January 2018

Rethinking themed restaurant design

Featured on Restobiz.ca
By Judy Henderson

We’ve all been to a themed restaurant; perhaps you’ve salivated over smoked beef brisket served by a gentleman resembling John Wayne, or you’ve tucked into moussaka beside a mural depicting Santorini on the Aegean Sea. There’s certainly a place for these kinds of restaurants but as a modern hospitality designer, I tend to shy away. Good restaurant design, in my opinion, doesn’t try to replicate the Wild West or a picturesque Greek island town – instead it evokes an emotional connection to the menu’s origin.

Let’s take Greek, for example. First, forget the wall mural. I’m a modernist, so my approach would be to deliver a modern Greek restaurant using geometric patterns – the key pattern being a classic – associated with Greek art and architecture. I’d consider taking the pattern, scaling it up and using it on the bar. I may even include subtly back lit laser-cut steel.

The cerulean blue and white that makes Santorini so stunning is often used too literally on the ceilings and walls. I’d be inclined to use that colour combination in ways that would surprise – a fabric theme, perhaps? Your choices of tableware can also speak to your theme in subtle ways that leave guests feeling they’ve had an authentic culinary experience.

My process is to first create a mood board – an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept. Let’s take a BBQ restaurant, for example. Again, perhaps ditch the idea of having your servers wearing Stetsons (they’ll thank you for it). A quick internet search will return pictures of Clint Eastwood and covered wagons, but where I gather inspiration is from the of the colour of the earth, the texture of raw canvas and unfinished wood.

We’re not trying to replicate the frontier; instead we want to evoke the simplicity of American slow-cooked BBQ. I’d use the colours and textures in a modern way, perhaps using the unfinished wood on the walls and the canvas as seat coverings. Look to the architecture of your space to guide you and to further shape your ideas.

One main tip is to evoke, not replicate. As we travel the globe sampling culinary delights, it only takes a few clues to take us back. I need my thali meal served on a metal plate – I don’t need to be staring at a photo of the Taj Mahal as I eat. Have fun with your theme – take inspiration from texture and colour and use your materials in surprising ways.

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Timeless elegant luxury: Salon Privé

Salon Privé, River Rock’s high-limit slots area is now complete and we’re excited to share some photos of the project with you. We have a long working relationship with Great Canadian Gaming Corporation designing gaming resorts across the country, so it was no surprise when they approached us to reimagine this important area in the River Rock.

Our task was to create an exclusive VIP access area that was distinct from the gaming floor but still reflective of River Rock’s brand. Our focus was elegant luxury. First step: create separation without creating any physical barrier to customer flow. We elevated the salon above the main gaming floor and placed a low-profile reception desk to anchor the entrance and so staff can manage access politely. The minimalist reception desk also plays off quality marble, subtle signage and soft lighting accents.

We chose aubergine with taupe and gold accents to create a luxurious palette that appeals to both Western and Eastern cultures – and is timeless and relaxing. A dynamic pattern of fragmented mirror and minimalistic lighting lends modernism to the walls which we carried onto screens that provided scale and privacy to sections of the salon. The thick-cut pile carpet is custom designed to create a strong sense of movement and contrast. The casual bar and bathroom makes a statement in black: black quartz for the bar top (with some fantastic Tom Dixon lighting) and washrooms finished in black stone.

It’s always a pleasure to design for a client who understands their brand and the role interior design can play to deliver on their brand promise, as well as excellence in customer service. Great Canadian Gaming Corporation understands modern hospitality service and we understand modern hospitality design. The results speak for themselves. I hope you agree.

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