Trends in restaurant design have been spurred by all sorts of influences, from the world of celebrities to ethnic diversity. Today, the trend in restaurant design leans toward considering not only the visual appeal, but also the emotional response to the visual presentation — this is definitely not a “one theme fits all” approach.

While some aspects of the design have a broad-based appeal by reflecting the dominant mood of the period, today’s restaurant design trends typically enjoy a wide range of tastes based on the market the restaurant wants to reach. The various generations, such as baby boomers, Millenials, or Tweens, each have their own emotional requirements as well as their own food preferences. So trends in restaurant design are impacted by what such generational diners want and whether they have the buying power to make their desires known. Smart restaurant owners know how to read current trends and they vary their restaurant design according to that.

Don’t be fooled: The preferences of each generation will encourage trends in restaurant design that appeal to that group. For instance, the baby boomers will be seeking a tranquil dining experience, while preteens will want stimulation and innovation. Keeping current with trends in restaurant design means keeping current with what’s going on in retail, with what your competitors are doing, and with what consumers want. 

Themes that evoke nostalgia are a big example of the ways in which various eras can affect restaurant design. Sonic Corp., more familiarly known as America’s Drive-in, relies heavily on nostalgia tapping into Baby Boomers’ sweet dining memories while at the same time catching the interest of younger generations by adding a modern twist on a restaurant design trend from the past.

The Happy Days idea was originally created by Sonic in the mid twentieth century. But this largest chain of fast-food drive-in restaurants in the U.S., with some 3,000 eating facilities, still recognized the importance of staying current by incorporating some of the latest restaurant design trends as it sought to expand into new areas.

In recognition that the fashion for some restaurant designers today relies on a heavy case of nostalgia, Sonic chose to put a new face on its building facades. While Sonic didn’t abandon its time-tested concept of drive-in dining, it did add neon, tensile, metal cladding and other shiny, colorful design elements into its building facades. The new look and feel reinforces the timeless design that diners associate with the Sonic name while lowering its production costs and putting its unique selling point — drive-up dining — at the forefront.

There are trends in restaurant design that stay with us, which is exemplified by Sonic and its theme that has been successful for a half century or more. However, the majority of trends in restaurant design work like clothing in that they are cyclical, although their cycles are likely to stay in vogue longer than the edgiest fashion trends. Having a strategic plan for restaurant design trends are key to an all-encompassing restaurant marketing program that is consistent throughout every aspect of your design, from the restaurant’s interior look and feel to your logos to online development.

Trends in restaurant design should only be utilized by you if they fit in with the needs of your consumer base, your special selling features, and the amount of money you have to spend. A knowledgeable restaurant designer can work with you so you’ll know what restaurant design trends to adopt, and which ones you want to avoid at all costs taking into account your restaurant business plan.

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