Over the past few years, UK restaurant design has been heavily influenced by American vintage chic – with venues across the spectrum adopting industrial lighting, exposed plaster, reclaimed timbers and glazed brick tiles inspired by Brookyln bars and clapboard Alabama BBQ shacks.
However, there are signs that the industry is starting to move on and seek new styles to stand out from the crowd.
“For sure this rough luxe style of warehouse chic and industrial fusion is still very very strong in the UK, but I think places are starting to look for the next thing. Which hasn't really been realized yet,” explains Anwar Mekhayech from The Design Agency.
Bold and bright
So what is the next big thing in restaurant design?
Mekhayech says designs are becoming ‘more refined and authentic’ – with bold use of colour.
“I always notice that the use of colour is something that people are not afraid to use to gain attention, so you see some very artful and bold spaces,” he says.
Abi Perry-Jones, principal interior design associate for the Catering Design Group agrees that bold colours will be big in 2014.
“Interior design for restaurants and pubs is slowly moving away from soft minimalist tones,” she explains.
“Cutting edge restaurant and pub interiors are starting to introduce strong, hard-edged geometric patterns.
“Contrasting colours in digital patterns are being seen more and more in fabrics, graphics and floor finishes, alongside bolder more traditional patterns such as ‘hounds tooth’ and checks. Fur and hide are also predicted to become more widely used.”
With rich, saturated colours the order of the day, worldwide colour specialist Pantone has named ‘Radiant Orchid’ as its colour for 2014. “Poetically described as a ‘harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones’, this colour is truly exotic and all about ‘intriguing the eye and sparking the imagination’” says Perry-Jones.
She adds that other rich saturated colours including yellow, turquoise, navy and indigo are likely to appear alongside bright vibrant shades like peacock blue and cobalt.
When it comes to finishes, Perry-Jones says the lime-washed, faded and blonde timbers that characterised the American industrial look are being replaced by honey toned woods like cherry and warm mid oaks. “Where once upon a time satin stainless steel was all the rage, this will be replaced by copper and even brass,” she adds.
Another key trend in restaurant design for 2014 is the creation of ‘destination’ spaces, which fulfill the consumer desire for a true ‘experience’ when they dine out-of-home.
“We have seen a few trends emerging through our recent restaurant design projects, with the biggest being the importance now being placed on creating immersive environments,” says Lucy Robinson of designLSM, which designed the recently opened Pavilion on Kensington High Street.
“It’s about more than food - experience is everything! This can be seen taking many different forms, from low-lit windowless rooms to communal dining experiences."
She adds that restaurants are also increasingly combining with other outlets to offer a unique experience. "Pavilion is a great example of this – a restaurant and bar with its own on-site bakery, delicatessen and bespoke florist," she explains.
Perry-Jones agrees that destination design offers restaurants the potential to stand out from the crowd and drive footfall and customer loyalty.
“It starts with the customer journey, from the moment they walk through the door, right up until the time they leave. It’s about creating an ‘extra special’ feel rather than the ‘home-from-home’ domestic style of the ‘90s,” she says.
Creating a destination is about having a clear vision about what you want to achieve, and Perry-Jones recommends that operators draw inspiration from the high street, local area and trends.
“Current trends are moving towards an increase in zoned spaces to create interest and movement around an eating space, together with a more artisan feel,” she says.
Storytelling is also a design buzzword at the moment – with customers increasingly interested in the heritage, culture and values of the restaurant they are eating in.
“Telling your story can be really easy to achieve and doesn’t need to be expensive. Use framed pictures, statement wall graphics or maps and memorabilia to showcase produce and local history,” says Perry-Jones.
She adds that mis-matched furniture, fabrics, textures and finishes are becoming popular to create a quirky, individual look.
“Consider also varying furniture styles – large rustic reclaimed sharing tables for individuals, families and large groups of friends or, if space allows, leather upholstered booths and fixed seating – all of which are also ideal for use in a dining space,” she says.
Finally, the popularity of fast-casual dining has seen restaurants across the price spectrum adopt a less rigid approach when it comes to separating diners from the kitchen.
“Taking its cue from fast casual dining, diners increasingly expect to be involved in the restaurant, with the line between back of house and front of house becoming less defined,” says Robinson.
“Open kitchens have been around for a long time, but they are increasingly the norm, as is the importance placed on local flavours and locally sourced food – it’s all about honesty and openness.”