Adding more excitement to restaurant design

Adding more excitement to restaurant design

(In the 2nd instalment of a 2-part blog, designer Michael McCann delves into what really makes restaurants stand out in today?s marketplace.)


Let?s look at the big picture areas in the design process as regards providing excitement in a concept and fit-out:


Interior Architecture

We oftentimes spend a considerable percentage of our client?s overall budget in getting the layout of a venue right, as it oftentimes involves significant demolition and re-location of services in renovations. Trying to decorate a space that does not feel welcoming or does not spatially ?work? is usually a total waste of money.  If you can achieve an exciting layout ? forget about the finishes, but a ?good feeling? layout, this takes tremendous pressure off the fit-out finishes, as you?re already halfway there.


We then attempt to spread out the visual titillation of all the exciting bits that we intend to design into the overall concept.


With the layout the golden rule is:  study each table in your existing, or planned, dining areas. What are the guests at each seat looking at during their meal?  What are they experiencing?  Are they comfortable with what they see?  Are they excited to be sitting there? Will they want to come back?



Gyprock Box (not by Dreamtime)



Gyprock boxes are not ?concepts?.  In the case of residential houses, apartments or offices where clients wish to display collections of art, there is a case to be made for leaving the walls white and bare, but in the hospitality industry this is the first nail in the coffin.



Theme Restaurant (not by Dreamtime)


Too many fit-outs do not have a ?concept?. I?m not talking about a ?theme? with exploding volcanoes, but a professional concept. The most successful interiors are not a collection of furniture and light-fittings from international showrooms, but a cohesive array of designs, furniture and light fittings that ?all?, each and every one, fits and enhances that concept.



Most of the world?s best designers have a similar secret: they select only a few materials and use them creatively as befits the concept.  Mixing too many materials creates a mishmash of a design, and confuses, or totally destroys the original message, which was your intended concept – and creates a furniture showroom.  Even though you do not want to play ?designer?, this is a common pitfall to look out for when looking to select a design firm. Attempting to please everyone with a little bit of everything in a design or concept is almost a guarantee of mediocrity.




St. Regis Bali, Kayuputi Restaurant Entrance Lighting


As I?m sure you have all heard before, lighting is the single cheapest method of creating drama and excitement (not that beautiful lights are cheap of course). In every one of our projects dramatic lighting forms a cornerstone of the eventual product, which we design in-house.



Open kitchen at Pony, Sydney (left); Open kitchen at Mu Shu, Bondi Beach, Syndey

An open kitchen is usually the best place to start as the kitchen provides a never-ending free supply of drama and action (the more open the better – the traditional ?shoulders and head? slit-in-the-wall view offers little).  We hear all too often timid owners or mangers saying that smell, dirt, noise, clutter, trash on the floor or even cooks picking their nose (I?m not kidding) will be their undoing in a truly open kitchen.  Come on, you only live once ? take a chance!



360 Restaurant & Bar, Centrepoint, Sydney


A longer, more dramatic bar is another exciting feature even if its? purpose is purely a service bar with little to no chance of customers sitting and drinking / dining at it.  Again, we hear the argument that lost seating space is a major reason for not wanting a bigger bar but there?s not much point of a small bar in an empty dining room with rows and rows of tables.  It?s far more preferable that you turn customers away nightly and the reputation of your restaurant is that it?s so popular that you need connections to get a reservation there.  It sounds sexy already.


Many other design features are available which add action or ambience. We try our best to include a selection of these and design our layouts to spread out the excitement and eye candy:



Wine Cellar, Flying Fish, Sydney


– Dramatic wine cellars



Day Beds, Mu Shu, Bondi Beach, Sydney


-Unusual seating such as booths, raised / sunken seating, even daybeds



Outdoor Fireplace, Steel, Sydney


– Fireplaces, both indoor and very sexy outdoor fireplaces

– Water features

– Unusual ceilings

– Indoor gardens



Oyster Bar, Steel, Sydney


-Oyster / seafood bars



In-Room Fish Tanks (with items for sale), Steel, Sydney


– Within kitchens: rotisseries, creative grills, visible meat lockers, fish tanks

-Even dramatic bread stations



Flying Fish Painted Canvas Wall, Sydney


–   Art ? not so much boring hotel-looking framed art (yawn), but more creative types of art




Toilets, 360 Restaurant & Bar, Syndey (left); “Pee Pod” Urnials, The Argyle Bar, Sydney

-Even dramatic toilets that generate word-of-mouth advertising.  We design a lot of kinky toilets and the reaction of the patrons never fails to surprise our clients, who usually aren?t sure it?s worth the extra investment when we first propose them.  Patrons love nothing more than to return to the table saying, ?You won?t believe the toilets, you have to go and take a look.?  It also says a lot about your operation showing such commitment to the ?loos?.

Provide excitement or perish!