The Importance of a Well-Considered Foodservice Strategy to Inform the Design Solution

Food is an emotive subject and, with the foodservice industry battling to win favour amongst increasingly knowledgeable consumers, can be challenging to plan for.  Foodservice is an industry with a competitive reputation where the smallest infraction can make any concept fall at the first hurdle. Perhaps the financial structuring of the business has not been adequately explored, or maybe the management team has taken a lacklustre approach to training their staff.  These challenges, whilst cumbersome, can be addressed more easily and at a manageable cost – but a poorly designed space cannot. Rushing through a design without careful consideration can be a quick step towards failure and almost impossible to rectify without significant investment. It is crucial that an experienced team adequately analyses and evaluates the drivers for the operation as well as the physical restraints of the space early to allow realism to inform the design as much as possible.

Understanding the aspirations of a client or developer is what ignites and sets the tone for a project. It gives the project an identity, a framework to work within and allows the project team to start identifying a number of key components, namely – why is it being built, whom is it for and what problem would this operation address.  To answer the why and for who, conducting thorough market research ensures that the aspirations for the foodservice operation are not aloof and are indeed in line with the market. Part of this includes identifying current foodservice trends as well as looking for more emerging ones, profiling the likely users and local demographics, and acknowledging the impact local competition will have on uptake. Answering the why and who may appear obvious, but it is crucial that these elements are allowed to influence the design strategy.

Nonetheless, a cohesive strategy requires a well calculated balance between aspirations and restrictions. Addressing the spatial and MEP restrictions is an often insufficiently discussed or a hurried phase within a strategy because it can appear to bring the ‘dream of what the concept can be’ down to a more manageable and realistic level.  If restrictions do get addressed, they may be done so at too late of a stage or without taking into consideration the aspirations of the project.  The best approach is to properly evaluate the restrictions of a space early on – ideally at the same time as the aspirations and framework of the concept are being formed.  This marriage between creative vision and pragmatic know-how ensures that the first steps of a foodservice operation are in the right direction.

The objective for any foodservice operation is to deliver a great customer experience.  However, a poorly thought out design can adversely impact the customer experience, the efficiency of an operation and consequently the return on investment for owners and developers.  A successful foodservice strategy requires a healthy mix of ambition, creativity and research in order to adequately inform the design solution. Part of the research requires one to truly understand the art of the possible and being able to find the sweet spot between available space/MEP accessibility and a workable and dynamic concept.  It is only by taking the time to prepare a well-informed strategy that a foodservice design can be built for success.