melbourne interior designer, cafe design

3 Cafes in 3 Months

melbourne interior designer, cafe design

It’s mid-year and during this time of the year some businesses are looking back, looking forward or both.  Looking back for ‘must dos’ such as taxes or simply to assess where you are in relation to the goals you set and possibly congratulating yourself and or making some adjustments to your plans.

Looking forward at future leads and assessing the likelihood of conversion, cash flow or marketing opportunities.  Because we all know how quickly Christmas comes around and that means we don’t have as much as time as we think to get things done.

Like most businesses I’m looking back and forward as we have some exciting growth plans on the horizon including branching out into Adelaide, more about that later, but at the moment while I look back I feel proud and gobsmacked at delivering 3 cafes in 3 months, for a small design studio I think that’s amazing.

Firstly, it was Little Brother Vietnamese Kitchen and Bar in February. Stanley Burgers at the end of March, and The Spade at the beginning of April.

interior designer melbourne, cafe design, hospitality design
Little Brother Vietnamese Bar & Kitchen, 429 Little Collins St, Melbourne

As happy as I am with delivering 3 hospitality design projects in 3 months and with creating such amazing spaces while achieving our clients’ vision, I’m also wondering how and thinking wow.

Any small business can not operate and succeed alone nor without a clear strategy or business plan, or without a defined process and a little help from your friends; here are my thoughts on how we achieved 3 cafes in 3 months;

Having a clear design strategy from the outset

At the beginning of every project we ascertain 3 key things; a floor plan, a style goal and a colour scheme, these 3 interior design elements form our design strategy.  The reason we do this and why it’s important is because having an agreed design strategy from the outset of every project ensures we; that is, the client, designer and the builder have a focus, this strategy keeps us in check, we all know what we’re aiming to achieve.

It means we can make decisions quickly because we know the end goal.  It also means we can work quickly through the design process to get the café, bar, restaurant opened as fast as humanly possible.

Having a design strategy doesn’t mean we aren’t flexible, along the way we or the client might come up with an idea or see a piece and think it’s perfect for the project and go with it, a design strategy is a good balance between following a clear path and going with the flow.

Collaborating with great suppliers that work hard for us and our clients

It’s cliché but there is no I in TEAM and our team extends far and wide to include an amazing range of suppliers both based in Melbourne, but also Australia wide and sometimes for that special piece the UK or USA. 

Having worked with these suppliers on a number of projects we have built a strong relationship, based on trust, mutual benefit and quality work.  This is important because when the clock is ticking and our client wants to open their business, our suppliers will bend over backwards to make sure furniture and other materials are delivered, repaired, replaced or refunded.

They also hold stock for us to ensure items specified are ready for installation at a moments notice and help us find pieces not always available to the public to ensure our clients and their spaces receive that special touch.

interior designer melbourne, hospitality design
Stanley Burgers, 2/5 Lynton Place, Scoresby

A solutions mindset

It’s no secret that every project has problems sometimes big, sometimes small, to be able to move forward we encourage and foster a solutions mindset with our clients because the issue that arises could be our responsibility, it could be the builder, the supplier or even the clients’.

Trying to lay blame waste times, it’s more productive to find a solution and sometimes the solution is better than the original idea.  At the end of the project, when all is said and done and our clients’ businesses are operating, we reflect on if the problem could have been avoided and if so how do we avoid it moving forward.

Almost always when the project is complete the space is beautiful and the client is happy the problems that arose are quickly forgotten.

Building solid relationships with our clients based on trust and honesty

Our values are accessibility, communication and collaboration, it’s important to me that we live these values and we do that by taking our ego out of the equation and focusing on the big picture.  We let go of the idea of ‘our design’ and the notion that there’s only one way to achieve a great space.  Often, we present a big idea that can be achieved expensively but also frugally which is the benefit of creative thinking and openness.

Our clients need to be able to honestly tell us what they love, hate, can and can’t afford but we also need to be able to communicate to our client what is too much of compromise in line with the design strategy we set at the beginning.

By fostering a working environment where honesty is valued and feedback is important we build solid relationships with our clients.  This doesn’t mean we are yes people, but we do listen carefully to all of our clients’ ideas and problems and ask the same from our clients.

This is important because if we have to change something because it simply doesn’t work as conceptualised or if the client changes their mind, we say ok let’s make it work we’re not fussed about ‘our’ design because it’s not our design that’s important it’s our client’s vision.  Helping our clients realise their vision is the foundation to our design process which we follow with enthusiasm because it works.

melbourne interior designer, hospitality design
The Spade, 781 Pascoe Vale Road, Glenroy

In the last 12 months we have well and truly established ourselves as experts in hospitality design for local suburban areas.  With the completion of The Spade, Stanley Burgers, Little Brother, and Bekka.

We love creating community magnets for people to come to, to catch up with friends, read a book or newspaper, work or study in a warm environment where the owner (our clients) knows their names.  After all that’s what hospitality is all about – feeling welcomed and looked after.

We also love eating and creating hospitality businesses that offer great food, something unique.  There are 3 tenets to a successful hospitality business 1) great food, 2) great service 3) great experience this encompasses everything from food, price, service, to design the whole shebang.

The hospitality industry in Melbourne is saturated and everyone from local residents to foodies are spoilt for choice, to ensure our clients’ businesses thrive we get to understand their unique selling point and how interior design can celebrate that. 

Interior design is only one aspect that contributes to a successful hospitality business, synergy is important or using interior design terms, cohesion, where the space communicates a story that encompasses, the name of the business, the graphic design, a great experience which includes flavoursome food, good customer service, value for money and smart marketing.

Looking forward our goal is to continue to create more hospitable community magnets and aim for 12 spaces in 12 months.

By Trish Khoury, Interior Designer & Founder, Grace Interior Designs.