In this interview, Tim Sephton - Director Iterum Project Management asks David Anderson, Co-Founder and Director of CADA Design some big questions on F&B design.

Tim: Can you tell me where you see the F&B design industry going over the next few years?

David: Certainly. From a practical point of view, environmental safety and technology are key. From a design perspective it is imperative that we make social spaces as safe as possible and from a hygiene point of view also as safe as possible. Businesses such as Protec are able to sterilise spaces and provide evidence of hygiene to the public.  

Over the last few months many of our clients have been ingeniously using technology to facilitate, collect or subscribing to more delivery services. 

Tim: Okay, but do you see a change in aesthetics?  

David: Absolutely. The phrase “if you stand still it means you are going backwards” is so true.

The industry has largely been standing still through 2020. A design vacuum has been created. A softening in rentals is causing the well-funded entrepreneurial businesses to keep developing.   We go through periods of design convergence – chalk boards and exposed light bulbs, anyone remember? 

Or even Scandi design. I think however we have as diverse environmental aesthetics as possible. What we are beginning to see is a move to what we describe as a new moderniser. Designers being inspired by seminal design movements of the past but interpreting them for the 21st century.  

I also think that clients want something new and refreshing. We work very hard at creative distinction for our clients and pride ourselves on not having a “house style” – we always honour the brief but give it the CADA twist. 

Tim: We know that design is iterative and follows a chronological process that results in a built environment. How do you think that the implementation process has been affected?   

David: It’s become harder. An increase in the volume of legislation means that you have to have a team of specialists comprised of the best of the best from day one.

For example, we have our technical coordinator working with the relevant design team as soon as concept commence. I try also to engage the specialists like PM, Cost and contract manager, and health & safety as early in the process as possible. 

Tim: What food trend are you seeing new and what are your future predictions?

David: Right now, we are seeing a rise in Asian food. In particular, brands coming into the UK from Asia and then going to the Middle East.

These are both regional cuisines and specific food groups. Most need tailoring for new territories. We call this filtration and can be everything from brand and visual identity, to environmental design, to menu framework development.  

With regards to future predictions, I believe that QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) will wane but the fast casual sector will rise. Affordability in the mid-market will be key.

Operators such as Flat Iron are taking a very clever approach to make a fast casual dining experience more affordable. The theory being lower meal prices will increase frequency of visits. Technology is imbedded in F&B as we know, but the tech developers are constantly developing new systems. For example, we have a client that is already using AI and machine learning. The rise in home delivery is utilising tech platforms similar to those used by the delivery giants like Amazon. We constantly keep an eye on what we call “empty niches” areas of opportunity that currently have few if any operators – for example in the UK Pescatarian is poorly represented. If you look backwards to look forwards, before Pho café came along, almost nobody knew what Vietnamese food was. Now you can get Pho kits in supermarkets. Indonesia as a regional cuisine also has virtually no representation for example.  

Tim: What design challenges does this future vision pose?

David: We always treat each new project on its own merits. Working with the Ops director we know that we can develop the operational spine that is design neutral and then build the brand, visual identity and environmental design accordingly.

A big challenge for us is sustainability. Truthfully the design and construction sector hasn’t been very good at it, but we are getting better.

We are always on the lookout for recycled and recyclable materials. The supply side is providing us more and more options in this regard.  Another example is that wherever possible we only specify eco packaging. It is still more expensive than non eco but most clients want to do their bit.  

Tim: Finally, any big step changes that you see coming? 

David: Yes! One in particular. With the gradual demise of traditional retail, high streets and shopping centres need repurposing. Look at what Westfield are doing in Australia for some inspiration. 

With regards to F&B, I believe it will always have a place for two reasons. Firstly, its experiential and secondly, humans are sociable creatures. We want to congregate, talk, eat and have fun. 

When I ask our design teams what we do they naturally say “design”. I acknowledge this but say what we actually provide is hospitality. We are giving people the opportunity to be sociable and gregarious. The catalysts are food and beverage and environments with the right ambience. This is what we do! 

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