These days a venue is more than the food it plates up or the beverages it pours – fit out and finish have become an important part of the equation. We asked three Australian design firms what trends they’ve noticed, what elements should be given more consideration, and what their predictions for 2017 are. We even got the lowdown on pet peeves to avoid.


Jeremy Ward – Cayas Architects

What restaurant design trends have you noticed in last six months?

Virtual reality is something we’ve been engaging with in the last year. It’s been really interesting to see how clients have taken this new opportunity to visualise their spaces and the finishes that will be applied well ahead of going to a builder. We’re obviously ending up with better results and they know right from the get go what they’re getting, no surprises.

In terms of other trends, there’s been a growing use of variety in colours, textures and elements. For example, in restaurants, instead of one or two types of tables and chairs used throughout the venue there’s been a lot more mixing up.


What elements of design would you like to see receive more attention and why? 

Some of the biggest elements of design, besides the finishes obviously, are the pragmatic aspects. The worst thing is to get onsite, figure out something doesn’t work and have to make costly changes. In a commercial kitchen it can be even more important. If you have multiple people working in a small space and crossing paths, you need to pay attention to where the equipment is located; is it too high on the wall or too low, for example. Virtual reality is helping with that. You can stand behind a bar and see where the products are place, see how you’re employees are actually going to operate, and make sure it’s efficient before you even get on site. We can show you in the office.

What’s your pet design peeve? Or any trends you don’t want to see stick around?

One of our peeves has been the overuse of TVs and other AV equipment, especially when it gets tacked on at the end. When we can involve it in the design process from the start and work it into the theme so that it’s not overpowering and blends into the environment it can work.

Mismatched colour temperatures would be another small, but important point. Lighting is such an important aspect, particular in hospitality with small spaces and places operating at night. All too often, not enough thought has gone into it and you don’t get the right vibe. One of the most important aspects of that is making sure the colours and the lighting work together; you don’t want cools and warms mixing inappropriately. It stands out like a sore thumb. The mistake can happen during construction but a lot of the time it happens after.

Another one is the theme of the place. When curated it works well and the space sings. Even if you’ve spent so much money on a refurbishment or new build, it can fall down at that last little bit because you haven’t put the effort into theming.

Do you have any trend predictions for 2017?

From a technology point of view we’ll really expect to see operators take on that virtual reality as word spreads.

After the GFC people pulled back on materials and finishes, but in the last six months there seems to have been a bit more experimentation. People are willing to take risks again, which is good, and we think that will continue in the next year. There also seems to be a growing trend to customise everything, even things you would normally get off the shelf. It makes every venue completely unique and helps creates a whole experience.


Yaron Kanor & Sophie Metcalfe – Studio Y

What restaurant design trends have you noticed in last six months?

It’s worth mentioning how some contemporary designers are reinventing and reappropriating old fashioned materials and giving new life to them. One in particular is Italian terrazzo. Traditionally, terrazzo is a cost effective (compared to natural stone) reconstituted stone, usually in a 400×400 tile format and often found on shopping centre floors. What we’re seeing recently however are terrazzo companies that are experimenting with bigger aggregates and softer colour tones, and, instead of the traditional tiled format, it is being utilised in joinery and in slab form. It’s really creating the back bone of some beautiful new colour palettes around Melbourne.

There is also a huge difference in how franchises today approach design. Medium to large scale franchises now realise that you cannot just duplicate each shop. Each has to have its own personality relating to the area it inhabits and the people who visit it. Even the largest franchises are adapting their style to their environment. Also a lot of existing franchises realise that they need to stay fresh in order to keep up with the new franchises popping up. This is redefining the whole idea of a franchise, whether it be a fast food chain or restaurant chain. The old paint-by-number aesthetic doesn’t work anymore. Instead, each business owner is searching for their own personality and injecting that into the existing look.

What elements of design would you like to see receive more attention and why? 

We think it would be great to see stronger, more exciting concepts when it comes to new restaurant interiors. Sometimes you could have a beautiful interior, but if it doesn’t talk to the branding or the menu then your concept sort of gets lost and watered down. When the interior design is aligned with the brand package, then you’ve not only created a beautiful space but you’ve created something conceptually exciting and transcending for the customer. This largely hangs on the client but the onus can also be up to the collaborating power of the design teams on a project. Some new places around Melbourne do this very well and their success is a testament to the importance of this.

What’s your pet design peeve?

We have seen the white washed walls and indoor plant scheme taken to its limits. This aesthetic has become so abundant and in demand that it’s kind of knee jerk design and unfortunately to the detriment of warmth or heart of the interior. Whilst the trend of a fresh muted palette and the mental health benefits of plants is something we rejoice in, we would like to see warm timbers, leathers and soft furnishings given representation. Let the space be on trend but also give ample thought to its personality and warmth.

Do you have any trend predictions for 2017?

We’re seeing more handmade goods and an honesty of materials in contemporary restaurant interiors. Original brick is in high demand and if there’s an existing concrete floor? Even better. This is because these materials are honest, architectural and represent original bones and authenticity. Not only this, there are details like the beer being local and the crockery being handmade. Society is becoming more environmentally aware and the interiors are reflecting that and we believe they will continue to reflect that. If you look around to some of the more trend aligned interiors that have sprung up around Melbourne in the past year you will notice that they are all variations of a few simple and honest materials – metal/stone and timber. It might be brass, terrazzo and American oak, or blackened steel, concrete and brick, but it all goes to reinstate the notion that natural and honest materiality is definitely (and most likely will continue to be) a driving factor in interior palette trends to come.

This swing towards more neutral and earthy colour palettes and a more minimalist aesthetic overall should be approached with caution in that there is not a loss of personality. In design generally, everyone is on the lookout for existing buildings that have some character already within them and then making the building itself the feature.


Paul Kelly – Paul Kelly Design 

What restaurant design trends have you noticed in last six months?

A massive trend we are seeing is the speed at which Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) and a hybrid of the Fast Casual Restaurants are pouring into the marketplace. It seems as if someone has woken up and finally worked out that there is really good money to be made out of food in Australia. As far as design trends, the venues we are designing (30 of them) are all completely unique to each other; there is no design trend, more a service and efficiency trend, which has a lot to do with the Fast Casual Restaurant influx.

What’s your pet design peeve?

I like simplicity and try to keep our projects with a clear and understandable concept, which can be tricky with a larger space. The thing that really gets me thinking is when a space is designed with looks only in mind, without consideration for staffing, efficiencies or a sound business model. Customers like to feel like they know what is going on, and if they have to ask, wait or get frustrated then that is not a good outcome for anyone. Typically people like to report on a bad situation first, which spreads a lot faster than a good experience. So we need to make sure that we minimise the risk of the customer not being 100 percent happy.

What elements of design would you like to see receive more attention?

We are very lucky at the moment. As the industry is growing, there are so many good options for the customer and there are more and more every day. I would like to see a matched food development strategy that is in line with the time spent on development, design and planning. We are involved in the food and beverage development, as well as collateral and the overall business development of our projects, and we are continually pushing our clients to develop the food offer with the same dedication that goes into the overall development. We need to develop the offer landing in front of the customer and refine this, without copying, but to evolve and be creative.

Do you have any trend predictions for 2017?

I think that operators are willing to take bigger risks on projects at the moment, budgets are increasing and the outlook for operators in my opinion has never been stronger. Design trends we will be pushing are based on a complete encompassing concept, one that is a complete sensory experience, giving the customer not only what they want, but delivering over and above with real passion. No longer are customers coming back from overseas trips with photos of amazing spaces, we have them here and in many cases – if we can get the food and beverage offer tighter – they will be better.

Image: Tamworth Powerhouse, designed by Paul Kelly Design


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