Constantina Tsoutsikou, former Creative Director of HBA London, has just announced the launch of Studio Lost – a new London-based hospitality design practice. Drawing on what she has learnt from launching the business during an unprecedentedly challenging period for the industry, Constantina shares her tips for sustaining your hospitality design business in uncertain times.
1 ‘Explore online opportunities to share what you do’
Whilst technology has shaped our day to day lives, our working practices have been, to date, somewhat slow to fully take advantage of the online world. There are so many platforms to share your talent and thoughts on, which are our only window to the world right now. The Sleep and Eat team have been doing a wonderful job of keeping the conversation going.
Linkedin is a great way to let people know what you are working on or what opportunities you are watching out for. Just recently, I made an introduction between two parties, as I knew they had synergies in common. It wouldn't have happened if one of them hadn't made the posting that popped up in my feed. Instagram is another valuable tool to showcase your portfolio and current work while connecting to your current network and prospective clients. Through our (very new) Instagram page @studiolost.london we share with our friends and clients what we are up to in our day to day, our company news, as well as what excites and inspires us.
2 ‘Stay in touch with your existing network’
It is harder to make new acquaintances under the current circumstances , but you can still keep in touch with your existing network. We are fortunate to be part of a wonderful industry of gifted and generous people. There will always be someone who can help with an introduction, an opportunity or a piece of advice. My door is certainly always open to anyone I can help!
3 ‘Approach new clients with sensitivity’
If you wish to expand your client base beyond your existing network, the only way to approach new clients currently is, I believe, through social media (again!). Though it is vital to remember that this will need to be done with a very gentle approach, acknowledging that these are particularly tricky times for everyone.
4 ’Keep a positive outlook’
Focus on the future and the long term. While some of us may need to readjust our short term goals, don’t lose sight of the long term. I had planned the launch of Studio LOST long before the current epidemic, and didn’t change my commitment to other consultants whom I had briefed and eventually collaborated with on branding and website building. If we all support each other in any way we can, it helps the wider industry to survive the downturn.
5 ‘Turn a crisis into an opportunity’
This new reality and uncertain future is an opportunity to make changes to our world. Find ways to support your community through your spending choices. I have been buying many second-hand books and vintage ceramics the last few months. The doors of our local bookshop won’t stay open if we only order from the well-known global online giants. The same goes for the hotels, restaurants and small businesses we all love. Book that holiday, plan a night out by buying a voucher that you can redeem later. Most of all, take action! Our spending power, even if it may be a little diminished right now, is a vote for the kind of new world we want to live in going forward.
6 ‘Adapt to changing demands and be innovative with your solutions’
New temporary innovative concepts have to be thought of as flexible additions into existing spaces. In that sense, the idea of pop ups or temporary decorative screens can be used, for example, to encourage social distancing in restaurants and bars, whilst providing a kind of cocoon feeling for the guests. Just the thought of a half empty room with tables sounds unappealing, and it will be for guests too. How about rearranging clusters of seating, adding sculptural separations between them that help 'fill out' the distancing gaps? These can bring back the coziness and ambience we require from the social spaces we are used to.
I imagine these 'screens' or cocoon dividers as a large scale design gesture inside a dining room. They can serve the practical element while adding a sculptural dimension and sense of drama to an interior.
It goes without saying that any design should seek to be easy to disinfect and clean. I encourage designers to avoid disposable materials, as we are already facing clogging of ocean floors from masks and gloves used globally during the pandemic.
7 ‘Be kind to yourself’
You are your biggest asset. Allow yourself to have a day or two off. This new reality can be hard to get adjusted to and it is okay if you don't always have all the answers. Use this time to take stock of past achievements and set new ambitions when we all come back to more certain times.
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To hear more about how you can professionally develop within the hospitality design sector during this challenging period, watch our ‘Hospitality Design: Survive, Then Thrive’ webcast in collaboration with RIBA London, the BIID and NEWH. The panel discusses what support is available, how to market yourself and how to network digitally within our industry and beyond.