Trends in Restaurant AV
the National Restaurant Association projects that overall restaurant industry sales will increase in current dollars by 2.5 percent over 2008.
Troy Moser, principal architect with Moser Architecture Studio in Las Vegas, has noticed a similar need for AV flexibility in his designs, which include Prive Nightclub in the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, Studio 54 at the MGM Grand, and the Simon Restaurant at Palms Place. At least in the Vegas market, he's seen a shift from a mega club concept to a compartmentalized approach in nightclub design, with owners increasingly wanting to break the building down into smaller, more intimate spaces.
"You've always had your VIP rooms, but the 'ultra lounge' has become sort of a buzzword in club design in Vegas these days," says Moser. "That's where you take the intimacy of a smaller bar-like atmosphere and combine it with the energy level of a nightclub."
This approach typically incorporates the ability to accommodate a traveling DJ. "The club crowd seems to want celebrity DJs, so the nightclubs have to make it happen," he says. "In this situation, you've not only got audio and video feeds, but you also have to create sort of an isolated turntable situation, which can be very structurally complicated AV-wise. At the same time, the owner will inevitably want multiple audio zones to satisfy different types of customers."
In the case of the Simon Restaurant, one of his most recent restaurant projects, Moser says the owner settled on three different distinct audio zones to create a different mood and feel within the restaurant, including the main dining room with a sushi bar, a bar/lounge area, and a garden room.
"We designed an infrastructure that also made a guest DJ possible, in case they wanted that capability for special events or parties," he says. "Otherwise, it was a very finished sort of upscale restaurant where AV is to be heard and not seen."
As with many clients Moser has worked with in the past, the Palms Resort brought in its own preferred list of consultants and suppliers from day one, including AV people to do their own specifications, design, and installation. This type of AV firm, which is resembles Solomon's EFS Networks, can handle as little or as much as the client wants, Moser explains.
"This might include everything from AV to security to computer systems," he says. "They'll go as far as not only designing the points of connection and backbone, but also specing the equipment and doing the installation if you so desire."
Despite the fact that the restaurant/nightclub market is vast, many systems integrators, including large firms, choose not to join the ranks of specialists like Solomon. However, that could be changing, as the economic downturn and competition force contractors to journey outside of their comfort zone and take a renewed look at alternative verticals.
Keeping an open mind can also open new doors in unexpected places, says AVI-SPL's Cody. "I think a lot of integrators shy away from restaurants because they think there's not a lot of profit in them," she says. "What they need to remember is how you get into the market. If you have a relationship with the owner, it makes a big difference. Word of mouth is huge in this business. We look at it not so much as a profit center but as a relationship builder. Yes, this particular client does restaurants, but what else do they do? And who else do they know?"
Ellen Parson is a contributing editor to Pro AV.