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Restaurant, Bar & Café Design

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

This month’s blog post on restaurant, bar and café interior design has us licking our lips with a focus on food, drink and all things delicious – it must be our cold weather cravings kicking in for the winter nesting season!

This autumn we attended the inaugural Restaurant Design Show 2016 at London’s Excel Centre, which ran alongside The Food Entrepreneur Show, Takeaway & Restaurant Innovation Expo and Street Food Live. It was a great event and, as a bunch of ‘foodies’, reminded us why we just love being part of this thriving sector.

With inspirational talks and a superb cross section of exhibitors specifically aimed at restaurant, bar and cafe interior design, the Restaurant Design Show 2016 proved to be a terrific one-stop-shop for designers and business owners alike. Many of the talks and exhibitors focused on the essential elements of interior design for this truly experiential sector, such as branding, design excellence, lighting, acoustics, tech and the role of art and sculpture.

Consumer input is of course vital for gaining an understanding of where to focus investment in any restaurant, bar or café business. Interestingly, results from some 2014 consumer research by Pragma UK shows that beyond the food offer itself, consistency, service and environment are all key drivers for customers when choosing a restaurant. In fact, 74% of consumers choose environment as important, compared to only 43% who choose based on value. In addition, convenience and reputation, score significantly lower than environment, which just goes to prove how critically important it is for restaurant, bar and café owners to invest wisely in interior design.

But of course the challenge for any established food and beverage outlet (as is true with all retail development generally), is how to implement interior and brand design developments with minimum disruption to trading. The goal is always to minimise loss of earnings by moving from the design phase through the implementation stage as quickly and smoothly as possible to resume normal trading.

A design development project can be impacted greatly by the experience of your designer and contractor so it’s really important not to take risks when choosing your design and fit-out team. Apart from being confident about their credentials, you also need to consider where you are located. Obviously a stand-alone, high street premises has far fewer hurdles to jump over than a department store concession, a retail mall or an airside airport location which will have restrictive construction hours and often insist on preferred contractors.

For Lola’s Cupcakes at Selfridges London, our rebranded café concept was installed by the contractor over 2 nights and carefully phased to ensure Lola’s kept trading during the process, albeit in a reduced area. The redesign delivered an immediate sales uplift of over 30% and we went on to hit similar tight timescales and positive commercial results for Lola’s at their kiosk in Topshop’s London flagship store, their café at Brent Cross in North London and their food court offer at Bluewater’s Wintergarden.

For the award-winning, independent restaurant Curry Inn in Surrey, who we are currently working with, there will need to be a one week closure to allow their contractor – Cordery Build – to complete the extensive interior design refit and new shop front. But the works have been carefully scheduled to ensure that the restaurant opens in time for the busy Christmas party season.

Our new tasting bar design, for a well known innovative drinks brand, is being implemented behind the scenes while their sales and marketing team continue to ply their delicious trade with the aid of a pop-up bar. We’ll be lifting the lid on this one shortly!

Creative arts building, Huddersfield University

And on a final note, the subject of food and drink retail plays a part in my ongoing commitment to supporting the next generation of retail designers (read my Future of Retail blog post for the background on this). I have been asked to help with the 2017 Retail Design Student Awards, an exciting opportunity for me, and something I am passionate about. Over the next few months, I will be supporting and mentoring 30 entrants from Huddersfield University as they take on a retail design brief from pioneering natural fresh food retailer Prêt à Manger. A total of 6 colleges will be taking part and the work from the shortlisted finalists will be displayed at the Retail Design Expo, Olympia in May 2017, with the winners announced on the first day of the conference.

I am thrilled to be meeting the Huddersfield entrants this autumn to present the Prèt â Manger brief and I’ve got my fingers crossed for each and every one of them – especially as last year’s winner was from Huddersfield!

Of course, we’ll be posting updates regularly on our social media feeds, so be sure to keep up with us on Twitter to hear how the Huddersfield entrants are doing and to find out more about our current and new projects.


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