They say “a picture speaks a thousand words”. Similarly, when you walk into a certain place, the environment will dictate how you feel. We come to associate certain colours, sounds, layouts and even smell with specific places – some memorable and some we don’t want to return to. As an F&B establishment; you want customers to be back. The tone for the entire experience must already be set from the moment they are in front of your entrance. Good food can possibly transcend most criteria but if you notice; shops like those have bare interior design. Simply because they don’t need to. They are establishments which has stood time and built a reputation but in our modern day social media frenzy; where people “eat” with their phones; your interior designer has got his work cut out to create an outstanding ambience.
Although the principles for designing F&B spaces remain similar; we will keep it to a café context, in line with our Business Sense coverage of Café Culture. When we say ambience, it is primarily executed through interior design which would encompass society’s behaviour, location, space planning, material and furniture. Sharing thoughts with us on this topic are interior design studio paul+prisand furniture solution provider Kian®.
PRINCIPLES OF INTERIOR DESIGN
A metaphorical box + the flow
Imagine you’re standing inside a box; in the centre facing four walls. How do you feel? If you answered “lost or uncertain”; that is exactly what an interior designer needs to address. To influence how people experience the space. There are 4 types of flow to consider:
Operational:how the service crew move around the front-ofhouse and from the kitchen to the tables. Also, will you end up with any blind spots where servers might overlook? You need to also work with industrial kitchen experts because the ergonomics of cooking and service areas are different.
Heavy:During high-traffic intervals, is there enough space for servers to move around? It is also important to calculate the gap between chairs when sliding it out (900mm) to ensure comfort levels.
Secondary:regular customer flow where you can re-arrange the furniture for more space.
Customer:should be open, directive and straightforward. Customers come for service and dine in relaxation; any confusion is likely to trigger doubts.
Society + location
When you have got a concept, go and observe if the look will fit the society frequenting the location. Remember that F&B needs to speak to the majority other wise where is your revenue coming from? It would be out of place to furnish a café with a dark wood or grunge elements alongside a row of other establishments mostly spotting a warm, light-hearted and cheerful look or clean and simple lines for the corporates. According to paul+pris, some of their clients have brought them to the location to determine if it fits the ID idea they have in mind. Although not necessary, as designers, they appreciate the owner’s for ward planning. Sometimes a location is already established with its signature identity such as a row of pre-war shop houses. These are heritage, they tell a story. If you want to star t something there; consider working around what you have so that people can still relate to the identity of the place.
Textures + material
When we think of café designs, we tend to refer to the “Scandinavian”or “Ikea”feel of clean lines that dictate structure and functionality. Perhaps also Australia’s café culture of light, airy and open spaces that encourage community while incorporating a good amount of nature with timber. In speaking for Malaysia though, paul+pris noted that we might not have a “Malaysian” identity as of now but the rustic or industrial look is gathering prominence. The question is; how to cleverly use this look as a backdrop but combine various textures, material and lighting to create the unique mood of your café yet keeping it functional?
The furniture in a food establishment affects social interaction. A bar stool sends an impression that a customer is there for a quick drink/meal. Hard chairs with back lets you sit in comfort; possibly just enough to finish a meal while cushioned chairs or long wooden benches invites guests to linger. Lounge chairs are meant for relaxation; to sit back with a book as the sides snuggle the person’s frame. It goes without saying that your choice depends on the concept of your establishment. You can also mix and match furniture types to create different space experiences.
For many business owners, restaurant furniture usually ends up as the last item on their minds and they buy cheaper items. These gives way quickly and you are likely to consider industrial ones for replacement that eventually costs more. One thing to remember is never to equate your house furniture with commercial furniture. Sure, you may think that what’s comfortable at home should apply in the restaurant but General Manager of Kian®; Chris Chan reminds us that industrial pieces must be able to withstand high usage and ‘abuse’. When doing up the floor plan, factor in the furniture as well – when you know your concept you’ll be able to focus when shopping for tables and chairs. Stackable chairs and foldable tables can be good for outlets where space is small and is not intended for customers to sit very long. Or if you have high traffic and the floor requires regular cleaning, the mobility of such furniture can come in handy.
If you read the fair y-tale of Goldilocks & the 3 bears, you’d remember how Goldilocks went around all the chairs before settling on one. Well, it isn’t just a fragment of the author’s
imagination; it is about ergonomics. Originated from two Greek words; ERGO means work while NOMOS means law and therefore is a science focused on the study of human fit and uses product design to decrease fatigue and discomfort. Furniture manufacturers spend huge amounts on research to determine the best angle, the most comfortable degree in curves and how well the body blends with the product. Although there is a universal guideline on restaurant furniture, Chris tells us that the industry has come to a compromise in Southeast Asia due to our smaller frames. The height between the seat and floor is 450mm where feet won’t be dangling yet does not leave Europeans feeling like they are a kid. As for the space between the seat and (unmovable) table, it is adjusted to a 1 feet difference.
Details that make a difference
It also helps to look at the micro components of furniture and how to make it a more pleasant experience for both owners and customers. Here are a few pointers shared by the Kian®team:
• Wooden chairs are easily scratched especially by those little buttons on our jeans. Chairs with PU coating offers better resistance against scratches.
• Certain chemicals can corrode NC (Nitrocellulose lacquer) coated wooden table tops so do check with your supplier beforehand.
• Marble table tops absorb stains easily especially curries. Fabricated solid tops that look like marble will be more practical.
• If safety is a concern, the sharp corners of square tables can be rounded.
• Cut out screeching noises and protect the flooring with chair leg stoppers. The QuickClick* inserts are easy to use; just by clicking into and out of the chair anytime.
• Wobbly tables held in place by folded cardboards or coasters are a sore sight. You can use table bases with Flat Technology that self-adjusts and self-stabilises, freeing your staff from having to check the tables daily.
To bring out a restaurant’s persona aside from the food aspect, the ambience plays a very important role. It is a space that speaks of the owner’s personality and desires.Throw in an understanding of customer’s needs, the interior designer’s eye and a furniture maker’s craft; your customer will enjoy an environment that aligns with your concept.