How a Restaurant Design Firm Moves Forward  While Everyone’s Closed
Shea Inc. Principal Tanya Spaulding working from home

How a Restaurant Design Firm Moves Forward While Everyone’s Closed

Shea Inc.'s Tanya Spaulding on ripple effects for the restaurant industry.

As principal of design firm Shea Inc., Tanya Spaulding spends half the year on the road and her nights at home in restaurants, all in the service of staying attuned to where the hospitality industry is heading.

Now she’s on lockdown at her North Loop loft and the closest she gets to a restaurant is takeout from Black Sheep Pizza.

It’s a jarring hard stop for Spaulding and her business partner, architect David Shea, as they begin to anticipate the needs of clients in the hardest hit sectors of the coronavirus’ wake.

TCB: Tell us a bit about what you do?

A | We’re in consumer design in hospitality, retail, workplace. I am involved in new business, client contracts, staff management, and creative.

Q. How has your work been disrupted by Covid-19?

A | We’re a very collaborative office. People working together, looking over things, active discussions. We had to pivot quickly and use technology to still see each other on screen and have those collaborative conversations. It’s not ideal. Last week we had a virtual happy hour with 45 people. Email doesn’t keep you connected. You need to talk to each other.

Q. Have you lost work?

A | We have not lost anything, but we’ve had a few major projects go on hold. One may never come back.

Q. Anything you’re able to do right now to compensate for lost work or create new streams of revenue?

A | That’s what we’re trying to do. Looking forward, thinking how do we help come up with workplace solutions, adjusting existing spaces. How do we help restaurants while they’re closed? Website work. Takeout packaging.

Q. Do you anticipate work bouncing back quickly or are you bracing for the worst?

A | Somewhere in between. We’re realistic and have seen shocks before. We envision a big ripple effect. New business later this year and early next year will be slow. A hotel that lost six months of business is not going to reinvest in the short-term.

Q. Any bright spots in this crisis?

A | We see people treating each other well and trying to help. The human spirit is the bright spot. I believe there’s way too much hysteria right now. The weeks go very slowly when you’re waiting for it to turn around.

Q. What’s your work at home set up? 

A | I do the exact same thing every day whether home or work. Wake up, exercise, get dressed. I sit at the kitchen counter.

Q. Best advice to work productively at home?

A | Have a routine. Don’t vary from it. It’s critical otherwise it’s a slippery slope.


Last summer, Spaulding shared broader industry perspective, along with Gavin Kaysen, Ann Kim, and Tim Niver, in TCB’Restaurant Confidential.