In my latest quest for pizza overseas, I attended the HoReCa (Hotel, Restaurant, Café) Architecture and Marketing Workshop in Milan, the fashion capital of the world. After three days of lectures from architects, designers and lighting experts, I came back with a new perspective on how to more adeptly use commercial space to get the sale. Here are the highlights from what I learned there.
there is no ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’
By far the most recurring theme of the workshop was viability first. “In restaurant design we don’t speak about what’s pretty or ugly because beauty is subjective. The question we must ask is, does it work or doesn’t it?” says Nicola Ticozzi, Head Coordinator at HoReCa Workshop – Architecture & Marketing.
When choosing restaurant design elements, rather than asking yourself “What would look nice?” think about “What do I want the customer to experience?” For example, if you own a lounge, you might consider comfortable chairs that invite guests to linger, whereas a fast casual restaurant that benefits from fast turnover would do better with chairs that aren’t too comfortable. Each element, such as color, light, furniture and decorative objects, must be considered from a functionality standpoint before aesthetics.
You must tell a story with your design
People remember stories, and, most of all, they remember stories that they understand. Andrea Langhi, architect behind the highly successful Italian pizza chain Pizzikotto, characterizes a good design as one that is understandable and translatable. In his design of Pizzikotto, he sought elements that are simple, striking and different to set them apart from other Italian pizza chains. Langhi points to the lamps made from plastic water coolers as unattractive but successful in reflecting the brand’s values, particularly its commitment to sustainability.
The Bathroom really doesn’t get enough attention
Nisi Magnoni, an architect and HoReCa Workshop teacher, takes a certain pride in building bathrooms because, frankly, they have a big impact on your experience at a restaurant. “If you have a large, beautiful restaurant but then only one bathroom and people have to wait in line, they’re not going to have a positive experience,” says Magnoni. In his design, he doesn’t overlook this oft-neglected yet essential place for your customers.
Chiaroscuro is back!
Remember the light technique DaVinci (and his contemporaries) were so famous for? Chiaroscuro, which means “light dark,” is the practice of drawing the viewers’ attention to a specific area of a painting by brightening some areas and darkening others. According to bio-architect and inventor Massimo Duroni, “The human eye physically cannot take in too much information at once. In places with uniform, diffused light, our eyes are not drawn to observe anything in particular.” The use of chiaroscuro lighting to create a contrast allows you to direct the attention of the customer to whatever it is you want to sell more of.
Beware of Excitement “sickness”
Remember that the concept must be easily understandable and that too many elements are difficult to process. Nisi Magnoni describes the common “illness” of a restaurant entrepreneur who has had success and gets particularly excited about including all of his favorite elements in one restaurant. “Over-enthusiasm can happen to anyone. Don’t let it happen to you!” warns Magnoni.
So when choosing a layout, remember to keep in mind the demands and needs of your target audience, the experience you want them to have when they get there, and the understandability of the overall concept to perpetuate good experiences for you, your staff and your customers.
This information was presented at the HoReCa Workshop in downtown Milan. The workshop is a collaboration of the Milano Business School, Il Politecnico School of Architecture and some key companies specializing in interior design materials.
This HoReCa Workshop also organizes events in Russian, Portuguese and Spanish, and heads up a prestigious design competition for pizzerias and bakeries. Their international contest for planning a successful pizzeria centers on design, concept, marketing and architecture in one. It is done in collaboration with 5 Stagioni and offers up to 7,500 euros in prizes. For more information visit http://www.concorsole5stagioni.it.