Friday, November 18, 2011

Restaurant Decor: Looks Aren't Everything, But They're a Big Thing

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 at 11:06 AM

no dusty fake grape vines, please!
  • no dusty fake grape vines, please!
Carrington's recent review of Vito's touched on a subject that I have been mulling over for a while now: restaurant decor.

I can't begin to tell you how much decor affects my appreciation of a restaurant. It might have to do with the fact that my mother is an interior designer, so I've been trained from an early age to take note of most design choices. And I really believe that by looking at the interior of a space, you can tell with about 90 percent certainty what to expect from the food. So for anyone out there designing a new restaurant or redesigning an old one, I have some tips for what I like to see (or not see) in a place of fine dining:

1. No carpet. I mean, would you want carpet in your own kitchen or dining room? I think this aversion stems from experiencing a nasty musty smell emitting from the carpet at a local steakhouse (here's a hint — don't ask me why I even went there in the first place). I also have flashbacks of working at Pargo's (ha! remember the crazy bread?) in high school and lamenting about how the carpet was never cleaned, we just used one of these *incredibly useful things that *always works to sweep up crumbs. In a dining space, carpet just seems incredibly unsanitary and I'm surprised it's not a health code violation.

2. Some sort of door/curtain to the kitchen. I mean, you better have a damn near-spotless kitchen if you want me to walk by and look right in. After working in restaurants in the past, I don't like to even think about how nasty restaurant kitchens are, let alone see it. This also has a lot to do with both the light and sound that stream from the kitchen. Usually, in nicer restaurants, the lighting is soft and dim, and the kitchen lighting is often stark and bright, hence, an eyesore. Sound insulation is important too. I have this strong feeling that if Zavos had a door/curtain over their kitchen to absorb some of the clanking of dishes from the kitchen (and a wine license from the beginning) it could have been much more successful.

3. No fake plants/flowers/fruit. Even though your food was exceptional, Zola, I was often distracted by this faux pas. Cheap gyro outposts — y'all get a pass.

4. This seems obvious, but if your art collection is over 20 years old, it needs to be updated. Yep, I'm calling you out.

5. I realize this is nit-picky, but I really prefer the aesthetic of white tablecloths and napkins over black. Although black linens don't ugly-up my black pants/skirt like white ones do, black linens just scream " '90s RESTAURANT - -WE HAVE SURF-N-TURF — COME 'N GET IT" to me. I think it is a really nice touch, though, when a place uses white linens, but offers you black if you are wearing black (I think I remember this happening at Miel once).

Any thoughts? Additions?

*sarcasm intended!

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