hotel restaurant

The rules for designing a hotel restaurant

By Judy Henderson

When staying at a hotel and on the look out for a good spot to eat, I always check with the concierge. If their reply is “we have a great restaurant”, that’s when I run a mile in the other direction.  Hotel restaurants tend to be buried on an upper level and occupied by only the weariest of travellers, with good reason. Often added to the hotel floor plan just to get a higher hotel rating, these restaurants have had a turbulent past. Happily, brand and design has come to the rescue! Smart hoteliers see the potential and more importantly, the revenue stream, in the long-suffering hotel restaurant but overcoming its sketchy reputation can be hard work.

When we are asked to design hotels, more often than not, there’s a restaurant component. Far from barring the restaurant, we offer our clients the tools to make it a success. It’s precisely this “part of the hotel” problem that we solve with brand and design.

The key to a successful hotel restaurant is brand separation. In my humble (but possibly biased) opinion, this means hiring the same designer for both your hotel and your restaurant. The hotel brand needs to complement the restaurant brand but be visually different – with a separate identity and interior design.

Rule #1: Create a separate entrance for the restaurant. If you’re going to run a successful hotel restaurant, brand separation starts at the door.

Rule #2: Open up shop on street level. Place your restaurant at street level and make it inviting as possible – use big windows and create sidewalk seating if you can.

Rule #3: Make it local and hip. Without a local market, things will be bleak. Create a restaurant with your local market in mind – go hip – guests and locals alike will flock to it.

I worked with Coast Hotels to create a distinct restaurant brand with the first Preston’s in Vancouver. I recommended they, like my clients at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, hire a separate management team for the restaurant to help ensure their success. To me, hotel and restaurant management are two entirely different skill sets – as distinct as the design of the hotel and the hotel restaurant.

Hotel restaurant success is when your concierge can say: “I’ll see what I can do to get you a table, since you’re a guest.”

About the author:

Judy Henderson is the owner of Inside Design, a Vancouver firm that focuses on modern hospitality design. Based in Vancouver, B.C. with a list of global clients including Hilton, Western and Coast Hotels, Inside Design has an experienced team with a reputation for innovative design and precise project management.