Beyond the look and feel of a café or restaurant, there are some key functional design decisions that will make it a complete experience.
While social distancing measures have certainly changed a part of the hospitality experience, there is a lot more consideration that goes into creating just the right environment when designing a restaurant or café. With the food as the centrepiece, everything around the food needs to come together to create a complete sensory experience, and interior design is able to curate ambience, often without you even realising it. Sound
One of the biggest issues to address in a restaurant – and one that can undoubtedly leave the biggest impact – is controlling sound. Getting the right balance in terms of acoustics is crucial for creating the right ambience. If a space is too loud, noisy and disruptive it people will feel uncomfortable. Likewise if it’s too quiet, people won’t be able to relax or will be left an underwhelming impression. The kind of atmosphere you’re trying to create will influence the restaurant design in ways you may not realise. For example, if you want to have a space that is elegant, high-end and more akin to fine dining, acoustics need to be carefully controlled. Background chatter and gentle music at just the right sound level will go a long way in creating this kind of effect, which was a consideration that came into our design for Pipit. As a fine dining restaurant, Pipit wanted to ensure patrons felt relaxed, while the interior design needed to communicate its highly refined aesthetic. To counterbalance the polished concrete floors and other hard surfaces, we designed a series of plywood baffles on the ceiling, with a blade detail that could absorb any excess chatter.
The right selection of surfaces and materials not only plays into sound attenuation but also into durability and longevity. Most restaurateurs would set out to have a bustling and popular venue, booked out as much as possible. But with lots of people and foot traffic comes the need for the restaurant’s design to stand up to all the wear and tear. Additional years of use can be achieved by selecting finishes that are hardy and long-lasting, as well as applying them in ways that maximise their impact. On our Sushi Kenzen project, the selection of Victorian Ash from Sustainable Hardwoods warms up the cooler material palette but more importantly is a hardwearing, durable material that can withstand the daily use. Different surfaces can also potentially absorb smells in different ways. Have you ever wondered why restaurants don’t have carpet? Hard, sturdy materials are the usual go-to for all the reasons listed above, which is where the combination of sound and surface needs to be well thought out.
From entry to table layouts to back-of-house. The curation and flow of the floor plan is important in creating a restaurant or café that takes full advantage of the space, but also creates a seamless flow for wait staff and patrons. The journey from arriving, to potentially waiting for a table, to sitting down, all needs to be considered. Is there room to move between the tables? Is there a variety of seating options? Booths versus long communal tables versus a mix of options? Where is the kitchen placed, is it open and visible, or is it tucked away? How will waitstaff traverse from the kitchen to the tables? All these options will change the desired feel and experience of the restaurant, coming back to what the offer is all about and the atmosphere that you wish to achieve. Through spatial planning various layouts can be tested to see how all the pieces come together. Even various furniture options can be reviewed to ensure the right combination will create the desired variety, do you want people to stay and linger, luxuriate in the experience, or is it about lots of short quick turn-arounds – these kinds of questions will inform the selection of furniture. There are a lot of things to consider for a successful restaurant design. Many of which you may not have thought of but can leave the biggest impression when all the elements work as a cohesive whole.