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6 international restaurant design trends making it big in South Africa

Article provided by Merchant Capital

While local restaurants are taking their cue from international front-runners when it comes to cuisine, that’s not all they are adopting. Increasing international design trends are also having a huge effect on how the locals wine and dine. Interior trends, while they are there to sell a concept and turn tables, they are also there to create a certain ambience. This is not a random choice and is in fact, largely driven by what is happening in the zeitgeist. In other words; there is a connection between what people are feeling and what restaurant interiors look like. Restaurants are a place where people come together to talk and eat. So what are decor trends saying about what is nourishing us as both people and patrons, today?

Trend 1: Home away from home 

Taking their cue from homely interior design, restaurant furnishings are increasingly becoming more comfortable and homely. In the past, the only place you’d eat in a plush armchair was a hotel tea room or from the comfort of your own couch. Until now all restaurants seemed to select their chairs from the same catalogue. But now, seating invites and envelopes by creating a comfortable environment; reminiscent of home. La Pergola in Rome is a great example of blending comfort and luxury.  This doesn’t only assist in the aesthetics of the establishment but also absorbs sound well, making for a better ambience and undisturbed conversation. This trend embodies the need to sit still and avoid the rush. And restaurants, like La Pergola, are encouraging people to get comfortable and escape it all in a place that feels like home.

Trend 2: Local love 

From the architecture to the artwork, restaurants worldwide are using locally sourced materials and decor to dictate the look and feel of their establishments. This can be seen in American restaurants that use bespoke antler lighting fixtures or those that support local artists by selling their pieces off the walls of their cafes. Metropole Art’n Grill in Botafogo adorns wall-to-wall urban art and exudes a loud and proud atmosphere. This trend speaks to the support of the local community and investing in the place where you are planted. Sending a message that a community that eats together; thrives and strives.

Trend 3: Hailing the hashtag 

In an age of constant connectivity, restaurants benefit from “Instagrammable” areas in their establishments. Some restaurants create their own while some use an existing on-site space that inspires social snaps. Like R Lounge at Two Times Square which has a seriously selfie-worthy view of the iconic landmark. Whether it’s a neon sign or wall mural, creating an eye-catching area will inspire your customer to become your advocate by providing free (and powerful) word-of-mouth advertising. This trend is tapping into the social frenzy of online brag-ability and the alluring #YouWon’tBelieveWhereIAm generation. 

Trend 4: Retro revamp

Retro design revivals are making a comeback. Restaurants are no different. Consider the likes of MaMa Kelly in Amsterdam and their full millennial pink interior with gold accents reminiscent of bygone days.  This look is expected to replace the more recent industrial vibe. The trend embodied here is all about nostalgia. The world we live in is fast, furious and unknown. Any nostalgic design brings to mind ‘a simpler time’ and allows people to relax in the past and forget the present, if only for a moment. 

Trend 5: Recapturing the romance

With so many restaurants focusing on pulling larger groups, there is a gap in the market for a more intimate experience. Think two-seater tables and romantic décor like Dalloway Terrace in London. This trend exists in a context where the world is wide and where people live on social platforms. So this trend speaks to the need to get up close and personal once more and speak face-to-face rather than face-to-Facebook.

Trend 6: Out and about

For many years, street-side eateries were restricted in South Africa. Nowadays more and more restaurants are cropping up in unexpected areas, taking on the European concepts where a restaurant stretches out onto the nearest pavement. Some international establishments have taken this to another like the Bridge Bar in Valletta, Malta. With patrons spilling onto cushions on the bridge stairs rather than just sitting at tables. This trend speaks to the claustrophobia many South Africans feel – living behind walls and eating in shopping centres all the time. People crave air and sunshine and this trend offers a way to escape reality.

Embrace trends in your restaurant 

As a restaurateur, by cleverly using design, you have a real opportunity to not only feed your patrons but to give them a real embodied experience as well. So consider what your brand represents and how it is fulfilling a current need in the community. Then go to town on creating a decor and food experience that supports your vision. This encourages emotional connection and creates a place that people will come back to time and again.

Merchant Capital is a proud Partner of the NSBC.