Article contributed by Raymond Haldeman, Restaurant Designer
I am looking forward to using this space to share some of my thoughts as we work with our customer base across the country. In order to forecast trends and help discover some that impact the industry, I thought it would be helpful to share a little bit of my background.
I was lucky enough to have three incredible mentors before my design career expanded. I know that Total Food Service honors the industry’s Top Women every year, so it dawned on me that two of those mentors were strong incredible women. The first was Kathleen Mulhern, the owner of a famous French Restaurant, The Garden in Philadelphia who saw something in me and invested the time to train me. I started as a busboy as a teenager and in less than a year, I was the chef.
Another influential life and career mentor was a catering consultant Ruth Bonura. I met her as a chef aboard ITW’s corporate entertaining yacht The Arara. She provided me with the guidance to start my own catering business, which I started out of my apartment. A year later I was on the cover of MONEY Magazine for grossing $1M my first year.
Then there was Leslie John Koeser, a well-known Philadelphia restaurant designer. I collaborated with Leslie on the design of my first restaurant, and again on my nightclub in South Beach. He taught me how to elevate a client’s vision and add indelible design elements that customers would never forget.
The impact of those mentors and the decades I spent as a hands on operator helped me shape “Haldeman 101”, the wisdom that I look forward to sharing with TFS readers as we look at design trends in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
I treat every design job as a collaboration between you, the owner/operator, and myself. So the first and most important thing is: I listen to the client so that I can fully understand and capture their vision. I then provide the client with a candid assessment of their vision. Can it be done, should it be done, is it functionally wise, what value can I add to it, how can I improve it so it generates more income.
So if we are comfortable after the “Candid assessment” and subsequent discussions then we are truly ready to collaborate. Among the key trends in our industry as we move through the design process is the ability to utilize technology to maximize our ability as a team to “elevate the vision” that we now share into something exciting and memorable. The process proceeds with the creation of a private website for my client. It is connected to my main site where I can upload the floor plans and revisions, lighting ideas, textures, fabric ideas and anything related to the job. For instance, I will upload floor plan changes we previously discussed to their site. Then I will text the client, “Just posted FP changes to your site.” This gets the information to the client instantly and is a chronological documentation of everything related to their job.
The concept is tightened up, the floor plan is created, and reviewed after several edits before it is “approved.” Once we have a viable floor plan, a reflective lighting plan is “overlaid” over the floor plan designating the precise location of pin spots, pendants, LED treatments and general lighting. When these essentials are completed I literally raise the walls of the floor plan into a 3D design that includes everything, i.e., all finishes, design elements, lighting fixtures, chairs, booths, banquettes, colors, textures, measurements, etc. During the creation of the 3D design, I am mindful of everything the client has said and I make sure a version of what they have been dreaming about is included in the design.
As an example, I like pendant lighting over booths because the booths will never move. This enables me to hang the pendants 30” above each table. For floors, the new vinyl (wood-look) wide plank flooring is an excellent application as it is waterproof and absorbs sound! I don’t use carpet in any of the restaurants I design. It only looks good for the first month and in my opinion is woefully inadequate for use in a restaurant.
Among the more recent trends is the use of natural surfaces for tabletops such as random planked farmhouse stressed wood with many layers of low luster protective glaze, eliminating the need for linens, therefore saving money for the client.
I am happy to chat with anyone who is planning to open a restaurant and has design questions. My goal is to help you enhance your vision. Call me on my cell! 305-968-8855
Raymond Haldeman is one of the leading entrepreneurial authorities on Bar, Restaurant & Nightclub design and operation in the country. He parlayed his successful career as a well publicized Society Caterer and Restaurateur into a thriving Restaurant Design business. His development of functional designs with wow-factor, has become an industry standard. His latest restaurant design and rebranding projects include the total renovation and rebranding of the Pilot House, now Fins Bar & Grille, in Cape May, NJ, the design and subsequent expansion of Cuzin’s Seafood Clam Bar in Marlboro, NJ, and Beacon 70 in Brick, NJ.