Designing the ideal restaurant for Gen Z customers

On-table touch screens, interactive menus and themed conveyor belts: these are the features  Generation Z designers in Mainland China nominated when they got together to create the ideal restaurant.

As part of a “Fashion Store of the Future” programme run by 5 Star Plus Retail Design in Shanghai, students collaborated on designs for retail stores, pop ups, and restaurants aligning with the New Retail era. 

What does the dream restaurant of Generation Z look like? We wanted them to think outside the box. What are design elements that further enhance the dining experience? What makes the experience unique and unforgettable? What design elements or technology can cause a surprise effect? What can exceed dine-in expectations? How does Generation Z imagine the restaurant design of the future? The young participants of our project group all agreed that the real difference – aside from the most obvious, the quality of the food – would be the comfort and personalisation delivered by modular elements and technology.

The dining table – full customisation

Placing orders through technology and gadgets rather than with a paper menu is already commonplace, but in the ideal restaurant of the future, customers will only order their meals and drinks using touch screens at their table. The ordering system is very advanced with screens that are not only water proof but also 100-per-cent self cleaning and germ free, just like the table itself. 

The seating can be altered depending on how many guests need to be seated. For a smaller group, chairs can be sized for an individual, and for larger events they can be expanded to accommodate two to three people. Keeping sustainability in mind, every piece of furniture will be created from recycled or reclaimed materials.

The intensity of the light can be adjusted for each table so customers feel in control of the mood, suiting formal business events, a meetup with friends or romantic dinners. 

Drinks are served on conveyor belts similar to the system already in use at some sushi restaurants. Vytopna Railway Restaurant, a train themed restaurant in Prague, pictured below, has implemented a similar concept with small trains that deliver the ordered drinks right to the tables.

See it, smell it, order it

Choosing meals from the interactive menu will be a more visual and fun experience. Menus will create a 4D experience using holographic and sensory technology to display different meal options. Once a food item is selected, a holograph of the dish will appear and guests can smell it by gently wafting their hand towards their nose. The entirety of the ordering process will create a fun interactive experience that will likely increase the guest’s overall satisfaction with their meal, instead of the current selection process that can sometimes be a hit or miss choice. 

To make the experience even more personalised, guests will be able to customise their own food based on their dietary needs and preferences. After they order, the software will collect this information and provide recommendations and health tips. When they return to the restaurant, new recommendations will be given based on their previous visit.


Mood-changing bar counter

When sitting at the bar, guests will realise that the entire counter is an interactive LED screen that can be used to see and browse information regarding the date, time, weather, news, recommendations and, of course, order drinks. The style and colour of the counter top can be easily changed based on the design preferences of the restaurant. During daytime, the restaurant can set the counter to a bright solid color and during the evening a colour-changing mode can be set to create a more dynamic and fun atmosphere.

What comes next?

Getting great insights into the imagination and requirements for the future from Generation Z inspired us to continue this project. Next up, we will present the “Pop-up Store of the Future”, developed to attract customers from Gen Z.

  • Samantha Chalmers is Shanghai-based client manager with 5 Star Plus Retail Design (Beijing) Ltd. 

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