Like anyone who works within the hospitality industry, I have immensely missed dining out. For me, it’s not just about the food offering; the design and aesthetics of a hospitality environment are a huge factor when I decide where to eat with friends and family. Exploring different restaurant spaces and looking at new food trends and concepts are a massive inspiration to me personally, and the design work we do at ABDA.

Discovering what hospitality businesses are doing and what boundaries are being pushed sparks a creative drive and passion in me and this was something I really missed during the last lockdown. I think I underestimated how much I get from being in an inspiring hospitality environment whilst eating good food with friends.

Time to explore

It’s so important that the ABDA team embed themselves in the industry as that’s where we get our passion and the inspiration for our projects from. So, over the last few weeks I’ve spent some time in London as I simply wanted to explore hospitality venues and see what was happening and what’s changed. I made a conscious choice to visit some of my favourite places; Coal Drops Yard, Southbank, Seven Dials and I even ended up taking a trip around Notting Hill and Portobello Road, places I haven’t visited in many years!

A continental feel

The buzz in Soho was amazing, even at 3pm on a Tuesday! Tables lining the streets gave it a continental vibe which I have never seen in this country. It brought a smile to my face, just to see people out and about enjoying good food and drinks; after all this is what the hospitality industry is all about.

Bold and striking

One of the places I was desperate to visit was the Japanese curry lab, Hiden Curry in Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross. They opened late last year, and I have followed them on Instagram from the beginning. What really struck me from the outset was the simplicity of the venue design and the use of a single bright colour. One bold colour is also one of the most striking things used in the design of Humble Pizza in Chelsea. They’ve opted for a beautiful sugary sweet tone of pink and mid-century touches which give this place a Miami vibe.

An Instagrammable design

Walking through St Pancras station, I saw EL & N, currently the chain dubbed as the ‘most Instagrammable café in the world’. The chain has eight stores with a 9th opening soon and the St Pancras location opened in January 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. The concept is very different to anything I have seen before; it’s bold, it’s playful, and it makes a statement. They have also used just one key colour, in this case pink. Nothing about this brand is understated and so it was fantastic to see this venue in ‘real-life’ not just on my phone.

Bold and playful design definitely seemed to be something I was seeing more and more of during my visit to London, whether it be a pop up or a fixed location. Colours, graphics, typography and interiors are getting brighter and more audacious.

Natural and earthy

In contradiction to this, I also witnessed a lean towards clean lines, natural finishes, earthy undertones and a simplistic colour palette. Café Bao in Kings Cross is a perfect illustration of this, inspired by the Western style cafes in Asia. There is a strong use of wood veneer throughout the venue, including the bakery goods counter at the entrance.

A futuristic feel

One of London’s most recent openings is from the modern coffee group, WatchHouse, which has just opened its seventh “house” in 70 St. Mary Axe. The café spans across two floors of public space and displays a mix of real wood veneer, concrete, terrazzo and stainless steel. The aesthetics of any WatchHouse space are as important as the brand, and the coffee it serves. St Mary Axe is no exception. The feature of this space is a futuristic 12 metre coffee counter and retail display wall constructed entirely from stainless steel.

Hospitality is back

Now we are able to eat indoors and people’s desire to be social again ramps up, it’s important the ABDA team continue to immerse themselves in hospitality experiences so we fully understand the change in consumer behaviour. I do believe we will see some exciting experiences that bring fun back into the lives of the nation. After all we’ve been through, the more playful and luxurious and the further away from what we have experienced during this pandemic, the better.

We’d love to hear about your thoughts on some of the new concepts appearing in cities, towns and communities across the UK. What trends are you seeing that you like? You can share your thoughts with us via our social media channels @abdadesign.

let’s have a chat about your next project…