Have you been worrying about how your restaurant, café or bar will cope with new government guidelines? Or are you an eager diner but hesitant to return to the world of close contact socialising? Well, this Cork architect may have the answers to all your eating-out problems.
Dr Marc O Riain stumbled on the innovation that is StreetPod somewhat accidentally when walking down the colourful streets of Kinsale in Co Cork. Approached by a friend who was concerned about her petit Cafés successes post lockdown, the Director of RUA Architects posted a sketch of StreetPod on Facebook and received an overwhelmingly positive response.
After a bit of encouragement from friends, Dr O Riain optimised the American diner-inspired design and began making his innovation a reality.
“It wasn’t supposed to be a product at all. It was only through the cajoling of my mates that I actually ended up coming up with something. And really the whole impetus behind it was to do something around pedestrianisation.”
Taking the precarious Irish weather into consideration, the Cork man concentrated his design around self-containment. Constructed by local Kinsale man Brian O’ Reagan, the enclosed pods work to dimensions that allow for two units to fit inside a single car parking space, utilising shop front spaces resourcefully.
“StreetPod is an external dining unit accommodating an intimate group and can be sanitised between occupations. It is an independent unit that takes up half a standard car parking bay (5m / 16.5′), accommodating up to 6 people and can be located outside your cafe, restaurant, bar, office, nursing home or hospital. It is a design response to the need for social distancing.”
Receiving promising interest form Clare County Council, the architect is confident that the installation of at least one pod will “create a precedent which we can then copy across the country.”
When questioned about the longevity of the project the StreetPod founder replied:
“I think the further the year goes on the more of a future it has. It’s going to be difficult for restaurants to serve people foods at seven o’clock to half ten at night in Ireland because it will get cold and it will rain, they will have bookings, and they will end up with cancellations. The more they (restaurants) realise that there is an economic imperative, even if they reduce it to one measure, social distancing, they’re still going to have a problem because it hits your numbers. There’s a lot of restaurants who can’t economically justify opening their doors without having enough customers.”
Dr O’ Riain went on to explain the difficulty many shops face in regards to parking spaces. The ambiguity and lack of clarity provided to shop owners by County Councils mean that they can be hesitant to invest in innovations such as StreetPod.
“One of the issues that would retard or stop people buying the pods would be that the County Councils have given them (shops) car parking spaces outside of their restaurants, but they haven’t told them for how long. They haven’t said it’s yours for a year or two years or for three years. If they said it was there for three years, then you can make an economic investment in something like the pods.”
While the StreetPod design was initially created as an answer to dining problems, the units have proven to be extremely versatile with hopes to begin altering the catering design to fit office usage as well as plans for a ‘MeetPod’ that would facilitate meetings by businesses and customers, “a pod that goes outside of your company’s business where you could meet your clients outside so they don’t have to come into your business”.
Subsequent plans include a ‘GreetPod’, design for nursing home usage which “allows people to visit their relations with a screen in between them.”
With outdoor office units currently selling for around €20k, StreetPod hopes to retail at €10k, half the price tag of current models already in the market.
The self-contained pods separate customers from their immediate surroundings when dining. At the risk of the atmosphere being compromised, Dr O’ Riain hopes users of the pods opt for a more ‘intimate’ experience, while also catering for individuals in compromising positions.
“Often when you go out for dinner, in particular, you’re generally with somebody. The idea of creating an intimate environment is what we were looking at. The other concern is that people living with COVID, some people are more at risk. They’re more afraid of going into a busy restaurant. Ireland is full of very friendly people. So if I knew you and saw you in the restaurant I might go up to you and say hello. But if I didn’t realise that you have an illness, and I didn’t intend to invade your space, but I did. So we’re looking at it that way” he said.
The award-winning architect hopes his design will continue to secure sales and installations going further and aims to adopt licences abroad enabling the production of StreetPod internationally.
He also hopes to see a movement towards more pedestrianised streets across the country that would encourage more creative designs like StreetPod as well as other advantages such as safety and health.
“After you pedestrianise an area, the average increase in economic activity is between 11 and 45 per cent. So there’s a huge benefit for any retailers, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, in a pedestrianised zone,” he added, “you can stop in the middle of the street and have a chat with your friends and not have to look over your shoulder all the time. No exhaust fumes are coming out of cars. You’re reducing the GHG emissions. So you’re saving the environment. You’re making a calmer space. Your towns and cities are more healthy.”
If you’re a business owner struggling to come up with ways to accommodate a larger number of customers in a much smaller space, this may be for you. Or if your a remote worker looking for a more structured space to work from, this could be the perfect solution.
The usability of these units are endless – one Facebook user even suggested a BeachPod that would facilitate days at the beach, shielded from the rainy Irish forecast.
Whatever it may be for, StreetPod can help bring a touch of normality into what may just be a somewhat abnormal way of living post-Covid-19.
You can read more about StreetPod here.