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In the contemporary hospitality market, we are spoiled for choice, and it’s as much about trends as it is about taste.
The same goes for designing and constructing hospitality spaces. They are one of the most unrelenting and highly critiqued markets – if you thought the tax department had it tough, think again. The minute a customer walks into a restaurant or cafe, you may as well slap a cravat on them, because they’ll be judging you on price, quality, atmosphere, service, location...oh, and taste.
Their experience is documented in real time on their smart phone and immediately uploaded to Instagram, Google, Zomato or, much to the chagrin of their friends, Facebook. Needless to say, restaurants don’t typically last longer than three years in the market, and even those with strong market position will need to reinvent themselves from time to time (how very un-McDonalds).
So how do you design and construct a space that will impress the master chefs, the hotplates and the restaurant rulers? The fundamentals of design will tell you that functionality is key – the space has to work. But if it were that easy, you’d pick a space, install some tables and chairs, a kitchen, and you’d have a successful restaurant.
We all know that this isn’t the case; the overall look and feel of a restaurant can make or break it. In addition, hospitality spaces are notoriously difficult to design because they are dynamic and constantly evolving. Unlike commercial tenancies, which typically stay the same for the duration of their 10-year property lease, hospitality spaces need to be responsive, adaptable, and ahead of the trend. The era of the all-you-can-eat mega-chain, loaded with booth seating and buffet bars is long gone; 21st century diners are much more demanding when it comes to selecting a restaurant.
So, with all this in mind, what are they key ingredients to constructing the perfect hospitality space?
Imagine it – it’s your first date with your tinder match. Keen to impress, you’ve chosen the hottest new restaurant in town. Streamlined industrial surfaces, exposed beams, concrete bench tops and yet you can’t hear a thing. The remainder of the date you’re yelling across the table to maintain conversation, and you leave just as clueless about what your match is into, and with a slight headache to top it off.
The only draught acceptable at a restaurant is the one on tap. Effective design will consider the location of the table seating, keeping it away from large areas of exposed glass, entrance points and unsealed openings. By spending some time on the layout and window treatments, you can help keep patrons happy and reduce your monthly power bill.
Yes, it’s all about covers and maximising turnover, but personal space is a thing; it matters. No one wants to be sitting centimetres away from a disaster date, or edging their seat forwards every time the waiter passes. Successful floor planning involves some sacrifice, and so a table or two might have to be scratched when finalising the design. In addition, creating separate zones is a good way of improving the ambiance and intimacy of a space.
Ever eaten in a restaurant with really bad lighting? It doesn’t matter how good the food tastes, nothing looks good under flickering fluorescents. The right lighting is essential to creating ambience within hospitality spaces.
No one wants to have to walk through the kitchen and around the back to the wash closet in the alleyway. Likewise, diners don’t want to be so close that they can monitor other patron’s bowel movements. In addition, amenities can say a lot about the restaurant as a whole – poor layout and design inherently affects how diners feel about the overall quality of the establishment.
It seems like a no-brainer, but designing spaces isn’t just about making them look good, it’s also about the functionality, which is why it’s so important to involve the staff in the design process. These guys know what works and what doesn’t, so make sure they are consulted from the early stages. If food is an art, then the kitchen is their studio, and you need to make sure the design meets their requirements so they can produce their best work.
Hospitality is undoubtedly a mystery box, but with some key ingredients, you can transform any space into a successful hot spot. Whether or not it rates on Zomato is up to the operator.