You hope that your restaurant or hotel is welcoming, comfortable and inoffensive to the senses. But how do you know what trends to avoid? When do you set aside your dream aesthetics for the good of the customer?
1. Comfort, comfort, comfort!
You’d like your customers to settle in for an evening, or for a long lunch, without interruption. You want them to be satisfied that they could invite as many people, with as many different needs, into your space.
We’ve already covered how to make a menu as inclusive as possible, and these ideas extend to the furniture and fit-out of your space, too.
High stools can be beautiful, and can give your floorplan visual texture – but make sure your guests have options. Include low seating, chairs with backs and cushioned options if possible.
Remember that if a wheelchair user is meeting a group of friends, they’ll all want to be able to see eye to eye, and if you only have lofty stools, your venue is immediately unsuitable.
2. Keep it clean
So, you’ve swapped out your tall metal chairs for squishy sofas – but it’s not that simple. Particularly for dining spaces (and venues that welcome children), the ability to clean furniture is crucial.
Upholstered couches and cushions, knitted throw rugs, material placemats, material napkins – these are all potential catch-alls for crumbs, sauce, hot chocolate and snotty noses.
Absolutely feel free to go ahead with these touches – they make for a cozy space! – but consider and account for additional costs and time for cleaning, mending and replacing.
3. IS IT TOO LOUD IN HERE?
The industrial-chic interior design trend is all the rage at the moment. Exposed brick walls. Polished cement floors. No curtains. Metal chairs and tables.
Beautiful. But noisy.
The more hard surfaces you have, the noisier your restaurant or hotel bar will be. Add to that a soundtrack of chill-out tunes, a party of 12 for a 40th birthday, three kids under the age of four running amok, and a shouty group of hard-of-hearing friends… and you’ve got quite a racket.
If you don’t want to invest in curtains and carpet – which can be visually frumpy – there are options for installing noise-absorbing materials into your walls.
Soundproofing can go a long way to making the dining experience more comfortable – and I doubt a hotel has ever had a complaint about their rooms being too quiet for guests to sleep…
4. All the colors of the rainbow
The psychology of color has been debunked and retabled too often to go into, but color is absolutely something to be considered when designing your venue.
Common sense goes a long way here – does bright orange seem like a restful color? Will beige give your restaurant the pizazz you want?
Other considerations include lighting, and how this will play with your color. When light comes through the hotel windows in the morning, do you want the room to shine? If so, go for a very pale blue or yellow, or perfect white. If you’re aiming for a cozy, shut-in style, then darker shades will complement that cocoon feeling.
Dark colors tend to make rooms appear smaller, so if you only have a ‘hole in the wall’ space, you may wish to lean towards brighter, lighter shades.
Color doesn’t just go on walls, either – think about the mood and atmosphere you want, and then make this match the types of furniture you’re planning.
5. Does your furniture align with your values?
This may seem like a silly question, but it’s definitely something to consider.
If you sell fair trade coffee, but serve it in mugs produced by child labor, you may be sending mixed messages. Customers will appreciate seeing that you’ve made the effort to furnish your business in line with your values. If the only person making ethical purchases and choices is your customer, they may feel that you’re palming your responsibilities off on them.
If you can afford to, check the supply chains and evaluate your choices: who made these chairs? Now that I know who made them, am I still comfortable using them in my venue?
Consumers are generally willing to pay more for products and services from committed socially responsible companies, so if your moral choice is a higher-cost choice, then your customers may not mind paying a little extra.