Continuing our seven-part Trend Report 2017 series, Jon Bentley, the head of Harrison’s UAE office in Dubai, offers insight into food and beverage design trends.
You can also read the first part of our series by Aida Karimi, senior designer at DiLeonardo, who shares her top trends for hospitality design.
True & casual
One of the key, longer term trends in bar and restaurant design is the emergence of fully exposed kitchens in the heart of the dining space. The sense of ‘theatre’ derived from an open kitchen at the far end of space no longer works for certain concepts. There is now greater emphasis on creating a 360° arena to showcase the skills, expertise and passion of food creation. This shift towards a more central location elevates the food experience to a more authentic and honest one. Along with the breakdown of individual kitchen and restaurant spaces, designers are now adding the ‘fire and fizzle’ of non-traditional cooking to the eating areas. One example is the rise of smokehouse preparation taking centre stage in mainstream US restaurants, a concept which is now gaining prominence in the UAE.
Laid back and easy-going
The trend towards themed dining remains, but there are changes taking place. We are moving away from the formulaic, over-contrived approach towards a subtle, more genuine one. This ensures that guests are given a sophisticated treatment, an approach which does not require overbearing themed elements to convey a story. The result is a more laid back and easy-going occasion. In essence, it aligns the overall experience with the global trend of true casual and, importantly, assumes the guests are intelligent beings.
A further design trend is a move towards stripping back dining spaces to expose unique industrial features, then overlaying them with other materials and finishes. For example, concrete walls and floors are juxtaposed against a beautifully crafted bar counter or set against high-quality hand-stitched upholstery finishes. The result creates tension between these elements and emphasises the qualities of each. It showcases a more cultured design thinking.
One trend which operators particularly need to be wary of is diminishing differentiation between brands. This is heightened and exploited by the accessibility of the online ideation platforms. In short, there is a significant amount of ‘brand creep’, which is not necessarily a positive step forward for the sector.
Distinct branding – and local market knowledge – is crucial for long-term operational success. Right from the outset, food and beverage operators should insist on undergoing a formal brand evaluation and positioning process to develop unique selling points relevant to their marketplace and to really stand out from the competition.
This is why Harrison continues to invest in establishing a permanent presence across America, the UK and the Middle East. Only the operators that fully appreciate this requirement can truly expect long term success and profitability in the Middle East hospitality sector.