What your restaurant design says about your brand

In a recent interview with Jason Kaiman, owner of Picnic, one of Toronto’s newest grab-and-go sandwich concepts, he explained that his decision to hire an interior design firm came from a desire to improve the strength of his brand.

“I hired both the ad agency and Burdifilek early in the process, so everything was done collaboratively,” says Kaiman. “Together we developed the name, the identity, the packaging, and scouted the primary locations.”

Size matters

The brand conversation applies to restaurants of all sizes, from the independents to the national chains, from quick-service to full-service. It is a fully integrated process that requires time and attention to detail. Kaiman stresses the importance of design for the first location of Picnic because it sets the tone for the brand and shapes how other locations will look and feel across the country to different demographics.

Another excellent example of brand consistency in the design process is Stratus Winery. This independent winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. integrated its identity through a variety of spaces within a single building. The owner and operators collaborated with an interior design firm to ensure that their tasting rooms, retail gallery, and wine cellar (on view for tours) would reinforce a strong and consistent message of quality of life through quality product and experience.

It is important to understand how every minute detail of a space will influence the customer, from the overall interior architecture right down to the bottles and labels, and convey your identity in a way that builds confidence in your brand. Establishing this kind of trust and relationship with your customers is a valuable by-product of consistent branding throughout your business, be it an independent restaurant or a national chain.

Stay ahead of the curve

According to research presented by fsSTRATEGY and The NPD Group, the retail foodservice category is becoming increasingly competitive as consumers continue to be driven by convenience. Many big-name retail brands have leapt at opportunities to enter the restaurant and hospitality industries and represent a new challenge for existing restaurant operators. Clothing store Club Monaco was among the first retail businesses in Canada to catch on, deciding nearly 10 years ago to optimize their prime property on Bloor Street West in Toronto to create an open-air café. Quick-service and full-service restaurants are now in a position of increased competition from this new and developing category that has caught the attention of brands worldwide, popping up in France, Japan, the U.S., and the Middle East.

One way to stay ahead of the curve in this increasingly global and complex marketplace is to improve your restaurant’s overall experience through improved design. fsSTRATEGY and The NPD Group state that with 65 per cent of Canadians’ out-of-home dining occasions taking place at quick-service restaurants, there is a focus on promoting an upscale image and menu that reflects the interior design elements of full-service restaurants.

Engage your senses

Dining is a sensory experience, so it is important to engage all the senses to leave a lasting impression on the customer. The materials and items selected are the fine-tuned details that make a space feel luxurious, comforting, or trendy. Creating harmony between the senses helps to establish an atmosphere that is unique to the restaurant’s brand identity, encouraging the customer to return to your restaurant to achieve that familiar feeling.

“It’s great when hospitality professionals get excited about evolving their brand concept,” Filek explains. “As designers we become very invested in creating a unique experience for our clients and their customers. W lounge and bar in Atlanta was meant to simulate the experience of walking through a forest or garden oasis. We incorporated elements that were engaging and adjustable according to the time of day, such as a cascading fountain and a twisted metal mobile sculpture that reflected light around the room. Different senses are heightened depending on the time of day, so the design’s appropriateness for all hours of operation is one component to consider when building your (aesthetic) brand.”

Complementing your restaurant’s brand message with the right atmosphere and visual environment can provide an unforgettable dining experience that people seek out.

Points to consider

People need to feel good about what and where they are eating. Dining is a multi-sensory experience, in which the customers absorb everything they see, hear, feel, taste and smell. All the details must be reflected in the bigger picture. Successful branding requires a fully-integrated approach, from the name, identity, and packaging to the restaurant interior.

Interior design provides unique solutions tailored to your restaurant’s mission, space, and geographic location. The most successful examples of interior design in restaurants come from an understanding of how the brand message meets the demands of the target market – the diners.

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About the author

Emma Richan is a Marketing and Business Development Consultant at BURDIFILEK, a Toronto-based interior design firm and the creative force behind internationally awarded for a breadth of hospitality, retail and development projects. For more information, visit www.burdifilek.com or email pfilek@burdifilek.com.

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