Grand designs can boost trade

Sprucing up venues key as consumer expectations rise, say designers

Harrison Ince Architects’ recent projects include The Guildhall & Linen Exchange in Dunfermline.

WITH competition for the consumer pound fierce as the economy remains in the doldrums, it seems having a well-maintained and sharply-designed bar, restaurant or nightclub has never been so important.

Design firms contacted by SLTN last week said operators who invest in the fabric and interior of their outlets stand to benefit as consumers become increasingly choosy about where to go for a night out and expectations rise.
However, sprucing up premises needn’t cost a fortune.
Acknowledging that the length of time between full refurbishments depends on the location and style of an outlet (Kay Brannon at Harrison Ince Architects suggests three to five years for a contemporary bar or club in a town or city centre and between five and eight years for a rural pub), design companies agreed it is possible to make an impact on a limited budget.
Brannon at Harrison Ince Architects, whose recent projects include JD Wetherspoon pub The Guildhall & Linen Exchange in Dunfermline, said operators considering a revamp should first assess if the fabric of the building requires work or if the refurbishment is purely aesthetic – as well as keeping an eye on the compeition.
“A nearby competitor could seriously affect trade if steps aren’t taken to ‘keep up’,” she said.
“Alternatively if the wider area is being upgraded or redeveloped then ‘canny’ investment can be beneficial.
“With budgets tighter than ever before, it is imperative that money is spent where customers can see the benefits, whilst not forgetting maintenance items.
“If the refurbishment can be focused within the customer area, then changing the paint colours, flooring works, furnishing and lighting can have a huge impact on the overall ambience and the resulting trade.”
Sandro Formisano, chairman of bar and restaurant equipment and furniture supplier New Concept Glasgow, underlined the importance of regularly sprucing up premises.
“I’d say the market is more fierce now than ever,” he said.
“People don’t have as much to spend so they are more discerning about where they go; operators have to pull them in.
“The ones who don’t keep their venue looking fresh will quickly fall behind.”
Jeff Taylor, director of Select Contract Furniture, agreed, saying when it comes to bar, restaurant and hotel interiors “run of the mill does not tick many boxes nowadays”.
“The consumer’s bar of expectation has definitely been raised in recent times,” he said.
“Clients often tell me that sometimes long-established customers can be opposed to change. The flip side of this, of course, is that it can be a good method of modifying a customer base if it is felt that route could be a requirement for more profitable development of the business.
“It is possible, with good advice and by working with the right people, to transform an interior on a limited budget.”
It’s a view shared by Gail Thomson of Edinburgh-based Purpose Design, part of the Space Solutions Group, who said the frequency of refurbishments in licensed premises “very much depends on the quality of the initial design”.
If an outlet has been “designed well and laid out correctly”, Thomson said a revamp should be less onerous, with only minimal changes required.
“Getting this right from the beginning is really worth the investment,” she said.
It is then possible to make a “big impact on a tight budget”, according to Thomson.
“Small changes, like altering the lighting or changing a section of the seating dynamic, can be enough to have a noticeable impact on a venue,” he said.
“As can external changes, such as heightening your street presence through a new colour or fresh signage.
“However the biggest impact is most likely to come from a complete redesign project, especially if it is carried out in a way that expresses a clear vision of your offer, as well as creating a sense of character to your venue.”
When it comes to trends in licensed premises, the vintage look has been prominent in recent years, with many bar and restaurant interiors combining reclaimed furniture with contemporary elements of design.
Going forward, Thomson at Purpose Design said she expects “fresh” designs to emerge.
“Design inspiration will be taken from ancient civilisations, providing a modern artisan approach to shapes, graphic designs and texture,” she added.
“This will be coupled with new technologies, which allow guests to interact with the space they inhabit, enabling them to make it their own.”
Brannon at Harrison Ince expects bar and restaurant interiors to feature global influences.
“We would envisage an even stronger connection to other cultures, travel and the world market continuing to influence the trends going forward,” she said.

Image – Harrison Ince Architects’ recent projects include The Guildhall & Linen Exchange in Dunfermline.