Lessons from Parc Detroit
Parc Detroit was easily able to comply with the regulations for socially distanced table-spacing, and make customers feel safer—the key ingredient to this restaurants menu.
Campus Martius Park is literally at the city’s center, the “point of origin” for major thoroughfares that radiate in all directions. It hosts numerous events, from summer concerts and movie nights to a winter ice skating rink and the great Christmas tree lighting that draws thousands of spectators. It is a lively, colorful, entertaining backdrop for dining.
When the former Fountain Bistro in the park’s center was renovated to create Parc Detroit in 2016, the decision to open the walls seemed natural. “Being able to open up the walls and have an open-air restaurant,” explains Michelle Gaglio, Director of Operations for the Iconic Collection of restaurants that includes Parc Detroit, “being able to have all those views of the park and to incorporate all the excitement that goes on, it just made sense.”
- Parc Detroit was designed to make the most of its location in the middle of a major event space and leisure destination, Campus Martius Park. Parc Detroit “put the park on their menu” by opening up to that exciting, vibrant space using NanaWall opening glass walls.
- When the Covid-19 pandemic upended the restaurant world, the movable walls played an essential role in Parc’s survival. After the first shutdown was lifted in June 2020, Parc was easily able to comply with the regulations for socially distanced table-spacing, because the opening glass walls meant they could easily expand into the park.
- The opening walls were also crucial to business because of their psychological effect on customers. Now, the tables “where the wall isn’t” are the most in-demand seats in the house
The entire front wall and two shorter side walls of the old restaurant were replaced with NanaWall HSW-60 sliding glass wall systems, opening about 60% of the dining room. The individual narrow-frame glass panels slide away stack in a parking area to the side, revealing the maximum possible view. “You feel like you’re dining right in the middle of the park, but in a fine dining restaurant,” says Gaglio. The walls are kept open whenever the temperatures are above about 65ºF – usually about April to October – as long as it’s not raining. The dining room blends into the patio, but the tables right at the edge are the most popular, where it feels like being outdoors but the roof still shields patrons from the summer sun.
“I’d say 100% of people request to be by the window or by the open wall, the closest to the outside that they can get,” observes Gaglio. “The background view really sets the tone for amazing moments to capture. The pictures they post are all Instagrammable moments.” Even in cold weather, the tables adjacent to the glass walls are always prized. “They’re pristine and clear,” Gaglio explains, “and it’s just like you’re sitting outside, even if it is the middle of winter and you’re watching the snowflakes fall.” The movable walls are thermally efficient and, according to Gaglio, free of drafts. In terms of patron’s comfort, she says, “there’s really no difference from a standard wall.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic came, the movable walls played an important part in Parc’s survival. After the first shutdown was lifted in June 2020, Parc was easily able to comply with the regulations for socially distanced table-spacing, because it was already “a spaced-out restaurant,” as Gaglio puts it, and they could expand into the park. However, the opening walls were crucial to business because of their psychological effect on customers.
“There were a lot of people in Michigan who were scared to go out for the first time. Having the open walls and the air circulation is something that made them choose our restaurant. We got a lot of reviews saying, ‘I really appreciate having an open-air space to come to. I haven’t been out since February, and we really wanted to go somewhere that felt safe.’ That choice between dining-in where it’s all enclosed, or a space where it’s open and where there’s airflow, it definitely drove our revenue, and made everyone have a safer experience knowing that it’s an inside restaurant but, because of these walls, it’s really outside.”