Restaurant design and architecture is changing in an effort to adapt to consumer habits and preferences. At the same time, operators are looking to cut construction costs, reduce waste and boost their green credentials. In a constant search for the most efficient means of expanding business retailers are looking to modular construction as a solution for these next generation development movements.

Over the past 20 years modular manufacturing has made great strides in design and is no longer restricted to Lego-like boxes. Architects from around the world have been using modular to turn some of the most creative designs into fashionable buildings. With restaurant chains increasingly looking to reflect their locales, the consistency in appearance is becoming less nurtured. If it can be designed, it can probably be built in a modular factory.

As restaurant equipment becomes smaller and more efficient, and back-of-the-restaurant space converts to more of a finishing kitchen area, restaurant unit size will continue to shrink. It has been suggested that restaurants can trim as much as 10 percent of current space without hindering capacity. A reduction in kitchen build-outs due to advancement in equipment and higher-quality food preparation from boutique manufacturers will allow restaurants the ability to utilize high-speed oven and water baths without the expensive ventilation. These smaller, faster and more efficient designs are synonymous with the core principles of the modular manufacturing industry.

Brands are not only offering more energy-efficient unit models, relying on LED lighting, incorporating reduced-consumption equipment and smarter heating and air conditioning systems, but they will also recycle all waste. By building Energy Star, LEED Certified and Net Zero Energy buildings this concept of sustainable practices becomes more and more evident. Modular construction methods have an immediate impact on the environmental story that restaurant chains will communicate to their customers, exemplifying corporate social responsibility. Using lean manufacturing methods and incorporating green materials into the designs and building specifications are allowing modular builders to provide a faster and more sustainable store to market.

To compete with the growth of fast casual restaurant chains, casual dining brands will offer smaller, faster versions of their brands, as evidenced by Red Robin’s Burger Work, a build-your-own burger concept with a Fiery, Fresh, Fast and Friendly motto. Red Lobster and Applebee’s now offer their version of this thinking during lunchtime hours and Denny’s has Fresh Express with the order-to-go option.

The blend of modular and the foodservice industry has been recognized for quite some time but it has taken consumer habits and brand awareness through greener initiatives to showcase the need for these building methods. The future of the foodservice industry, and other industries for that matter, will adapt by meeting the challenges of its clientele.