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Cafe Renovations Transition Cafeteria-Style Casual Dining Spaces into Bistros with Decorative Food Stations

cafeAustin, TX – Older casual dining spaces in senior communities often resemble a fusion of a school cafeteria and the game room of a 1950s nursing home. The days of this style of dining, with wicker chairs, floral upholstery and carpeted areas are fading away. Today’s seniors desire a bistro ambiance, with decorative chef stations, grab-and-go selections featuring wraps, salads and sandwiches, in addition to display cooking counters with freshly grilled menu items.

Austin-based interior design firm studioSIX5 has been working with several older communities to give a facelift to tired looking casual dining spaces that need a fresh and brightened look. Leslie McVey Hicks, project design manager for studioSIX5, has been working on several casual dining renovations, and she has insight to share about timing, changing expectations of residents, as well as the latest trends in design for these spaces. She has successfully redesigned several cafés for Erickson Living, whose campuses are identical across the nation.

“When Erickson Living built many of its communities more than 10 years ago, they had an identical design and not a lot of regional uniqueness,” said McVey Hicks. “We focus on modernizing the cafés and incorporating elements from the local area in the design. Adding local flavor differentiates the campuses and helps residents feel more at home. When any client comes to us for a proposal on renovations, the client realizes that their community is outdated and needs a facelift to compete with newer options. Providers understand that prospects and their families are seeking a newer and fresher design.”

For example, an Erickson Living campus in Denver is located on an old ranch with a café called the Fly’n B Café, which is an aviation reference. The ranch owner was a pilot and had a landing strip built on the ranch. studioSIX5 pulled in aviation inspired décor—such as rivets, metals and wood. In their Houston community, the café is called the Eagle’s Roost, which plays on the campus name—Eagle’s Trace. Designers incorporated a rustic theme to align with a new nearby neighborhood currently under construction.

“In addition to helping change up the décor, we assist in designing a new layout for tables and the way residents order and pick up their food,” said McVey Hicks. “Many times there are just tables and chairs spread out without any variety in the dining experience. We believe you can dine in the same space every day, but depending on your seat, you can have a new experience. We use a variety of tables and locations to meet this goal, including placing tables by the fireplace or window or cozy booth off to the side. This approach breaks up the space and makes it feel more residential. We also chose bright and fresh colors such as navy, orange and greys instead of an outdated dark palette. We replace carpet with neutral vinyl wood flooring and brighten up the space with pops of bright color on chairs and accent pieces. We ensure that the colors blend with the rest of the campus as well.”

studioSIX5 sometimes helps with the design of a new logo for the café or the development of new menu items. Menu selections include familiar culinary preferences of the local population and embody the look and feel of the concept created by studioSIX5. Daily menus and revitalized options are recommended to deliver variety. All of the renovated cafes are incorporating upgrades in technology like digital menu boards, decorative LED lighting instead of a field of tile, as well as more advanced kitchen equipment. Another trend shows that many residents are taking their food back to their apartments or eating it on the go. In addition to changing the overall design, studioSIX5 alters the flow of how residents pick up their food. For residents who do not wish to eat in the casual dining space, there are bagging stations so they can take their food with them.

“The standard cycle for spaces such as these is seven to 10 years,” said McVey Hicks. “After this span of time, it is good to consider ways to make the spaces fresh and current again. For communities designing casual dining spaces for the first time, we recommend making the spaces flexible and easy to change out. This is why we add a lot of color to the furniture or the walls versus the flooring or fixtures. We also recommend making it as forward-thinking as possible. Think about where design trends might go, and if it is an upscale community, definitely offer concierge-type services depending on the level of care. Using tablet computers for ordering is a trend on the horizon, and we anticipate more communities will move in this direction. Dining can be the most important aspect of a resident’s day. Every community’s priority and our goal is to make the dining experience an enjoyable and pleasurable one overall.”

ABOUT STUDIOSIX5

Based in Central Texas, studioSIX5 is one of the nation’s leading interior design firms in the senior living sector. Since 2003, the company has provided holistic design services for all different senior living service levels and prides itself on incorporating a celebration for life in its designs. In addition, studioSIX5 designs the studioSIX5 Collection, a line of functional furnishings and floorings designed to meet the needs of seniors. For more information, visit studioSIX5.com or call 512-476-6501.