Traditional casual dining is on the decline. Once unstoppable chains like Jamie’s Italian, Prezzo and Byron Burger are closing sites and restructuring faster than you can say vegan cheese melt. Why? Operators are facing mounting pressures due to rising costs, exacerbated by the weaker pound following the EU referendum. People have less disposable income. Tastes and the way people interact with the places they’re choosing to eat at is changing. These once-loved restaurants aren’t quite keeping up. Could design be the answer?
People’s tastes and lifestyles are changing at pace.
In this digital age, customers are demanding much more than flaccid burgers and beige, cut-and-paste interiors. Grab-and-go informality, gourmet fast food and unique, experiential dining experiences reign supreme. Healthy eating, sustainable food sourcing and a lack of brand loyalty are all putting pressure on restaurants. With consumer spend dropping and diners getting bored of menus quickly, any restaurant groups that fail to keep up with current trends can face disastrous consequences.
“When it comes to the future of hospitality, we first need to acknowledge the lifestyle changes that happened over the course of last two decades,” explains interior designer, architect and 2018 Eat Set designer Shalini Misra. “People have very limited personal time, yet they still crave the same richness of experience as they used to in the past.”
So how can the hospitality industry join forces to thrive?
Lines are blurring between hotels, restaurants and bars. Savvy travellers and the rise of food tourism have made hotel spaces prime real estate to create the multifaceted, design-led experiences guests are craving. “The most obvious choice as a hotelier is to partner with an independent restaurant operator, as running restaurants and hotels are two completely separate businesses,” says F&B strategist and Eat Conference curator Heleri Rande.
From The Edition hotels, who brought in Jason Atherton’s group for Berner’s Tavern, to the partnership between Chiltern Firehouse and chef Nuno Mendes, progressive hospitality groups are partnering with the world’s most sought-after brands to create all-encompassing guest experiences. A hotel’s food and drink offering no longer begins and ends at the breakfast buffet.
What role does design play in this?
Eclectic concept stores and restaurants have enjoyed a wave of popularity in recent years, allowing individuality and accessibility to thrive under the same roof. “In this light, the aim of design will be to make navigation around these places a unique and seamless experience; from delineating the overlapping zones dedicated to different experiences to assuring the uniqueness of each of its components,” explains Shalini Misra.
Restauranteurs already face the constant challenge of catering for different demographics simultaneously. “Using their spaces intelligently by dividing up different dining areas or using different décor therefore can naturally appeal to various groups,” explains Diane Scott. Casual is here to stay - but that doesn’t mean soulless chains or ‘industrial chic’: “In high-end restaurants with exquisite food, guests want to feel at ease,” Scott adds. “White tablecloths are metaphorically out. Great quality, attention to detail, produce and provenance are important at all levels.”
And how does Sleep + Eat fit in?
As people’s need for experiential, design-led dining and travel heightens, so too must the creativity of the hospitality industry. For the first time in 2018, Sleep + Eat unites those designing, developing and leading Europe’s most talked-about restaurants, bars and hotels.
A curated exhibition showcases new product launches from aspirational brands including arte, Grohe, Contardi, Bang & Olufsen, Anthology and Dedar, featuring everything from hand-blown glass lighting to luxurious wallcoverings and timeless furniture. See them, specify them and source trends ahead of the masses. Immersive installations feature across the show floor, designed by the likes of Shalini Misra (creating a nightclub); 3Stories (a cafe) and Yasmine Mahmoudieh (partnering with Penguin Classics to create a hotel concept). Witness how world-renowned designers take on hospitality spaces and inspire new creative directions.
The show’s most diverse talks programme to date hosts debate and discussion on pressing themes tailored to an array of expertise. New for 2018, the Eat Theatre delves into topics like designing for millennials with Tina Norden and reimagining an iconic hotel’s restaurant offering with Guillaume Marly, while the Sleep Theatre explores the science of sleep and success with Dr Alanna Hare, to name a few.
New-look Sleep + Eat is also making its Olympia London debut in 2018. Stay late at on 20 November for complimentary refreshments and chance to meet the entire hospitality industry out of hours.