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Food for thought: F&B retail design

It’s been a busy few weeks here at Innovare Design with a number of food and drink projects drawing to a close. 

As an ardent foodie, I love working on restaurant and bar design. It’s a growing sector with spending in UK restaurants up by 12% last year. In 2016 OpenTable published their survey of over 6,000 diners in the USA and reported on the game-changers when it comes to diner behavior, as well as the future role that technology could play in enhancing the dining experience. The report is relevant to the UK sector too but one thing is also certain, with the increase in choice for consumers, today’s restaurants and bars need to work harder than ever to deliver distinctive and authentic experiences to attract discerning foodies, like me.

Sipsmith London, training bar

Sipsmith London, distillery ‘tasting space’

Sipsmith London – recently accredited ‘CoolBrand 2016/17’ – knows how to create a fan base. As pioneers of London’s gin revival, Sipsmith pour passion and creativity into every drop of their delicious brand, and work tirelessly to keep its profile ahead of the competition. So we were thrilled to work with the Sipsmith team, and award-winning British bartender and bar consultant Chris Moore, to create a memorable and engaging tasting space at their West London distillery. Not a commercial bar per se, our new distillery ‘sipping station’ is at the heart of the Sipsmith brand experience, so needed to impress and inspire professional mixologists and off-trade buyers, as well as surprise and delight visiting gin lovers who regularly tour the distillery. You can read more about it here.

Instagrammable moments

There have been a couple of good articles recently on the retail value of Instagram and Pinterest. Capturing the moment on camera and sharing it with friends and family on social media, is second nature to many of us, particularly if we are out enjoying ourselves in a restaurant or bar. And of course, this practice is also a great way to achieve free marketing for your venue or brand.

Interestingly, we have started to consider ‘Instagrammable moments’ when it comes to formulating client briefs. As retail brand and interior designers, we are obviously experts at ‘visually’ encapsulating brand spaces. But we know clients can sometimes struggle to ‘picture’ their unique brand vision. Through early visualisation of a brand space, we help our clients imagine that ‘Instagrammable moment’ that sums up the experience of their brand and what makes it stand out from their competitors.

From strength to strength

When we redesign an existing restaurant or bar, our vision for the brand space focuses closely on the clientele as well as building on the strengths of the existing business. For the award winning independent Curry Inn 84, in Cranleigh, we re-thought the environment from the outside in. Despite being in a prominent location, we designed a new shop front to create a stronger street presence and provide passers-by with enticing views inside. By doing this, we were also able to completely re-plan the interior to cater for the needs of the variety of diners that come through their doors – from short stay take-away customers to celebratory small groups and intimate couples. You can read more about this project here.

Curry Inn 84 exterior

With fast paced redevelopment projects like this one, the client can instantly see the return on their design investment, with increased footfall and revenue from the moment they reopen. For instance, with Lola’s Cupcakes, we worked with the owners on their retail brand development to reignite their brand presence throughout their shop-in-shops/concessions. Following the redevelopment of their Selfridges café, Lola’s witnessed an overnight uplift in sales of over 30%, thanks to a new retail concept that more clearly expressed the fresh, fun and delicious nature of the product.

LOLA’s concession in Top Shop’s flagship store, Oxford Street, London, UK

Of course, achieving great results involves a wide range of factors and a significant effort from all sides. However, as a general rule, successful brand development projects have the following in common:

  • A clear and well thought through familiarisation and briefing process – your design team are there to help you clarify your brand essence and brand space to achieve your commercial objectives.

  • A realistic budget and timescale – anything is possible, given time and money. But, check your budget and timescale aspirations with your team right from the start.

  • The right project team – from designers through to build and fit-out contractors, take care to select a team with proven experience. And a team with whom you have chemistry. It’s a collaborative process so if you don’t hit it off right from the start, it doesn’t bode well for the success of the project.

  • Client involvement – you’re about to make a strategic design investment so it is critically important to make time to be involved in key stages of the process. We find that the best results always come from strong client collaboration.

So we wish you all the best with your next food and beverage retail design project. Or if you are looking to invest in a new concept, this bicycle repair shop-come-coffee house in LA’s Arts District is the greatest thing we’ve seen this month. And we know of a cycling mad retail design team who are itching to get started…!

Pret A Manger HQ London Victoria, plaque

And one final thing, as I mentioned last month, the 2017 Retail Design Student Awards are drawing closer. Since November, I’ve been mentoring 30 students from Huddersfield University who have been tackling a brief set by Pret A Manger. We selected the three finalists last month and their work will soon be exhibited at the 2017 Retail Design Expo, coming up this May.  They will be judged against students from 5 other universities who have worked on a range of different briefs. So I’ve got my fingers crossed for each of the finalists – especially as last year’s winner was from Huddersfield…no pressure guys!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for news about our past, current and future projects, as well as updates on how the Huddersfield students are getting on in their bid for glory!