By Becci Finn
Clarity and certainty are the keys to success for any project. When guided by these principals the results set the scene for lasting design partnerships.
If your venue is currently undertaking or contemplating development or refurbishment, this may be a good junction to review your formula for building an optimum design partnership.
Most hospitality venues have been through development or refurbishment projects of some size, shape or form.
Depending on the management team’s preferred procurement method, it’s an Architect, Project Manager or Builder who takes the project lead. As lead consultant it is critical to set a framework for clear communication and foster understanding throughout all stages of the project.
1. Relative experience
Experience is a tough place to start. It is difficult to test or measure upfront and it relies on portfolio or referral. The age of Instagram image perfection demonstrates design ability is everywhere – design talent has become accessible and abundant.
Beautiful creations light up Instagram, but lack of relative experience can cost genuine dollars.
For example, one hospitality venue set out to make an outdoor area into a stunning tropical escape. The design outcome captured the essence of a holiday destination and it photographed beautifully. However, the furniture was not appropriate to the member demographic. Daybeds and heavy teak pieces were easy on the eye but not practical or comfortable for casual dining or leisure. Perhaps if it were a beachside demographic it may have had success.
Specialist experience sits beyond pure design capability. With experience comes an understanding of community, culture, custom and demographics. Sporting activities, facilities, executive, staff, the Board/management team and customers are just some factors that play a part in a hospitality venue environment.
When development work is undertaken the prospect of change and growth of a much-loved venue often throws up challenges that go beyond budget and functionality. Understanding the approach required to facilitate a happy process, getting familiar with your hard working staff and regular members is a rewarding part of our process – seeing the fruits of getting things right is our favorite legacy.
Relative experience shines when bringing together a broad range of needs and wants, balancing competing interests and ensuring decisions can be negotiated for positive outcomes with transparency and elegance.
2. Understanding the business case
Feasibility, alternative analysis, market testing, cost benefit analysis…
Resourceful Clubs and Pubs should be well versed in the gamut of tools and consultant services available to initiate and support a business case for a new project. If your design partner isn’t asking where or what the business case is, ask yourself why?
Providing a clear brief, existing building records and drawings, a project budget and programme is a good start. However beauty can be skin deep – a design team embarking on a project and producing drawings, imagery and inspiration without a meaningful business oriented foundation is essentially a high stakes gamble.
A business case is essential due diligence – a demonstration that research and data has been collated to support the initial vision and the net result is a project ripe for initiation.
Working up a design to meet a business case firms a playing surface for an elite level game. It ensures conditions are right to take the trophy and produce a personal best performance.
3. Fresh ideas
Cook your own Steak, Chinese Restaurants, Gyms, New York Steakhouse, Buffet dining, Cafés, Sushi Train, Kids Play, Eat-streets, Urban farms, Micro-Brewery, Co-Working spaces, Dining precincts, Retail Tenancies…
Social and commercial trends roll through the industry with no shortage of opportunities to capture the attention of the market and refresh the business.
Picking up one idea and putting it down in your venue was often the go-to model with no guarantee of replicated success. One venue would have buffet offer operating so well that the biggest issue was how to manage the queue; whilst others were increasingly underperforming and resulted in an already slim margin becoming untenable for the operator. Design partnerships with fresh ideas evaluate the opportunities tailor them to meet the needs, demographic and capability of the Client.
Solving problems through strong design ideally goes beyond the present conditions and continues into the lifecycle of the project. Fresh ideas and approach are the spark that lights the fire. Strong design teams curate and articulate these ideas into life.
4. Asking questions
More often than not development projects are fast moving environments requiring quick solutions and delivery. Asking questions to determine ‘How did you notice this Problem?’ or ‘Why is that a problem for you?’ can feel like incidental curiosity deviating from the job at hand. If your design partner is not asking lots of questions and a variety of question types, it may be due to a false sense that it is bothersome or annoying to you as the Client.
We understand it is ideal to have less on your busy plate. Clubs and Pubs are complex businesses requiring time and attention across many competing areas, however if you or your team are not being asked for detailed, specific information about your operation, assumptions are being made.
Assumptions vs Experience….
An experienced design team will have a set of assumptions formed and tested across a body of work, and that holds a value in itself. But making room for fresh, tailored information is how a design solution moves from being responsive to being resolved.
Nuances of your venue and team are the gemstones that when acknowledged, and conveyed into the design, leave lasting impressions, quality design outcomes and foster long term design partnerships.
Email generation is not communication. Quality over quantity is essential when forming a body of communication across all phases of a project. Communication covers all passages of information whether it be internal/external, formal/informal, and written/verbal. Each communication piece should seek to improve the understanding of the project team and empower them for action going forward.
Weekly project status updates are one tool that enables a snapshot reference to the team and retrospectively act as an informal timeline noting changes or events that influence the project.
Together with project meetings and documentation the project leader should circle back on the ‘secret sauce’ for success, simply enabling our clients through increased clarity and certainty.
Development projects are a tenuous balance of maximized potential and problem solving. Finding a Design partner with understanding, depth, passion and skill can be the difference in a process that leaves scars or one that soothes the way for continued success and ongoing renewal.
From the shiny potential within each new venue design to the simple pleasure of a smiling customer, Becci is passionate about Hospitality. With a feet-on-the-ground, ear-to-the-wind knowledge of what’s what in hospitality, Becci is often overheard claiming to be a ‘human barometer’ of interior design.
THINK_LIFESTYLE is a weekly newsletter published by GROUPN discussing directions in hospitality design.