Published by: Hotel Magazine 

By: David Kasprak

One of the biggest ongoing challenges in successful restaurant and bar design continues to be day-night convertibility. How do you create space that looks inviting in the morning for breakfast and coffee and equally inviting and appropriate as a late evening social hub? How do you create solutions that work as one-on-one breakout areas during business hours and gathering points for business colleagues during the evening hours?

The movement towards convertibility began more than a decade ago with operators and brands looking for ways to activate food and beverage areas that sat dormant for half the day. Design and operations teams have created bars and lounges that morph into breakfast bars and café spaces in the morning and midday segments. This challenge persists as designers and operators continue to look for ways to optimize each space.

Below are a few trends shaping how to design convertible hospitality spaces:

Keep it simple and authentic

 The need for day/night spaces will continue. The last decade has seen many clever solutions using rotating cabinets, sliding doors, pivots, and rolling shutters with the intent of completely transforming a bar into a coffee shop and vice versa. While this trend continues, there is an appetite to make the transitions less complex for operational staff.

Moving forward, the most successful multi-function spaces will focus on design simplicity.  Designers and operators are exploring the commonalities in different functions and using those elements as the basis for design. As an example, designing a European style coffee bar with stand-up or counter service for morning use creates a more natural transition from café to evening bar. Rather than hiding an espresso machine, the design team can position a barista station as a functioning part of a late-night bar, serving after dinner espresso-based drinks.

Fine tune lighting to match the daypart

The importance of lighting design cannot be overlooked. With today’s technology, lighting will continue to be one of the most important ways to change and create a mood. Good lighting design will continue to consider overall light level, special task lighting needs, accent and feature highlights, and lighting organization and control.

Wireless infrared controls allow designers and operations teams to develop unique lighting patterns for each time of day and change the lighting groups and patterns as tastes and uses change without requiring complicated wiring and light control systems. We see a future where a guest will be able to control task lighting at a select table or huddle area using their smart phone and room access code.

As technology continues to evolve, design and operations teams will use varied lighting effects to achieve dramatically different moods. As an example, we expect to see morning and midday lighting schemes continuing to use elevated, somewhat more uniform light levels bringing a light and airy feel to the space. Morning lighting programs will subtly use multiple light levels; one level for general illumination, a second level two to three times as bright for horizontal surfaces such as dining tables, and a third level about five times as bright for highlighting feature elements within the space.

For late night, lounge and bar lighting schemes will continue to be oriented toward creating drama and intimacy. Lighting design for evenings in general use lower, more subdued overall lighting levels. Bar top, tabletop and seating features are typically targeted to have a minimum of five times the light level of the overall space at the serving surface. Accent features and highlights such as artwork and décor features should have a minimum of ten times the general lighting level.

Previously, operational staff would need to painstakingly adjust dimming systems and lighting was often left to the discretion of the on-site person. With current technology these settings now can be pre-programmed and will adjust on their own to compensate for real time exterior natural light.

Design teams are now able to create lighting schemes that provide general illumination highlighting features within the space and de-emphasizing elements used for functions during other dayparts. The full automation allows for operational ease and reliable results.

Flexible gathering space

Designers will continue to explore seating combinations that bridge the gap between dining, work and lounge functions. Successful seating configuration will intersperse dining/café seating with lounge seating, and community tables. We see booths continuing to be popular with guests and work equally well as dining and work spaces. Designers and manufacturers will continue working to produce booths that have the ergonomics of a chair combined with the aesthetics of a settee.

Connectivity will continue to be all important. Access to power will continue to dictate seating arrangements by driving fixed seating arrangements toward walls, columns and building infrastructure where outlets are available. The trend towards furniture design with integrated power will continue to be limited only by local electrical codes.

Looking forward

As competition for guests continues to grow, designers, operators, owners and manufacturers will need to work as a team to embrace new technologies and design concepts that allow for flexibility while enhancing the guest experience.