Originally published in Restaurant Design & Development magazine
We’re all familiar with restaurant interiors. We’re all also familiar with restaurant brands. But over the years, I’ve noticed something: More often than not, the brand identity does not align with the experience created by the interior design. Individually, both may be brilliant — each with their own moments of glory — but together, they fall short, and the gap created by various designers is visually obvious. I’m calling for a collective effort to end this disservice for the sake of our clients — and for our crafts.
When someone visits a restaurant for the first time, it’s a moment of truth. Will perceptions be solidified? From the service to the food to the ambience, there are numerous opportunities to dent — even ruin — the brand as a whole. Despite the particular event’s weight, one mustn’t forget that the impression a guest leaves with doesn’t happen haphazardly.
Trying out a new restaurant (and subsequent visits) often happens only after countless touches with the brand. The prospective guest must hear about the restaurant first. Friends might have praised their experience. The prospective guest might read a review in a magazine or online. Maybe he or she saw an advertisement. Before entering the restaurant, many people visit the website to learn more about it. They may have even followed the restaurant on social media before visiting. Only
after these impressions does a consumer move from unaware and uninterested to an engaged customer.
Advertising, word of mouth, digital outlets, reviews and more all culminate to build expectations, guide perceptions and usher a person through the front doors for the first time. Once at the threshold of the restaurant itself, the space via architecture and interior continues the storytelling. Do the architecture and interior design continue the experience seamlessly or do they convey a different story about the brand?
Often, the brand experience before a first visit is vastly different than the on-site experience. The reason for this is quite clear: There was a blatant lack of collaboration and communication between the interior designers and the branding team. Generally, no single entity is at fault for the divide. In some cases, the architecture is well underway before a branding professional is brought on board, or vice versa. No matter the scenario, it’s rare that these two crucial partners communicate and collaborate the way they should.
Most restaurant startup projects see a mix of creatives working in tandem. Each partner focuses on his or her own discipline and on the process of ushering the client through discovery, design and implementation. In this typical scenario, a restaurant opens with a beautiful space and a beautiful brand. However, these two crucial parts of the overall brand experience compete more than they complement. They are often visually disjointed. It’s not always a glaring difference, and sometimes it’s not even consciously noticeable. However, there exists a visual and emotional rift where a holistic and symbiotic relationship should exist.
There are five key steps to ensure the branding team and the interiors team work to create a seamless experience for guests.
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