Striving for success

We speak to some of our interior design experts to analyse the best course of action when working with a designer to create a new concept for your venue. 

Interior design is a vital asset to the hospitality industry as it allows operators to not only build their brand and express their personality, but also create an environment that reflects these elements throughout.

This element is particularly handy over the summer months, with consumers going out more often and for longer periods of time, which means venues will be at full capacity most of the time. Having a busy bar is, of course, always great for revenue – but how can you ensure to stand out from the competition?

Lucky for you, we have a few experts in the field – venue operators as well as design gurus – sharing their insights and top tips on the topic to make sure you have all you need to do just that!

Gareth Lambe, General Manager at Vintage Cocktail Club, opens the discussion by telling us how, in his opinion, bars and restaurants can wow customers as soon as they step in. 

He says: “I think the most important thing a venue operator and an interior designer has to keep at the forefront of anything they do is functionality. Question everything. What is it? Why is it there? Is this the best possible way we can do this, or can we make it better? Every single detail needs to be looked at. 

“When Opening VCC (Vintage Cocktail Club), because we called ourselves Vintage Cocktail Club, for me, everything had to be vintage. Every single detail was looked at so absolutely everything you laid your eyes or hands on instantly transported you back to a different era. Anything outside of that just wouldn’t have made sense.”

Gareth raises a very valid point in the realm of venue design for the hospitality industry: the focus on functionality. In fact, he believes that this isn’t tackled enough when it comes to designing a venue’s interior, which can sometimes cause the opposite in the way the team works as they won’t be able to move freely or host as many guests as they’d like. 

He continues: “Owners, managers and designers have to be very open, honest and clear with what they want to achieve at every stage. A simple example of this would be, say, 10 beautiful tables being delivered that both the owner and designer agreed upon, but when the Manager sees them, they are quick to point out that they won’t seat four guests comfortably – in fact, they won’t even seat two! Issues like this can be avoided when everyone is included in the conversation and service scenarios are thought through.”

Hannah Mortimore, Head of Food and Beverage at Fitz’s Bar, also shares their experience when collaborating with a designer and highlights how their partnership ensured that both the bar’s distinct character and functionality were achieved, resulting in a visually stunning and practical space.

She says: “Our brand team and designer collaboration embraced the spirit of exploration, preserving the historic features of the Grade II-listed hotel while incorporating modern design elements. This partnership ensured that both the bar’s distinct character and functionality were achieved, resulting in a visually stunning and practical space that captures the Kimpton essence, and provides a memorable and enjoyable experience for guests. The luxurious and intimate setting of our bar sets us apart from other venues and attracts patrons seeking a unique and sophisticated environment.”

What’s more, they recognise the importance of reflecting the created atmosphere throughout the venue at Fitz’s Bar, with elements such as glassware and lighting complementing and enhancing the overall concept. 

Hannah adds: “The interior’s theme naturally extends to the menus, glassware and other important touches, creating a cohesive and immersive experience for guests. For example, our annual cocktail menu, ‘The Theory of Colour’, is inspired by the artwork of Nicolaes van Verendael, featuring 14 uniquely crafted cocktails that explore the enigmatic world of colours and invite guests on a vibrant journey.”

When it comes to design efficiency and functionality, it is impossible to leave out the Clermont Hotel Group, which works hard to achieve this by ensuring guests have easy access to everything they need whilst considering the premium look and feel of the space. The Clermont Hotel Group team are fully aware that design is a massive factor in a guest’s value perception of a location, especially as they now increasingly seek quality experiences.

Leanne Galer-Reick, Head of Marketing, says: “Our Charing Cross and Victoria hotels feature quality furnishings in keeping with the look and feel of the venues, elevating the overall customer experience, creating a calming and attractive environment for guests to enjoy. 

“Adding simple solutions such as soft furnishings and plants enhances hotel spaces and gives them a warm and welcoming character. It really is all about the finishing touches, from glassware to the overall presentation of our F&B led aspects of our venues. Even menus across the hotels’ F&B amenities tie in effortlessly to the hotel’s look and feel, creating a sense of unity.”

The Clermont Hotel Group prides itself on providing guests with unmatched experiences, combining comfort and class with its unbeatable prime London locations. Its collection of hotels hold a wealth of history and this is reflected in the design and architecture. 

“Each with its own story to tell, the hotels are extremely unique to one another, which we know is a really strong pull in terms of the guests that visit and stay with us,” adds Leanne. 

People are not easily impressed and customers’ exposure to different environments and experiences have meant that the standard required to create the ‘wow’ factor is always increasing. As Nicky Bagga, Director at BOXX Design Studio, highlights, this ‘wow’ factor extends beyond the interior design to the customer experience, therefore all elements must interconnect to ensure you meet guest expectations. However, this doesn’t mean that you should aim to surprise your customers from the first moment they step into your venue. 

Nicky says: “Never underestimate the importance of making a strong first impression: The entrance to the venue should be welcoming and visually striking, setting the tone for the rest of the experience. This could include unique lighting, impressive artwork, or bold colours.

“The design of the venue should be cohesive, with each element working together to create a unified aesthetic. There are numerous clever design tricks you can utilise to achieve this, whether by implementing a particular colour palette, specific materials, or a distinctive design style. This does not mean that every element needs to take centre stage. The ‘wow’ factor can often be achieved by heroing one particular element.”

Nicky also reminds us of the importance of having a captivating Instagram profile these days, with social media platforms having become the new must for marketing in almost every industry. Quite often, for venues, this translates into installing a feature element, like a back-drop, that provides a photo opportunity or a shareable moment.

She adds: “Paying attention to the details can make all the difference in creating a visually stunning experience; manipulating patterns, carefully curated accessories, or thoughtful touches throughout the space can often make the difference between a memorable experience and run of the mill.”

Whatever you choose to do with your venue, designers and operators need to work collaboratively throughout the design process and their goals and objectives must align. The designers must guide the venue through the process. Elements like functionality, aesthetic and space planning must all be considered. 

Leanne Armstrong, Founder and Creative Director at Black Ivy Design, says: The designer should understand the capabilities and potential of the space to create an environment that not only wows their customers, but is practical and productive.”

Not only will this allow you to make your bar as efficient as possible while still maintaining a curated look, but also help you keep your existing clientele and attract new clients. 

“Achieving the right atmosphere will have such a positive impact on the customer experience, people will want to stay longer where they are comfortable and relaxed,” continues Leanne. “Improving the experience will therefore increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and will make it easier for venues to retain staff. It will also attract new customers increasing footfall and revenue. Attaining the right atmosphere will also place you head and shoulders above any competition and make you the market leader.”

Reflecting your interiors’ theme into other elements of your venue allows you to have a more considered approach to design, making your aesthetic more appealing to customers. As Becka Cutler-Garratt, Head of Creative at Cult Furniture, explains, it all goes towards allowing guests to fully immerse themselves in the experience of visiting your establishment.

She says: “The interior design of a hotel, restaurant, cafe, or bar defines its style and status. It’s the first thing people will see; its impact has to be 100%. Customers make their initial impressions based on your design style, therefore great care should be taken to achieve outstanding results especially in today’s market, where highly styled design is becoming the norm in hospitality. Encouraging guests to post images of your space reaches a wider audience, so design is really key.”

Becka gives some examples of how venue operators can enhance their overall atmosphere and emulate the perfect vibe; she recommends achieving this through lighting as well as the right choice of décor, explaining how it can dramatically change your space. 

“Creating zones by changing lighting set ups is really effective, as well as giving customers enough light to see food, cocktails and each other without being overbearing and stark. Scents and finishing touches like flowers are also great for going the extra mile. They add class to a venue and help the space to feel fresh, inviting and evoke all the senses!” says Becka. 

Further, sustainability is key at Cult Furniture too. The team strive to meet the demands of our ever-changing market, which culminated in the launch of an eco-friendly collection that has been gaining many buyers who are interested in joining green initiatives within their venues. 

Becka affirms: “There are so many more options now for sustainable interiors in the trade market. Cult has recently launched trade-friendly recycled velvets in many best-selling styles made from 100% PET recycled yarns. As well as eco-friendly woods and terrazzo stone café tables, there’s a great variety of options to suit different aesthetics. Conscious style is a massive selling point for guests and reduces vendors’ impact on the planet.”

A great believer in sustainable practices in hospitality is Shine Catering Systems, a company that aims to deliver benefits through the design of the busiest areas in a venue – such as the back bar. 

Offering an array of outstanding products, Shine Catering Systems are able to provide not only the best behind-the-bar equipment, but also ensure that their clients’ needs are met when requiring more sustainable options. 

Leon Hoyles, Senior Contracts Manager, explains: “One key trend in interior design, as with any category right now, is sustainability. Design projects have to be environmentally-friendly, not only to satisfy increasing customer and end user demands, but to meet standards too – and that is impacting the choice of materials.”

To give an example of their experience using greener sources, Leon talks about their recently specified material, Krion from Porcelanosa, which they have used on a large project in London. This material is similar to natural stone but with added features, including easy cleaning and maintenance, non-porosity and high resistance to impacts and temperatures. 

Leon continues: “One of the real points of difference is the sustainable performance of Krion for worktops and counter tops. No energy is needed during the manufacturing process, known as natural casting, to reduce the carbon footprint of the product, and the material is recyclable – it can be re-designed and re-used to support a circular economy approach. In an increasingly environmentally-conscious sector, this is a huge advantage and will only become more prevalent.”

When it comes to interior design, it is safe to say that it won’t be an easy or quick process, but you can definitely work with your designer of choice to ensure that it can be as smooth as possible. 

The first step is to define the scope of the project and any functional requirements of the venue, which will include the number of guests to accommodate, events and activities to host, and any other specific requirements such as lighting, sound or accessibility. 

Communication is key in this process, so make sure to clearly state your needs to the designer, and don’t be afraid to request additional calls or meetings to confirm you are both on the same page. Remember, they are specialists, so no questions are silly – better ask for clarity than be displeased with the results, or worse, having to start over…

We hope this has been of use, and we wish you good luck with any upcoming projects! 

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