Written by David Klemt
RMD Group has designed some incredibly successful venues. The most notable amongst their projects is likely FLUXX, located in San Diego. Unlike traditional design firms, partners and past Nightclub & Bar Show speakers Dan and Dave Ranzella and Mike Georgopoulos approach projects from the perspective of operators, a key element to their success. As many operators know, working with a designer who has never actually owned or managed a bar, nightclub or restaurant can be frustrating. As operators themselves, RMD Group knows what to focus on throughout the entire build and what works.
When designing a space, Dan, Dave and Mike put their emphasis on optimizing the customer experience while keeping the design and build-out within budget. RMD Group’s main design considerations are maximizing space and creating the desired flow, maximizing efficiency in operations, guest and staff safety, durability of materials selected and obtaining the client’s desired look and feel. In terms of finances – a major area of focus for RMD – the group cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your costs at all points of the build and understanding that limited funding will dictate design choices. These choices encompass the layout, lighting and sound, build materials and flooring.
Unlike some other designers, RMD’s first concern is operational infrastructure. The location of bars, bar storage areas, the kitchen, service stations and restrooms are the first order of business. Next up is maximizing the efficiency of bottle service should a venue offer it. Ever the innovators, RMD has developed multi-tiered VIP tables. Storage is built into multiple levels with pullout drawers for backup supplies. Reducing the number of steps it takes for a server to attend to their tables properly means more time with your VIP guests.
“The more items that you can keep at that bottle service table, the less trips back and forth to the kitchen or storage area by your bottle service waitress or your server assistant, spending more time at the table actually mixing drinks for clients and upselling,” says Dave Ranzella.
Another RMD Group innovation is custom-built VIP seating, which has become fairly standard now within the industry. These booths are designed with built-in storage for removable cushions. When your guests are ready to stand or dance on your booths the cushions can be removed and stored for a safer, more stable platform. Additionally, removing the cushions means they won’t be damaged by high heels. These booths are also multi-level which means the number of people who can be seated at your tables is effectively doubled.
The design group also employs a concept they refer to as Shrinking the Field. Through the use of curtains, Spandex and other room dividers, bars and entire sections within a venue can be closed off on slower nights or shifts. Furniture can also be used to give an empty space a busier feel, and it can be removed as the venue becomes busier.
Lighting & Sound
As any operator and bar manager knows, sound and lighting design is crucial to the success of any nightclub or bar. Lighting and sound add ambiance, inspire a mood, shape a room and energize your guests. Choosing your lighting and sound designers can be just as important as selecting an architect and interior designer.
When considering your options, you need to understand who you intend to have controlling the audio inside your venue. Will your patrons have access to such controls or will you keep that out of their hands? Also, how prominent do you intend the sound and lighting to be inside your space? Will your music be front and center and in your face like that of a dance club or live music venue or will it be in the background like a bar or lounge?
While it may be tempting to buy the biggest and best when it comes to speakers and the rest of the sound system, realize that your space will dictate the size and number of speakers and your audio will only be good as the quality of the formats being used by your DJs. Speaking of which, DJ booth placement is another important factor to consider. You can either choose to install the booth in a permanent location or utilize a mobile DJ platform. Again, your music choice will help you make this decision. For example, venues playing EDM should have the DJ booth very near the crowd while open format venues should place it further away. Don’t forget about lighting controllers, either. A system like Lutron will save you money in the long run and it’s important to remember that your lighting is only as good as the one programming and controlling it.
There are a lot of options out there flooring, all with their pros and cons. For instance, concrete is your most cost effective option as the only actual cost is the finish. However, it’s horrible for acoustics. Linoleum is also cost effective and durable but can look cheap. Carpet, unlike concrete, is great for acoustics, is widely available and therefore comes with a short lead time and allows for colors and patterns to run throughout the entire space. Unfortunately, carpet also stains easily and absorbs odors and liquids. Other options are stone, wood and engineered wood. On the plus side, every one of those options looks fantastic in just about any venue, regardless of the theme. However, stone and wood are expensive. Engineered wood is less costly than the other two options but when damaged cannot easily be repaired.
Upholstery is one of the final – but more fun – of the design element considerations. The main materials you’ll be considering are vinyl, leather and fabric. As any bar owner knows, vinyl offers plenty of options in terms of colors, is readily available and therefore enjoys a short lead time, doesn’t stain or absorb liquids and odors easily, is ideal for outdoors and is inexpensive. Of course, vinyl also looks inexpensive and that can affect the perception of your venue and your brand.
Leather is, of course, more expensive but offers a rich appearance and feel. However, the issue with leather is that is not the best choice for outdoor areas. Also, it can tear and crack over time. The option with the biggest swings in terms of pricing is fabric. The colors, patterns and textures available give you a lot of freedom in terms of design. Also, soft fabrics are inviting and comfortable for your guests. Fabrics can be very expensive and will stain and absorb liquids and odors.
Learn more about designing a venue and maximizing the customer experience at the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show!