The post-Covid design brief for restaurants and offices

Design experts on adapting offices, restaurants and bars for the post-Covid world

Open-air restaurants with individual booths and multipurpose office spaces with green nooks. Architects and interior designers let us in on what’s changing in their post-Covid design brief:


Minnie Bhatt, Minnie Bhatt Design

Current projects: UK-based brewery called Brewdog, Burma Burma and Effingut at Kolkata, Sante’ at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai and House of Mandarin in Pune

(left) Ishaara, a restaurant in Mumbai and (right) Minnie Bhatt  
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While clients prefer utilising available space to the maximum, the post-Covid brief is set for an overhaul. Seating arrangements will have to be more spaced out, ideally with dividers, crafted with materials such as clear glass as they are easy to sanitise. “Restaurateurs will have to ensure individual sanitiser dispensers for every table and temperature checks at the entrance,” says Bhatt. Finishes used for table tops and dining chairs will be closely looked into as they will be sanitised after every meal. “Metal chairs will be preferred over wooden ones as can be sanitised repeatedly.”

Design tips

1. Bring in a lot of natural light.

2. Open-air spaces will be preferred over air-conditioned rooms, so investing in an outdoor cooler is a good idea.

3. Choose material finishes cleverly so that surfaces can be sanitised regularly without easy wear and tear.

(left) 266 The Wine Room and Bar and (right) Sarah Sham
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Sarah Sham, Principal Designer, Essajees Atelier

Past projects: 266 The Wine Room and Bar and Happy Thai in Mumbai

For bars and pubs, finding creative solutions to create a vibe while still maintaining social distancing norms is key. “Given the current financial situation everyone is facing, we need to come up with economical and easy solutions,” says Sham, who recommends crafting see-through acrylic partitions.

Design tips

– Create sanitisation booths/tunnels at entry and exit points.

– Design interactive layouts using mirrors.

– Demarcate a clear service passageway for human traffic.

– Have a large area for take-out outside the entrance to minimise entry.

– Invest in AC filtration systems with germ filters.

(left) an office design by ADND and (right) Shobhan Kothari
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Shobhan Kothari, co-founder, ADND

Current projects: two learning centres, a few private equity offices and a pharmaceutical office – all in Maharashtra

While the post-Covid office environment will not change much in terms of aesthetics, the pragmatics of design — density, air circulation and hygiene – will have a greater role play. “Earlier, designs catered to creating an aesthetic appeal and supported the pragmatic brief. Today, designers will have to make designs more human-centric and cater to the emotional and physiological effects arising from this new normal,” says Kothari, adding that dust-free environments will be a priority.

Design tips

– Follow biophilic design principles that incorporate nature indoors.

– Reject materials lacking a sustainability certification or those prone to dust

– Invest heavily in IT solutions and AI along with AR

– Use glass or acrylic partitions to subdivide spaces and create enclosures

– Opt for neutral and earthy tones such as white and beige

(left) Rannade Publication House in Ahmedabad and (right) Yatin Pandya
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Yatin Pandya, founder, Footprints E.A.R.T.H.

Current projects: Heritage hotel (Udaipur), residences (Ahmedabad, Udaipur), among others

For Pandya, the design response to the pandemic must be broken down into three segments: the importance of nature, flexible layouts for social distancing and reducing our dependence on technology such as air-conditioning. “While norms of distancing may be adhered to, the flexibility of a restaurant or office’s layout and furniture used can be altered to suit the floor’s density. Using outdoor and semi-covered spaces will offer spatial choices while adding to the usable floor space. Outdoor catering is an economical and effective alternative and people would prefer this set-up post the lockdown,” says the architect.

Design tips

– Opt for non porous and non-absorbing materials such as glass, nano stone slabs in a natural palette, high density granites, etc. to allow for easy cleaning

– Glass can be used as it is transparent and non-reactive to sanitising liquids

– Avoid absorbent tapestry or cloth-based surfaces.

– Invest in biodegradable cutlery in materials such as bamboo and moulded palm leaf

– Choose natural ventilation rather than air conditioners that circulate the same air within a room

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