16 Dec 2020 • COVID-19 Crisis
How 2020 changed hospitality design
From designing for delivery to media-focused hospitality brands and the rise of localism, here are the trends from the past year that will help you navigate the future of hospitality design.
2020’s lengthy lockdown rules caused many restaurants to rush to join the takeout party in fear of losing out. Food delivery platform Just Eat’s third-quarter orders were up 46 per cent on the same period in 2019. From February to April there was a 169 per cent increase in the number of restaurants using restaurant software provider Upserve’s online ordering service. That speed of transition left little chance to assess what a delivery-driven hospitality model might actually look like – spatially, not merely procedurally. For starters, if the consumers aren’t the ones actually visiting the physical space, what does that mean for brand interaction? Do restaurants need to rethink their entranceways, which have become veritable sardine tins of deliverers? Does the constant flow of shorter-term traffic disturb the ambience for gourmands who wish to linger for the entire evening?
Just Eat’s third-quarter orders were up 46 per cent on the same period in 2019
One solution comes from iTafe in China. After a successful dine-in concept designed by Daylab (Frame 129, p. 54), the sellers of tea, coffee and bread asked the studio to give shape to two iTafe Up locations that service takeaways and deliveries. At Wuyue Plaza in Yiwu, an interactive QR code is incorporated into a mobile installation that can be placed not only anywhere in the store, but also anywhere in the surrounding shopping mall – or even out in the community. Referencing the influence of online shopping on consumption habits, Daylab’s design is essentially an assemblage of components ordered from Taobao.com, the world’s biggest e-commerce website. A radiator accessory for large electronic components forms the aluminium-grille façade, for example, while other industrial mechanical parts were reconstructed to create sections of the QR code installation, displays and public seating.
Digitally distributed dining
Keeping customers off-site means many hospitality brands have also had to radically adjust their comms strategies. A combination of media (be it social or a more advanced form) and delivery is now reengineering the idea of the hospitality business as something that can exist in both a distributed and a consolidated way. If you can’t be on premises, then there’s a palette of takeaway products, in-home experiences, video and conferencing formats that can bring something of a brand’s ethos to your door.
‘As we shelter in place, seeking solace, normalcy, and comfort food, media-savvy chefs are hellbent on serving it to us via podcasts, social media, and streaming channels,’ explains Forbes columnist Jennifer Leigh Parker. ‘Their common cause: Order take-out! Try one of my recipes! Or, better yet, just watch me cook something so sensational that you relate to me on a deep human level and choose to patron my restaurants as soon as we reopen.’
A palette of takeaway products, in-home experiences, video and conferencing formats can bring a brand’s ethos to your door
The most advanced implantation of this is experience-design studio Kitchen Theory’s ‘Multisensory Dining at Home’ service, which consists of a four to six-course menu, tableware, table dressing, playlist and sensory elements including texture cubes, projectors, wireless headphones and levitating plates. The evening is presided over by a virtual chef.
Hotel operators are also adopting similar – if less advanced – tactics, especially in Asia. Meliá Hotels has started sharing recipes from the head chef of its Shanghai property on WeChat, as a series of GIFs. Competitor Marriott has launched a four-week series of online Cantonese cooking classes filmed across four of its Guangzhou hotels. Meanwhile, Hilton has been alternating cooking tutorials with workout classes.
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Leaning in to localism
In a Frame Live talk we hosted earlier in the year, Rob Wagemans, founder of Concrete Architectural Associates, relayed that many of his clients had started to think about how to cater to local communities rather than overseas visitors: ‘These businesses will become much more embedded in their immediate context – the consideration of how hotels can serve locals, beyond food and drink, will change hospitality going forward.’
Newly published research by Booking.com shows that this assertion still holds true, with consumers evolving from tourists to ‘familiarists’ as they look to explore their local context more fully. Following the pandemic, the platform revealed that 38 per cent of people still plan to travel within their own country in the the long term (in over a year’s time), with 43 per cent intending to explore a new destination within their home region. These consumers are also increasingly keen to make sure their expenditure directly benefits these destinations, with more than half (55 per cent) wanting to actively see how their money is going back into the local community.
The consideration of how hotels can serve locals, beyond food and drink, will change hospitality going forward
One hospitality brand that’s addressing these concerns is Brøchner Hotels, who has just launched its Go Local campaign, a bid not just to attract its neighbours but to assist them as well. The campaign supports local businesses including restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, wellness experiences and cultural institutions by offering discounts and other benefits to hotel guests and local members. ‘Our 30+ partners are all in the same boat as us,’ explains CEO Nickolas Krabbe Bjerg. ‘This was a way for us to reach out with a helping hand.’
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From homework to hotelwork
One common tactic that has made hotel brands more relevant to locals has been repositioning room inventory as boltholes for those wanting to swap working-from-home for working-from-hotel. The first iterations were mostly properties based in the city centre that transformed bedrooms into private offices rentable by the day. But, as the year progressed, destination hotels started evolving the concept, looking to tempt consumers into longer stays that would allow remote working in a more idyllic setting.
Guests can opt for ‘‘in-suite classrooms’’ complete with a desk, notebooks, printers and computers
But extended work-cations bring a second set of requirements: what about the kids? The answer is that many hospitality brands have developed structured education programmes that mean any working holiday will be as productive for the young as the old. For those still required to undertake remote lessons, resorts are making sure they can provide the basic amenities. Guests staying a minimum of 15 nights at The Eden Roc Cap Cana resort in the Dominican Republic can opt for ‘in-suite classrooms’ complete with a desk, notebooks, printers and computers. A team of bilingual ‘children concierges’ are on hand to help kids with school work.
The Kimpton hotel chain has also created dedicated staff teams to help student guests, recently announcing the rollout of Chief Virtual Learning Officers (CVLOs) at all of its properties across the US. These problem solvers will do everything from fixing dodgy Zoom connections to supplying stationery and print documents.
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The events of 2020 have rightly shone a light on our global food system and the negative consequences of industrial farming, especially in regard to meat production. You’d therefore hope that this year might provide further impetus to those looking for more sustainable alternatives.
New data shows that many are still a long way from considering ‘cultured’ meat an appealing substitute: In Germany a meagre 15.7 per cent of the population regard it either positively or rather positively according to a study by the German Academy of Science and Engineering, and in Australia a new University of Sydney survey found that 72 per cent of (the supposedly environmentally hyper-conscious) Gen Z view it with disgust.
Four in ten consumers consider lab-grown produce ‘‘scary’’
In the US, a study by Wisconsin-based marketing and communications firm Charleston|Orwig shed some light on what the barriers to adoption might be. Four in ten of the consumers they polled said they considered lab-grown produce ‘scary’, showing that there is a considerable amount of educative work to do if this nascent industry is to get shoppers on-side. There are many inputs where that educational process can take place, but the design of the spaces in which such meat is sold and consumed could play a significant role. Take a look at our recent story on the store-cum-lab of Exofood, a startup pushing the benefits of insect consumption, to see an adjacent example of how that might work. Design studio Space+Craft understood that part of the role of the space would be overturning extent negative perceptions of Exofood’s main crop: cockroaches. In contrast, lab-grown steak could well be an easy pitch.