Editor’s note: Top-notch grocerant design welcomes diners in to visit, enjoy food and drink, and spend awhile. It rivals nearby restaurants for comfort and style – so the retail eating area can compete. And it has the right flow and features to be operationally efficient.

To present design coverage in this issue of FRG, we’ve asked two leading designers – Juan Romero, President and CEO of api(+), and Tré Musco, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Tesser - to independently weigh in with suggestions for readers.  

Their comments in this story, and the one at the right in our newsletter layout, preview some of the ideas they’ll be speaking about live at the May 21-22 Educational Summit at NRA Show in Chicago.

We begin with insights and ideas from Juan Romero, President and CEO, api(+):

Food Quality
Nothing keeps customers coming back better than food quality – which means fresh ingredients, great recipes, taste profiles and proper variety are all key to restaurant success,” says Juan Romero, President and CEO of api(+). Food presentation should “heighten all senses and promote desire,” he adds. “Presentation, freshness, taste, color and aroma are each critical to making a great impression.”
Convenience and efficiency are important to everyone with finite time available - and “no one wants to be hassled at dinnertime. Consider the customer experience and ways to make it easier for people to enjoy your grocerant,” urges Mr. Romero.
Every element of the environment and process should be intuitive, he explains:
Layout and graphics should guide customers. Adjacencies to services, access to self-
service items, menus, prices, and efficient checkouts should all be clear to elevate
customer convenience and enjoyment.

Location matters greatly to a grocerant’s success. “More than ever, we know a store’s leftover space doesn’t make for a successful in-store dining concept. Give special consideration to placement within the store,” Mr. Romero states.
Understand the grocerant is about more than functional dining. “Restaurants
provide social ambiance - opportunities to meet others, relax or be introspective.
They are also places to see and be seen,” he adds. Therefore, retailers should choose
locations that facilitate these experiences and fully leverage a store’s assets.
The best locations use exterior exposure, adjacencies to where food-theater occurs,
patios, gardens, and second stories that overlook the store.  “There’s potential for
success anywhere an operator has thoughtfully considered the customer experience
and a store’s best assets,” he observes.
Seating selection and layout contribute to operational success and customer engagement.  Inexperienced grocerants commonly use tables and chairs that don’t size properly to plating options, explains Mr. Romero: “Variety makes a difference - and should include, as appropriate, bar, table, two-top and communal options.”

For example, two-tops bring “great flexibility” for multiple uses, he says. Communal
tables are “the rage” and provide many desired design opportunities. Bench seats
are also flexible for larger group gatherings.  Understand customer needs and create
environments that are appropriate to usage.
To conceive a successful grocerant, create an environment that will resonate with your target customer. It’s difficult to do. The sky is the limit from a conceptual point of view.  ‘First impressions’ count the most,” says Mr. Romero.

Making sure your customer feels welcome and appreciated can be provided in any popular concept theme, but it needs to be real, uplifting and desirable, he adds. Cultural themes work if they are authentic. Modern and traditional concepts, and food-centric themes, are also “great options. The discussion about where to go with your theme should include your operational competency level and passionate desire to serve,” he states. 
Selection & Assortment
Know the demographics of the immediate market area in order to tailor menu assortments and prices accordingly. “These may need to be adjusted by daypart because target guest demographics and needs may shift greatly over the course of the day,” notes Mr. Romero.
 api(+) is a multidisciplinary design firm offering brand strategy, architecture, interior design, graphic design, signage, and industrial design. It specializes in food retail, specialty retail, restaurants and retail centers for a wide variety of national and international clients, and has been at the forefront of the grocerant Trénd designing successful concepts for major national brands.