Design to a restaurant is like salt to a steak. You don’t see it, you don’t talk about it, but when it’s not there, you just know. Without the wonders of salt, even Kagoshima Beef will taste like office chair.
People think design is the color of the walls—but it’s a bit more than that. When a restaurant feels off and you just can’t seem to put your finger on it, that’s probably bad design. Is it a pesky spotlight hovering like a fly in your periphery? Do you feel like passersby are judging your rear as they walk by your seat? Are your server’s private parts greeting your face when they set food on the table? A designer would have designed these problems away.
Design is equal parts how things look, how things work, and how things make people feel. The hand-painted mural on the wall makes just as strong of a statement as how fast and efficient the kitchen is. The layout of the menu defines your experience with as much impact as whether your fruit shake can fit through its straw. And no matter how exotic your single origin coffee is, you must never serve it with 50 Cent asking you out for candy in the background.
In Lowbrow, we want to go a step further–beyond food, beyond value, beyond service–and consider the tiniest details of a restaurant’s experience. It’s not our thing to serve good food in a vacuum—all the pillars should help carry the weight of the restaurant. The place must look great, the atmosphere must invite, the service must be hyper-efficient, and the people must radiate warmth. One shaky performance will bring the whole orchestra down.
We spend as much as time operating our restaurants as we do improving them through design. In fact, our design & technology team is larger than our operational team, and all the people running our operations practice design thinking.
As for our team, nobody has ever had prior experience to running a restaurant. We’ve never had senior management. Both our founders are college dropouts. When we started, the median age of our “executive” team was twenty-four. Sure, this made us learn the hard way, but it also made us different. With a beginner’s mind, we approach restaurant problems with unusual perspectives in the industry—like running our entire company without a physical address. In fact, this paragraph was written in a bedroom by a grown man without pants.
We know companies need a Mission Statement, but we don’t have a good one. As long as we’re given the opportunity to build more, build them better, and build them for people who care—all without irresponsibly stepping on the feet of others or the environment–we’re more than happy to keep on going.