and large budgets, but they must know what the budget is before they begin the design process. If a designer dedicates weeks to creating a great proposal only to hear that the project is too expensive, they’ll feel like they’ve wasted their time. A budget will also help designers know whether they feel comfortable taking on the project in the first place. Some designers may decline a project if they don’t think they can give the concept justice, given the budget.
While the budget will obviously have some bearing on the decision of which designer to hire, the designer’s fees should not be the primary driving factor in selecting one designer over another. For example, imagine two designers who have very different charges for their services. Some restaurant developers may immediately dismiss the more expensive designer. However, he or she may be able to make money stretch a lot further, whereas the designer who charges less may not have the ingenuity and creativity needed to work within tight constraints. Thus, the more expensive designer might ultimately deliver a better final product, without overages or delays.
Bring your menu to the designer.
Restaurateurs need a clear concept before they can open a restaurant. Similarly, designers work more effectively when they have more information about the concept. Having an idea of what the menu will look like can help the designer make decisions that reinforce the concept. For example, a restaurant with small plates may need more table space than an eatery that serves a three-course, prix-fixe menu. Likewise, restaurants that serve large portions meant for sharing may benefit from larger communal tables in lieu of bar or counter space. While menus frequently change, especially in the early weeks of operation, having an idea of the types of plates that will be served can ensure that the restaurant design reinforces the concept.