Reinventing Retail & Restaurants

— By James “Gino” Ginopoulos —

As a result of the pandemic, retailers and restaurants are getting a new look.


Even prior to the pandemic, many industries were looking for ways to adapt to changes in their markets to maintain a competitive edge. However, like many things, the pandemic accelerated that need to adapt and evolve in order to overcome the challenges stemming from the virus. While certain positive advancements have been made since the onset of the pandemic, like the creation of various vaccines, developers and owners are still taking a cautious and mindful approach in the design and construction of their retail and restaurant spaces to meet consumers’ evolving needs.

Reinventing Restaurants

James Ginopoulos, ORIGIN Construction

As one of the hardest hit sectors, the restaurant industry has had to undergo significant changes, as evident in the latest restaurant design trends. Future and existing spaces will likely see the expansion of outdoor dining, interior space planning, investments in touchless technology, integration of drive-thru, delivery and pickup options, and enhancements in mechanical systems (HVAC/clean air, interior automatic touchless door systems).

In markets that are fortunate to have warm weather climates, restaurant owners can offer year-round dining options with outdoor spaces. The pandemic has created an increased demand for outdoor dining, and the construction industry is identifying new, innovative ways to expand layouts to accommodate outdoor dining. One solution is leveraging sidewalk spaces or parking lots to create additional open-air dining concepts. For restauranteurs who are in the process of building a new space, some are looking to allocate up to 50% of the restaurant’s footprint to outdoor dining. For example, one of the prominent restaurant groups that we represent is building a new eatery and was originally planning to dedicate 10% to 15% of the layout for patio space, but the pandemic has drastically changed its plans and now the 6,000-square-foot space will have about 40% of the layout dedicated to outdoor seating.

Inside, contractors are getting creative by making temporary changes to layouts to accommodate the surge of takeout and delivery business that has persisted throughout the pandemic. Dining rooms have suddenly become makeshift fulfillment centers, and entrances have been replaced with takeout windows.

New technologies also factor into the mix. More restaurateurs are contemplating how to introduce touchless features in entryways, dining rooms, and even kitchens. The future of dining will include digital waiting lists, QR codes that allow diners to order from their table with a smartphone, and contactless payment systems. Many of these strategies will require some element of redesign and construction, but provide long term efficiencies and benefits to restaurant operators. On a smaller, lower-tech scale, some operators continue offering hand sanitizer at every table. The implementation is simple, and it goes a long way to making the guest feel comfortable and safe.

Retail Is Getting a Makeover

Long before the pandemic, the growth of e-commerce was already impacting the retail sector; however, it is no secret that the effects of the pandemic have shaped the face of retail design and construction as we know it.

The real estate strategies of big box operators have been most heavily impacted by the growth of e-commerce, but for the most part, higher-end retailers still value the boutique store model because it allows for more personalized service and creates opportunities to bring a brand to life in a physical setting.

As with restaurants, retailers are embracing outdoor space as a means for limiting indoor, person-to-person interaction during — and long after — the pandemic. For example, some retailers are looking to redesign storefronts to offer open-air concepts that lie flush with their building, which ultimately positions the interior of the layout further back.

Again, this is similar to the earlier trend of seeing smaller interior spaces and a greater emphasis on exterior footprints. Another trend that has emerged recently is the idea that retail space can serve primarily as a showroom, which enables a brand to sell an item in-person but fulfill the order digitally through an online delivery platform.

This shift has placed an emphasis on the design aesthetic of consumer-facing spaces while reducing the need for significant back-of-house space. It is expected that retailers will follow this business model post-pandemic, and there will be continued growth in the number of brands offering curbside pickup. All of this is to say that retailers are putting more weight on the quality of store planning, design and construction — as opposed to warehousing their inventory on-site.

Planning: Present & Future

There has been a tremendous shift in prioritizing the need for more outdoor space. Looking ahead, one of the challenges many retailers and shopping centers will face is determining how to incorporate the open-air element into an existing design as it is not effective to do a full redesign.

Brands will be more hyper focused than ever in incorporating health and wellness elements and amenities as part of the experience they offer its customers.

Additionally, more investment will be made by both dining spots and shops to integrate mobile apps, delivery and curbside pickup options to make ordering a more convenient and hassle-free experience that may not always include spending time inside the space. In fact, some retailers may eliminate floor displays and integrate digital experiences that will allow the customer to come into the store, see the product and be confident it has been safely packaged.

Despite the present challenges the retail and restaurant industries face as a result of the lingering pandemic, the lessons learned and changes to space planning and operations will have a positive impact and better position many businesses for growth over the long term.




— With over 36 years in the construction business, James “Gino” Ginopoulos serves as the Restaurant & Retail Division leader at ORIGIN Construction, a leading general contracting services firm based in Miami.

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