Can uncomfortable seating change the way we consume fast-casual food?

Hangzhou – With so much visual noise in a shopping mall, it’s rare to find a moment to focus on a single thing. Keeping this situation in mind, An Design fashioned Mr. Maimai in Hangzhou Kerry Centre almost entirely from one material: brushed stainless steel.

Against an austere backdrop, the only real ‘warmth’ in the 45-sq-m scheme comes from the bakery’s offerings of golden-crusted breads and other sugar-sprinkled pastries, as well as from indirect lighting. Emitting a similar amber hue, luminaires are concealed within the construction to ensure the visual prevalence of metal throughout.

All guests face one direction to keep the act of dining full of interest

While the drastic design may seem more mess hall than cosy café – it must be a cinch to hose down at the end of the day – An wanted to provide a ‘rest space’ for those lost in shopping-mall madness. As opposed to canteen-style seating, however, the designers arranged Mr. Maimai as if they were organizing a classroom. ‘All guests face one direction,’ said Shanwei Weng, An’s design director, ‘to keep the act of dining full of interest.’

And if that interest fades, it’s unlikely guests will want to lounge and linger on backless metal stools, part of a strategy that is surely good for business. At Mr. Maimai, the old trick of furnishing fast-food joints with uncomfortable seats to encourage customer turnover may draw people in to eat before they hightail it to plusher pastures.

This piece was originally featured on Frame 116. You can purchase a copy here.

Location 385 Yan'an Road, Xiacheng District, Hangzhou

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Frame 116

The May/June issue of Frame is a special one, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. We present 20 designers and brands – from household names to emerging talents – that we expect to lead the way in spatial design in years to come. We showcase 20 interior projects that represent 20 strategies for designing spaces, and go beyond the conventional scope of design to find 20 visions that frame the future.

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