How to Design Restaurants & Bars that Enhance the Customer Experience

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Here at Freshome, we love delving into interior design and residential architecture, but are sometimes curious about other areas of design as well, such as hospitality design. What makes a great restaurant or bar? How do you ensure that customers have a great experience and want to come back, and how can space design help achieve certain business goals? These were the questions we wanted answers to, so we decided to ask some experts.

Black sheep was created in 2002 by Tim mutton Y Jo sampson for their shared passion for design. The award-winning agency excels at creating spaces that really work, from hotels, bars, and restaurants to commercial settings, workplaces, and residential spaces. We caught up with Creative Director Jo to learn more about Blacksheep’s work in restaurant and bar design and what exactly it takes to design a space that really works.

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Can you give us a brief introduction to Blacksheep?
Co-founded in 2002 by Managing Director Tim Mutton and myself, Blacksheep is a leading design agency specializing in creating exceptional branded food and beverage experiences, designing award-winning restaurants, bars, hotels and spaces. Based in London, the studio has teams of specialists who understand the importance of a comprehensive and holistic hotel design service that includes local market analysis, brand positioning, creation / implementation of innovative concepts and integrated graphics and branding.
Blacksheep has built a worldwide reputation for creating exceptional hotel environments. In addition to redefining London’s nightlife over the past decade with award-winning projects The Cuckoo Club and Whiskey Mist, Blacksheep’s international hotel clients include Fairmont Hotel Group, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Accor Hotels and Marriot Hotels & Resorts.
Blacksheep has created worldwide retail concepts for Waterford, Wedgwood and the Royal Doulton Group and implements international purchasing environments for the luxury goods company Herm├Ęs. The agency enjoys an ongoing partnership with renowned British chef Jamie Oliver, successfully implementing the design of his Italian chain Jamie and, most recently, his Union Jacks restaurant concept.

How did you get involved in hospitality design?
I graduated with a first-class bachelor’s degree in design, which prompted me to accelerate my career in the industry. I am a specialist in creating luxury interiors for hotels and private homes, as well as designing avant-garde commercial spaces, and I have a keen stylist’s eye for the best in furniture and accessories. I cut my teeth working with reputable agencies Lucchi Study, Terence conran Y Designers United They searched for and found a designer who could match and embody their own hard-earned reputation for luxury and excellence.
Born in the UK, Tim was inspired to start his career while working in bars in his early twenties. Intrigued by seeing people interact and use space in hospitality settings, Tim went on to study Art and Design and earned a BA with honors in Interior Design. From here, he established himself by working on leading design practices, including the renowned Terence Conran and United Designers.

You claim that Blacksheep is flying the flag of design that does not conform to the rule books. What does this mean?
We don’t follow trends, we define them. Concept research is not based on what exists now or what is current; since it will be dated when our work bears fruit. We watch trends and try to stay one step ahead so that our work has longevity.

To what extent can the design of the restaurant or bar contribute in a measurable way to the effectiveness of the space as a business?
100%! The location of all elements, from the circulation spaces to the seating areas and the bar, contributes to the operations of a space. If people can’t get a drink or the food is stone cold, then space fails and it hurts business.

What strategies does Blacksheep have to enable the design of venues that make guests happier and spend more money?
It all comes down to good planning of the place and making it work, something that customers would not be aware of. Then it’s about the atmosphere, from the lighting to the music. People should feel relaxed, but before starting a project, we thoroughly research the offering and location, making sure what we are designing is relevant to the local or specific demographic.

Consumers who visit restaurants and bars obviously do so to satisfy certain psychological needs. What tools and strategies do hospitality designers have at their disposal to ensure that these needs are successfully met?
I don’t think it’s about psychological needs so much as social ones. The customer chooses which venue best suits their mood or particular requirements. Are you going somewhere to meet someone or are you going to an intimate dinner? This decides the choice of venue.

What would you say are the main design elements that affect the time customers spend in a restaurant or bar?
Food, comfort and service! Service is particularly important: feeling welcome and loved. Also, the environment should be conducive to help you relax and enjoy the occasion.

What are the main challenges facing hospitality designers today?
The main challenges are for clients to find good sites with the right rentals. This has a major impact on project budgets and effects on the bottom line for the owner. As a consequence, food and beverage price points may be affected, which will have an additional impact on the restaurant’s demographics.

What are the most common mistakes made in restaurant and bar design?
Fundamental planning, that is, kitchens, circulations, etc. and to be able to serve a restaurant properly and in the environment. Getting the atmosphere right is key, not too cold, not too loud and, from a food perspective, not too many dishes. By not having a defined offer, less is definitely more when it comes to networking.

What is the most important thing to remember when designing a bar or restaurant?
The client! How are we going to attract them, how are we going to give them an incredible experience and what is going to keep them coming back?

We would like to thank Jo for taking the time to answer our questions and for giving us insight into Blacksheep’s work. However, we would love to hear about your experiences in designing a great restaurant or bar. Tell us what your favorite restaurant or bar has that keeps you coming back and how the design can enhance the dining experience.

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