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    18.12.11
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        • Space

        You eat with your eyes first.

        Creating comprehensive dining experiences through cohesive design.

        Restaurant interiors are more than a location to scout for a food blogger’s next insta story. They provide the functional ‘hardware’ for the actual food and service and contribute to the emotional intent of the dining experience.

        Part conveyor and part canvas, restaurant spaces should balance functionality and aesthetics, simultaneously surprising and delightful, while also providing a cohesive narrative from the front door to the desert fork.

        Danny Meyer, the great New York restaurateur behind the Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Shake Shack put it simply: “Every restaurant needs to have a point of view.”  

        Too often, an entire dining experience is developed in silos between owner, chef, architect, and marketer. Rarely does the design take a 360° view to providing a memorable and synchronised performance for first time and repeat customers.

        One of those resultant silos is the overall branding of the experience—of which ‘the space’ is only a part. When we talk about ‘branded environments’ in the hospitality industry, we are not talking exclusively about logos, signage, and environmental graphics. In fact, we are advocating that in a well designed space, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

        A big part of the job in designing a space is to bookend the entire dining experience—to provide a feast for the eye, the mind’s eye.

        Especially important is the experience of entering the space, where guests ingest a statement-of-intent at the threshold. Leaving the ‘lasting impression’ as a memory-making snapshot. An image that mirrors the dining experience for guests to treasure and share with others—sure, maybe even on instagram or Yelp. A deliberate set of details create these lasting impressions, from lighting and temperature in the space to the typography used on the menu.

        The customers themselves inform the design, not industry trends. With a human-centered design approach we learn and adapt to build upon a knowledge base—we are in fact listening for trends, not dictating them. Resulting in design choices that are deliberate, not decorative.

        With the Alder Room/Alta projects, we explored an exercise in minimalism where the food is the star and the space reflects the kinship Albertans have with the Nordic aesthetic, culture, and sensibilities. The interior is an expression of the reverence for the preparation and ritual of the meal—think: Kaiseki and ceremonial tea service in Japan.

        The result is truly immersive dining where chefs are your servers. Alder Room explodes the idea of an open kitchen by mashing up the ritual formality of a sit-down dinner with a good old-fashioned kitchen party.

        Family-run ethnic restaurants have long provided novel experiences and perspectives, often with great respect for market-fresh ingredients and meals that can be solemn personal meditation or a boisterous communal affair.

        Tokiwa and Mi’ne in Edmonton are both studies of zen ideals in the context of a vibrant Alberta restaurant scene. Chef Scott Linquist’s Olla in Miami, on the other hand, gave us the opportunity to use design to celebrate the colourful palette of the diverse regional Mexican cuisines of Oaxaca, Puebla, Yucatan, Veracruz, and beyond while integrating modern and global influences.

        Every memorable experience is fueled by a convergence of sensory input. Incredible dining experiences provide a cohesive point of view through which diners ingest the experience.

        That's how we see it.