"People are going out not only to eat, but to be entertained by their surroundings," says Ed Gerhardt, head of the design group. "Each moment in a restaurant is important." Armed with the resources, background and experience of five full-time designers, the talent of United Design Group is changing the experience of dining out. Their process consists of an initial consultation where concepts and themes are discussed, followed by site visits where field measurements and photos are taken. Architectural drawings including elevations and seating plans are constructed along with color renderings and layouts. Color Boards which coordinate fabrics, finishes, seating surfaces and design elements round out the the presentation of the project.

"Because we work along with the engineers and sales staff at TriMark United East, we have better control," says Ed. The resources available to them are extensive. Because TriMark United East also sells carpet, furnishings, tile and lighting fixtures, the customer's benefit from the convenience of having just one place to shop for all of their foodservice needs. "We have the ability to manage and come in on budget," says Ed. Other hospitality design firms create a recipe, but then the customer has to go shop elsewhere for the many ingredients. At United Design Group we work for the client's benefit. We not only have the recipe to bake the cake, we have the ingredients, too."

While the design team is able to create a new experience in the dining room, Ed suggests, "The client is in charge. We want to leave them with something they wanted." He explains that each job reflects the customer's goals, with a lot of individuality and uniqueness involved. Providing the best solution for the best price is the goal of United Design Group, while bringing personality and function to the foodservice operation.

New customers of United Design Group are encouraged to visit properties the group has completed and talk to prior clients. "We want them to feel comfortable with us and what we are capable of," Ed explains. Ed and his staff travel extensively to bring back new ideas to assist their clients in updating the look of their establishments. Many restauranteurs are hesitant to change, though. His experienced team takes a lot of this into consideration. "A key part of the experience is for the operator's to be honest in their concepts," he adds. There are a lot of new trends out there, but it must reflect something about the operator, or it may not be a good fit. Every client has different issues. We are here to help the clients meet their expectations."

The design team is astute at coaxing establishments into present day accepted design schemes and philosophies and is much in tune with proven successful techniques in the region and across the country. "We can give an eatery new gusto with simple changes to the exterior," explains Ed. "Lighting is very important to brighten things up on the outside. People want to be able to see in. It's more inviting if they can see activity from the outside, and not be discouraged from approaching the establishment. A new sign will do a lot. It says something very important about the restaurant. It speaks to the public and invites them in," Ed explains.

United Design group can develop graphics, providing a complete design package for the foodservice operator. The graphics team will design a new logo which will carry through the restaurant on signage, menus, placemats, coasters, and the like. "Even something as simple as the menu is related to the entire design concept," Ed suggests. "Having a rhythm is critical to the entire experience," he adds.

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