Tim Mutton, founder of specialist F&B design agency Blacksheep, discusses the trend for smaller sites and how the growth in delivery is impacting operators views on space and design.  

One increasing trend we have noticed from a design perspective has been that many operators are starting to create different models when it comes to additional sites – and often restaurants with a smaller footprint. We are not doing as many typical 3,500sq ft restaurants anymore. People’s spending power is not what it used to be, and so you are better off having something smaller that is still giving customers the atmosphere and vibe of the brand, while also reinforcing the presence of the brand on the high street.

The mix of sites is also different now, due to the growth in the delivery and takeaway markets, so we are often remodelling those spaces to cater for that. For example, we have been working with John Eckbert, CEO of Five Guys, for more than five years and, in that time, we are approaching our fourth generational restaurant model with them.

We are currently repurposing traditional small retail units, such as convenience stores, into new model concepts, with the space attributed mainly to takeaway and delivery – sometimes as much as 60%. From a design perspective, this means there is often a compact kitchen, with maybe fewer than 35 covers, where people aren’t going to dwell for more than 20 minutes. That’s the world we live in now. People grab something from the supermarket, get a meal in a box, or they will grab something to eat and just want to get home.

Those brands that are able to gear shift from pure restaurant to other models will be best placed to match the changing social economical lifestyles of people and give them what they need or lack. Where we see the future of eating out, and an exciting viable white space, is in upscale quick-service restaurants that can deal with the hybrid of grab and go, sit in, delivery, and adapt to changing technology requirements and other trends such as becoming cashless, plastic, pollutant and waste-free.

Because of the growth in delivery, we are also looking at how we can stop the disruption of drivers coming into a restaurant, or hanging around outside, so it looks like a scene from Grease, with mopeds parked up everywhere.

We are trying to think about how we navigate that, and keep the delivery element separate from the restaurant, because it is really disruptive when you have got someone turning around in the restaurant with a great big insulated pack on their back, which swipes you round the back of the head while you are eating your dinner. The guest should come first.

However, delivery is not going to go away, so there is a challenge around how the logistics can be addressed in inner urban areas – not one for which there is a quick and easy answer as yet. One fantastic solution I saw recently while I was in the US, was a designated collection area for drivers and guests that had been integrated into the restaurant. It is certainly a case of watch this space.