interior designer melbourne, cafe design

Melbourne Hospitality Design Trends

To be honest I’m not a fan of trends, I always encourage and support my clients to tell their own story or express their own personality through design, whether that is in hospitality design or residential design, a space can only truly shine or stand out and make an impression, if it tells a unique story rather than demonstrates cookie cutter elements. 

Moreover, trends date, we see this in fashion all the time but I understand that clients get inspired by things they see, products and materials advertised in magazines or featured on TV and social media, trends in interior design are no different to  trends in fashion design, they come and go.

So, the challenge for designers is to look for an angle to incorporate trends in an individual way, that truly reflects the client’s own distinctiveness.  For a residential projects that means tapping into the uniqueness of a client’s character, their own history and their own individual story they want to tell in their home.

For hospitality clients it’s identifying their USP, the concept that will give them a competitive edge and then finding a way to incorporate the trend, with a twist, so it provides a talking point and contributes to our clients’ business’s point of differentiation.

Gone are the days where you could open a simple local food business and be successful.  Everything has changed for a variety of reasons, celebrity chefs, reality cooking programs from Iron Chef to Master Chef, even Instagram has played a role in the explosion of trending food businesses, so here are my thoughts based on experience on what are current but enduring hospitality design trends;

Industrial Elements

Industrial design elements are still as popular as ever and make an appearance even if it’s subtle in many new cafes, bars and restaurants.  Whether it’s an exposed or painted brick wall, concrete flooring, black iron framed windows, tall ceilings, wooden beams, Melbourne diners loves these features. 

From our experience the industrial style started out of a frugal mind set about 10 or 15 years ago, enthusiastic hospitality entrepreneurs saw an industrial space, rent was cheap, they added low cost furniture found in opportunity shops, a makeshift counter was produced using old pallets, milk crates used for outdoor seating and you’re done.

This seemingly random ‘design’ appealed to inner city types such as students and residents for its quirkiness. 

Fast forward to 2019 and we’ve seen industrial design get finessed and sophisticated over time to deliver spaces such as Higher Ground, The Spade, Project 281 and so on.  The key reason for this is durability; industrial materials suit high traffic spaces.  But it’s important to add your own twist when using industrial styling.

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

Neon Signs

Neon signs provide a sense of nostalgia that the industrial style trend also provides.  Think of iconic signs such as the Skipping Girl in Richmond, for example.  These neon signs represent once giant manufacturing businesses, Melburnians have been seeing these industrial features for years, so it makes sense that, now neon signs feature in hospitality design, the new prominent industry of Melbourne, which in a way is fitting. 

Neon signs are a great feature and very Instagrammable, they add a point interest to a hospitality space, help communicate the concept and are just plain cool, people love them.  They provide light, colour and pattern, so they’re a fantastic way to add interest, warmth and ambient lighting to a space but I’ve seen so many that don’t make sense with the design. 

Don’t make the hospitality design mistake of adding a neon sign, just because, only use a neon sign if it works with the concept and story you’re trying to tell through your food business.

Vertical or Hanging Gardens

It’s no secret that plants (real or artificial) add several interior design elements to hospitality design, such as texture, warmth, and colour that can make or break a space if done poorly.  To work in hospitality design, plants need to be considered from the outset rather than be a last-minute decision. 

Most clients know they want plants in their space and tell us this in the brief stage of the project but if they don’t,  given we know that plants are a popular trend and can add value to space, we always ask our clients if plants are part of the concept and therefore need to be budgeted for.

It’s our job to advise on plant varieties to work with the concept and contribute to the story, for example, do succulents make sense in an Italian eatery?  For our project Little Brother, Vietnamese Kitchen and Bar, it was important to use tropical plants that you might find in the tropical climate of Vietnam and for Sycamore Meadows it was important to use succulents and cactus to communicate the LA vibes our client told us they wanted.

Time and again we find it’s important not to rely on cheap artificial foliage found in your local $2 shop but to invest in good quality plants and sometimes investing in a plant designer or indeed a florist for your arrangements, is time and money well spent.  Interior designers can advise on what varieties, colours and shapes that will work within a client’s concept, but an expert can help with plant arrangements, combinations, hanging mechanisms etc.

cafe fit out melbourne, interior designer melbourne
Sycamore Meadows, Reservoir

Instagram and Influencers

Lately more and more, both prospective clients and clients are increasingly asking for spaces that are Instagrammable.  Initially I was a bit confused by this request because for us what is most important is a great concept which can be translated into a great design, which can be beautifully photographed and then shared on Instragram but some clients want Instagrammable spaces first so, it’s our job to conceive of a concept that will be desirable to eat in and to photograph and share.

However, Instagram has made some changes to its ‘Like’ function and some hospitality businesses have run into trouble using Instagram Influencers to promote their business.  So, we need to remember that hospitality businesses are not successful because they have a large Instragram following, they are successful because they deliver great food, great service and great design.  Design your space for your customers by telling your unique story and the pictures will follow as well as local word of mouth, which you could argue is equally or more important than Insta.

Communal Table

Some clients want a communal table and some don’t, so I’m not sure if having a communal table is still a trend, but because some clients are still asking for them, I’ve included communal tables in this piece.  Communal tables are a great way to cater for large groups, they provide a spot for people to wait for their take away order, a handy seat for someone who just wants to quickly finish their coffee, there are lots of benefits to communal tables, and from a design perspective they are great statement pieces, providing a striking focal point. 

But many clients are finding that they not flexible in terms of seating arrangements, so this very much depends on the size of the space and the best way to configure the space for maximum benefit, which we work with our clients to ensure the furniture layout works from a number of different perspectives.

melbourne interior designer, hospitality design
The Spade, Glenroy

Deliverable Food

I’m the first to admit that I’m a late adopter, I still don’t use Uber and have uninstalled the Uber Eats app, I installed it to give it a go and see what everyone is talking about but was disappointed with the quality of the food.  Deliverable food and the technology that has made this very easy and interactive is a trend that will stay. 

However, not all hospitality businesses like it and use it for two reasons a) the huge percentage costs and b) they lose control over the way their food is presented to the customer.  Which I get, we’ve all heard stories of food arriving upside down, this reflects poorly on your brand and how your customers perceive you.

But some clients are planning their space to accommodate this aspect of their business and separating it from the dine in experience, through spatial configuration they are planning their space so that drivers collect orders from the back of the restaurant.  Acknowledging that shabby dressed drivers or cyclists with helmets isn’t exactly on brand and can impact the way diners enter the space and their first impressions.

Also, as with all things tech, it’s now become feasible for some hospitality businesses to create their own apps…watch this space.

From my perspective as a customer, there are 4 basic tenets to a successful hospitality business,

good food,

good service,

good value for money

good design. 

Today a diner needs to have a complete sensory experience; sight, aroma, taste, feel, even hearing (music and noise levels impact a diner’s comfort and willingness to stay in your business) all these combined will ensure your food business is a success despite the trends which come and go.  To discuss your project call us for a no obligation free meeting.

Trish Khoury, Interior Designer & Founder, Grace Interior Designs