RECONNECT: A Restaurant Reconnecting People With Each Other And Nature, for Positive Nourishment and Wellbeing
Restaurants have the unique ability to connect us with one another and nature and therefore have a fundamental role to play in both our well-being and that of the planet.
Until now, this has rarely been considered in combination. However, following the global lockdown, this is becoming ever more important as people re-prioritise their health and wellness. With this change in behaviour, the opportunity arises for new restaurant concepts to emerge that re-interpret and act upon the social and environmental events of the last 12 months.
To design a new restaurant concept that went beyond simply providing a protective space for diners with anti-viral and social distancing measures, but rather one that enhanced human connection and positive well-being was the goal of Boxx Creative, Co-Founders Nicola Lindsell and Nicola Keenan. The multi award-winning London-based hospitality design practice specialise in ethical, sustainable and well-being design by creating spaces and experiences that are good for people and the planet. To achieve this, they collaborated with leading health and well-being consultancy, Ekkist, and internationally renowned behavioural design and applied colour psychology consultant, Karen Haller.
“We love the opportunity to collaborate and work with our trusted partners on projects. Ekkist and Karen are leading experts in their field and this restaurant concept is our combined vision for how hospitality venues can provide improved health and well-being to their customers, by reconnecting diners with each other, nature and the environment.” [Nicola Lindsell, Co-Founder and Director, Boxx Creative]
Interior Design and Strategy with Boxx Creative
Biophilia is the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature that can improve health and well-being. Biophilic design principles incorporating nature and natural processes were a key element of the restaurant design.
Immersive surroundings inspired by nature, directly appeal to the senses and help diners connect to their environment and create feelings of safety, comfort and cleanliness whilst they socialise. On arrival, visitors are invited to follow a route of ‘cleanse, destress, and nourish’. There is a holistic reset as people enter the space walking through a forest bathing experience of abundant lush green plants and foliage, with the sounds of birdsong and cleansing scents of eucalyptus, tea tree and lime released from air diffusers in the ceiling. Natural light is plentiful and provides a warm welcome into the main restaurant space where diners are greeted by a team member and have the opportunity to use the hand-washing station before being shown to their table where the menu will be explained to them.
The restaurant’s spatial design is inspired by the shape and internal structure of a sea shell. Biomimicry is a method for creating solutions to human challenges by emulating the designs and processes found in nature. The shell with its spiral structure provides the optimal layout as it creates niches for booth seating separated by curved glass screens positioned around a tree at the central core of the space and connected by a conveyor belt system for the safe delivery and collection of food and drinks.
These niches provide a sense of ‘shelter’ and help ensure customers feel safe and secure, whilst also remaining connected as they can see other diners, the kitchen, bar and outside areas through the large floor to ceiling windows. There is also space within each niche for the storage of coats, bags and other personal possessions. The designated entrance and exits into the main restaurant and WC are intended to minimise non-essential contact between customers and staff. There is also a separate area of the restaurant for take away food deliveries and an exterior WC for diners eating outside.
The space is flexible to adapt as social distancing measures change, additional seating can also be added into the window area to increase cover numbers, a temperature check can be used outside the entrance and the naturally occurring separation lines of each spiral section can be further accentuated with floor signage as required. Light is used to project information and wayfinding signage onto the wall so that it can be easily updated in line with current guidelines.
Technology is integrated throughout the customer journey, at booking and ordering stages to remove the necessity for physical touch, however human contact and interaction is maintained as each table is looked after by a dedicated team member to provide an important level of connection and customer service. Sensors are used to open all doors, operate taps and WC flushes.
Behavioural Design and Applied Colour Psychology with Karen Haller
One of the key ways we maintain our humanness is by connecting back to nature. As humans we respond really well to nature. Humans have an innate connection between colour and design, behaviour and nature. It's why as people we enjoy the sensation of bare feet on the grass and walking in nature. For most of us living in high density urban environments we really miss that connection.
For this restaurant design concept, Karen’s Behavioural Design and Applied Colour Psychology framework was used to create and replicate this connection to nature, using a harmonious seasonal colour palette (with attention to colour intensity, combinations, proportion and placement) along with textures, patterns and shapes as reflected in nature which are familiar to us and therefore make us feel safe, secure and a sense of belonging. This approach puts nature and the human experience at the centre of the design which in turn positively influences how the customer thinks, feels and behaves.
We are continually being influenced by colour which is why it is so powerful. We are constantly taking meaning from colour in our environment and it speaks directly to our customers’ emotions. Through colour we can make people feel at home, at ease and give them a sense of belonging.
For our restaurant concept, each colour has been carefully considered for the likely impact it will have on the dining experience as the guests move from the outside in.
At every step of the customer journey from when they walk through the entry way to when they wash their hands to when they get seated in their booth, every step of that journey has been backed with colours that support how we want them to think, feel and behave at that particular point. For example the entry has been designed to make the guests feel welcomed continuing the same tonal colour palette through the entire restaurant so they has a sense of the familiar, there is nothing jarring, so that we maintain the experience of them feeling welcome, feeling at ease and like they belong. The colour and design style create a cohesive message and experience for restaurant customer.
“People will want, more than ever, a sense of connecting, of belonging and to be surrounded by things that feel familiar. I believe reconnecting and aligning ourselves back to nature is the future.” [Karen Haller, Founder and Director, Karen Haller Behavioural Design Consultancy]
Health and Well-being Consultancy with Ekkist
“Nature is fundamental for human health and happiness. Studies show that we are healthier, happier, calmer, more immune to disease and less likely to suffer from mental health issues when we reconnect with nature.” [Olga Turner Baker, Founder and Managing Director, Ekkist]
We have all come to appreciate a slower pace of life during lockdown and how we mindfully return to a busier way of life requires careful consideration about what has become most important to us. If we have made conscious efforts to eat healthier, grow our own food, or make more sustainable decisions with the extra time in our lives, many of us will be looking to maintain this, rather than rushing back to our busy schedules and over-consumption. Slowing down how we eat has a fundamental role to play in this.
Through this concept, people are brought back in touch with where their food comes from and what it really means to reconnect over food: social and physical nourishment. The menu focusses on the health benefits of eating seasonally, with a focus on organic, locally sourced, naturopathic ingredients. There is a live sound stream from the fields and farms from where the food was grown, and plants and herbs permeate the restaurant space.
Materials throughout the restaurant are chosen for either their naturally beneficial, antiviral or anti-microbial properties and limit the need for harsh cleaning chemicals. These range from anti-viral fabrics for seating, to natural copper and brass worktops, and natural oak, which studies show has a calming effect on the nervous system. Porous clay plaster is used on the walls due to its proven benefits in balancing humidity levels, of which the latter has been associated with increasing the length of time a virus like COVID-19 may remain in the air.
The ventilation system is designed to deliver the highest levels of indoor air quality using carbon filters and high ventilation rates, as well as to further balance humidity. In addition, there are individual diffusers placed above every table.
The cleaning strategy is focussed on natural materials and regular air quality monitoring to understand when additional ventilation is required through the BMS system.
Every aspect of this concept has been considered to not simply adhere to, but to go above and beyond the ‘healthy and safe’ requirements of this new post-COVID era. While true prioritisation of human health and well-being requires a significant re-evaluation of standard design and hospitality practices, nature holds most of the answers. We truly believe that by returning to the simplicity of natural shapes, colours, materials, sounds and ingredients, this concept provides an opportunity for reconnection and restoration at a time when people need it the most.
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