Design Matters – Restaurants

High streets previously dominated by large retail chains are now populated with a myriad of cafes, restaurants and healthy takeaways.  Perhaps after the economic crash of 2008, they have become an even stronger pillar of society.  Whereas before people were more lavish with their spending, the downturn of the economy meant that rather than treating themselves to a holiday or a new pair of shoes consumers settled for a coffee and a cake for their little luxuries. Couple that with an increase in multifunctional spaces and seamless mobile shopping opportunities and eateries have fast become the key, if not only, outing destination.

So what happens when everyone wants to be the destination? How are café owners and restaurateurs keeping their customers coming back time and again? As well as good food, it is the brand itself that creates the buzz. Attention to detail and subtle differentiators is paramount in a market saturated with subway tiles and industrial lighting.

Recent trends have followed those of the retail and design industry in that customers are favouring independent brands. Personality, a tailored offering and a strong brand ethos are tempting customers away from the large corporate companies that have become a staple on every high street.

There is an air of transparency that is required with customers now.  People are much more aware of ingredients and have a desire to learn where they are coming from, be that local meat, fresh organic produce, or a myriad of gluten-free alternatives.  This honest approach has had a strong impact on emerging brands and is influencing the spaces in which we are consuming these culinary delights.

Rather than creating slick and over-processed interiors, we are reverting to natural materials used in a traditional way. Exposed brickwork, air conditioning and pipework have become a feature that subtly promotes the message that their brand has nothing to hide.  Natural wooden floors, counters and table tops add a warm aesthetic that conjures up images of a rustic farm kitchen.

A prime example of this approach are London based health food and juice bar ‘Roots and Bulbs’.  The brand is simple, their company ethos is unfaltering and their interior spaces are own-able and welcoming. Copper details line a cork counter, while slate displays offer the latest healthy ‘fast’ food. Live plants subliminally communicate the connection to nature while you sip on your cold pressed, 100% organic juice that is ‘fresh off the field’.  Whether this is your thing or not, the brand is consistent across all platforms and is a destination throughout the day for locals as well as passers-by.

Our home region, the South West is no different and the competition to be the best artisan café, simple burger bar or unique dining experience is as fierce and constant as anywhere else. Local businesses like Tradewind Espresso in Clifton, and Bath’s Society Café are keeping it honest and simple. Natural interior finishes, coupled with illustrative and personable branding styles are inspiring trust in a welcoming atmosphere. There is also the added feel-good factor knowing you are supporting a local business.

In contrast to the chain options available, the most successful independent brands are capturing their audience with a unique offering and single message. They have selected their niche and built upon it.  If you are a dedicated coffee lover, take a trip to Colonna and Smalls in Bath. Speciality coffees are served from a bespoke bean menu set against a Scandinavian style backdrop. If it’s a burger you desire, head to The Burger Joint, the concept revolves around a menu tick-list which is then taken away to provide you with your ideal feast. A warm atmosphere and modern yet comfortable interior allow customers to experience the ‘best burger in Bristol’. Breads and sweet treats can be found in Hart’s Bakery where the design is as honest and open as you can get.  All products are prepared, baked and sold under the large Victorian railway arch at Bristol’s Temple Meads station. This feature is maximised by offering customers seating to watch the baked goods being created from scratch, surrounded by the artisans at work.  All three of these examples are unique with a strong visual identity and company ethos.

At Phoenix Wharf we understand the challenges of creating an own-able and strong identity, and creating an environment that best represents your brand. Using our experience and expertise we can work with you to create your own niche to entice customers and keep them coming back.


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