Planning the restaurant design is starting to feel like throwing a party. A half hour before the party starts, you get nervous and start to wonder if anyone will come. But, you have to plan for a crowd. I feel that way about the restaurant. I don’t want to be presumptuous – but the customers coming into Alison at Blue Bell are very excited about the second restaurant –especially the bar. That’s like stepping into new territory for me – since Alison at Blue Bell doesn’t have a bar. It sort of changes my view of the place.
I originally envisioned the bar by the food counter and open kitchen. But, of course, there isn’t going to be an open kitchen. Plus, if I put the bar near the kitchen and people congregate there – it might be difficult for servers to get in and out with food. I’m trying to be prepared. You really don’t know what is going to happen. Will the bar drive the restaurant or the will the food or private parties? I hope it is a good mix of all three.
It’s a real evolution. We blew up the blueprints and laid them out on the floor. I’ve used tracing paper to outline the bar and I’m moving it around to see where it seems to work best. Sometimes I walk around Alison at Blue Bell with a tape measure to understand how big things are in a space I’m familiar with. I never was very good at spatial relations.
It just doesn’t feel right yet. So I’ve been doing some reconnaissance missions. I usually go to the same three or four restaurants over and over. But I’ve been going to lots of different restaurants to see how their rooms work. I want our restaurant to feel like one cohesive unit. The struggle is that it has so many more facets than Alison at Blue Bell. I have to consider the private dining rooms, the wine lockers, the bar, etc. I’d like a restaurant design that the staff enjoys working in and the customers want to come back again and again. It should be consistent and comfortable yet there should be something new for guests to discover on each visit.
At least the kitchen design is coming together. Two weeks ago, I had to pick two of three things for the kitchen: a tilting braiser, a kettle or a tandoor oven. I choose the tilting braiser and the tandoor oven. Of course, I’m not sure how things will shake out because I just had a discussion with Amelia and found out the proofing box for the bread may not be big enough. So, I have a call scheduled with Mark Stech-Novak later today to discuss our concerns about the bakery.
We’re also wrestling with some HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) issues. Those vents and ducts have to go somewhere. And that “somewhere” was interfering with the design of the kitchen and dining room. One duct was exactly where we had planned to put a station for servers. In another spot, we had to consider lowering the ceiling to encase the ductwork. There were lots of issues. We’ve solved some of them and are still working on others.
As we struggle with various design issues, the blog has been a big help. It opens dialogues with customers – which helps me make decisions. Lots of customers are coming into the restaurant and asking questions and letting me know what they think. It’s great because it really helps with my planning. So leave a comment on the blog or stop by and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I’m moving a cut-out bar around the giant blueprint trying to figure out the best place for it. It is like rearranging the furniture.
Happy Holidays, everyone. We’ve finished our “20 days of cookies” at Alison at Blue Bell and are working on the little goodie bags that we’re giving out on New Year’s Eve. We just got a delivery for the goodie bags, but I can’t tell you what it is. I want it to be a surprise.