melbourne interior designer, cafe design

Future of Hospitality Interior Design

For many business owners in the hospitality industry, 2020’s COVID lock down measures meant the death of their hospitality businesses.  It meant that thousands of people became unemployed. Many people lost their livelihoods overnight.  Centrelink queues were devastating and ‘closed’ signs heart breaking.

Melbourne’s identity as the food capital of Australia was decimated overnight.

Instead of creating new food trends, hospitality businesses had to hustle to stay alive.  There was no time for innovation, 2020 was the time for survival.

I spoke to many people in the industry last year. Including clients, suppliers and prospective clients and they all had their own idea of what the future of the hospitality industry would look like.

One of my suppliers said, it [COVID] will ‘clean up the market’, another said some iconic ‘pubs would shut for good’.  There was some optimism though.  One client bought two new cafes from owners that didn’t survive lock down, refurbished them and re-opened to great interest from the local community.  Others had to embrace delivery even though delivery wasn’t not part of their original business model. This move diversified their income stream.

There was an increase in retail offering in some cafes, bars and restaurants and small renovations to accommodation coffee windows.  As usual in a free market economy, some business owners innovated and some, sadly closed. 

So, what does the future of hospitality and hospitality interior design look like in 2021 and beyond.  To attempt to answer this question, we can draw on hospitality industry successes from 2020 and the foundations of good business and good interior design to make some suggestions.

Retail in Hospitality Spaces

Without doubt, retail has to be part of the any bar, café, or restaurant’s business model moving forward.  I’ve been a strong advocate of this for a long time because I have experienced how retail is embraced in the London hospitality industry.

For example, Carluccio’s in London has a huge retail section in the front of every shop.  It’s part of their model, not an after-thought like it has been for many of my clients in Melbourne.  They know what products they want to sell, how many and how much space they need to accommodate these items. 

The way these items are displayed is part of the interior design.  This is where visual merchandising and interior design intersect in exciting ways.

As a hospitality business you must have a strong brand that stands for something and tells a story.  A brand that your customers respond to and want to connect with beyond their dine in experience.

hospitality interior design
Autumn Leaves, Flemington

Think of your retail section as souvenirs.  When a customer has a wonderful, multi- sensory dine in experience, they’re on a buzz, happy, so while they’re at the counter paying, they’re more likely to buy something from a retail display.  A memento to remember their experience. 

It’s a golden opportunity to get into your customer’s heart, mind and home, so that they have a constant reminder of you.  A visual, tangible item.

What products you sell varies and depends on your menu and brand but some of my clients sell bread, t.shirts, keep cups, pasta sauces, olive oil, coffee, and so on.

Delivery Services from Hospitality Spaces

Delivery services exploded in 2020.  While we were all in lock down food was something that a) nourished us, b) gave us some joy and c) connected us to the outside world.

There is no real reason for this to change in the future.  Especially as more people will remain working from home.

The real debate is not should you have a delivery service but which one or should you go independent and keep the cut of the delivery fee.

Some of my clients like the visibility of delivery services such as Uber Eats.  Some do the delivery themselves.  This is very much an individual choice and depends on your resources in terms of delivery ordering software, transportation, cost for wages etc.

Another key aspect of delivery is packaging, and the menu items you offer for delivery.  Not all foods travel well.  Think carefully what from your menu will travel well because if your food arrives cold or messed up and inedible your brand will be impacted badly.

For example, and this is a true story, my mum LOVED 400 Gradi in East Brunswick but after eating their pizza that was delivered during lock down she will never eat at 400 Gradi again.  The quality wasn’t the same.  She felt disappointed, almost insulted.  It was interesting to observe her reaction.  By the way I can’t remember what I ate that night…just goes to show you how impactful a bad food experience can be.

Local Hospitality Spaces

Apart from one CBD project, Little Brother, our speciality has always been local cafes, bars and restaurants.  At the time we specialised in local hospitality interior design there was a growing shift in this market, due to the decentralisation of quality cafes, bars and restaurants around new residential communities and developments.

There was a distinct lack of good hospitality interior design in local cafes because there were few interior design studios offering affordable rates for local small businesses.  Additionally, the community were hungry for it (pardon the pun) and local hospitality business owners finally tuned into that need and we were able to service this need with quality interior design with affordable fees.

So, we have worked in Scoresby, Glenroy, Northcote, Moonee Ponds etc.  The need for local hospitality businesses, such as cafes, bars and restaurants will remain into the future. Primarily, because working from home is now embedded into our work culture and practices, so your local café needs a good interior design to accommodate an increase is a new diverse day trade.

hospitality interior designer melbourne mother melbourne hospitality design
Mother Melbourne, Northcote

Good interior design both attracts people and ensures they enjoy their experience in your business so much that they tell everyone they know about it.

How your café, bar or restaurants looks is important, of course it needs to be Instagrammable but the layout is just as important.  How efficient it is for your employees?  How comfortable it is for your customers?  How do the different zones work, such as retail and takeaway, is important?  By working with a good interior designer, you will ensure the success for your business and the enjoyment of your local and loyal customers.

People & Work from Home the New Normal

In the new COVID normal future, people will remain at the heart of every café, bar and restaurant business.  No matter what your unique selling proposition is, your customer has to be front of mind with everything you do.  This is a fundamental marketing principle and will not change.

When designing a café, bar or restaurant our clients always ask for two things; Instagrammable spaces and USB or power points to accommodate local business owners, creatives, professionals etc. 

melbourne interior designer, hospitality fit out
The Spade, Glenroy

Moving into the future, as more people are working from home (WFH), having WiFi, power points and USB points remains a critical aspect of your business and the interior design.

In all of our hospitality design projects we incorporate zones that accommodate business people. Sometimes this a bar with bar stools, sometimes this a communal table and sometimes it’s about creating a floor plan with a good combination of table settings for parties of 1, 2, 4 etc.  Flexibility in the floor plan is key so that you can easily accommodate different group sizes as needed.

Hospitality is Not Dead

Despite the devastating effects of COVID on the hospitality sector in 2020, hospitality, hospitality interior design and food innovation is not dead.  For many hospitality businesses that survived there will be a need to evolve.  But the hospitality industry is full of creative, passionate people and one thing we can be sure of in the future is that Melbourne will retain its reputation as the food capital of Australia.

When you’re ready to make your cafe, bar or restaurant dreams come true we can help, so contact us for a no obligation chat.