OZ Talks Restaurant Trends in CREJ Conference

Earlier this month, OZ Architecture’s Abigail Plonkey spoke at the Colorado Real Estate Journal (CREJ) Commercial Interior Architecture & Design Conference and Expo — Colorado’s largest conference of the year for interior designers and architects.

As an OZ Associate Principal and Director of Brand Experience Design, Abbey brought her branding and restaurant expertise to a panel session focused on trends in restaurant design. Abbey shared her creative insight on how designing for the user experience and engaging the five senses can bring a restaurant’s brand to life, whether in a fast-casual startup or a high-end restaurant.

Abbey noted that cultural and economical shifts are often some of the biggest drivers of change and trends. In 2018, she says, restaurant designs will continue to shift from dark and private to light, informal and welcoming spaces. Rather than simply watching the action from an open kitchen, guests will experience immersive, inspiring and authentic interactions within the restaurant, discovering new elements of a space with each visit.

“Our approach to restaurant design is unique, thinking beyond the interior finishes from plating and uniforms to logo and menus, down to the details of the selecting the music,” Abbey said. “We’re creating a brand experience within the space.”

One example of how these ideas can take shape is the OZ-designed Henley modern American brasserie in Nashville’s Aertson Kimpton hotel. Here, Abbey and her colleagues collaborated with the restaurant team and chef to reimagine the theatre kitchen concept by playing up the element of surprise and discovery, specifically in a secret chef’s table behind a bookcase called The Rabbit Hole. Guests are no longer simply observing the entertainment of the chef preparing the meal, but they are immersed in an experience of the concept, one that is completely different from Henley.

Another trend we are seeing emerge in restaurant design is concept-driven space. Take, for example, an oyster bar. Abbey suggests moving beyond an obvious nautical theme and drawing inspiration from the concept/ingredient itself, such as how oysters are harvested, where they grow, their history, and their anatomy. These things can inform a restaurant’s color story, materiality, team uniforms, music, and even the brand’s name.

Many branding and design opportunities happen in unexpected places, Abbey says. Restrooms are a great example. In fact, restrooms can be underappreciated opportunities for extreme expressions of the design and brand, something you can’t wait to tell your friends about when you return to the table. In the age of Instagram, there is an even greater opportunity to share that heightened, even evocative expression of a once private experience in a very social way.

Of course, there are many trends or movements that aren’t going away any time soon, from farm-to-table concepts to chef-driven restaurant experiences. But with creative thinking aimed at generating unique and authentic spaces, the experts at OZ Architecture continue to be the arbiters of what’s next in restaurant design. Read more about our latest restaurant design projects here.