Three different moods for three distinct spaces at Victor Restaurant

Interior Designer: Allen Chan

Design Firm: DesignAgency

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Hotel Le Germain Mercer Street in Toronto invited the design team to transform its on-site restaurant, Victor. With the multitude of surrounding condos, this district is quickly becoming a neighbourhood in its own right – within five years, almost 40,000 people will live within a two-block radius- and Le Germain wanted Victor to become a destination for morning coffee, business lunches, and late-night dining.

Before, the space had no connections with the street, and the only entrance to the restaurant was through the lobby. The design was dark, uninviting, and lacked flexibility, and the venue only functioned as a nighttime establishment.

With the redesign, Victor has a distinct and cohesive brand identity. Now, a highly fluid space comprises a dining area with leather banquettes, a chef’s table in a side alcove and open counter beyond, an intimate bar-lounge, and a cafe with communal harvest table – all of which meld and transition seamlessly into the hotel’s lobby, which the hotel also redesigned to complement the new hospitality space.

Custom-designed specialty lighting was central to setting a new ambiance – one that is approachable, universal, and versatile enough to attract both hotel guests, daytime business visitors, corporate event attendees, and special occasion groups taking part in the city’s adjacent entertainment district for concerts, theatre, screenings, and more.

To impart a sense of vitality and character to the restaurant, the design team hung a custom-designed chandelier of brass tubing, strung with white globes, layered and rotating at different angles. The eye-catching fixture swoops above diners and is visible from the street, drawing interest from passersby. It glows in contrast to the gravel-grey ceiling, and visually drops the ceiling height to a more intimate level.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Entering the intimate lounge, hanging wall lights made from brass tubing and white globes maintain a connection to the feature chandelier in the dining room. LED-lit shelves are artfully decorated with crystal, silverware, and bronze and gilt chargers, and deco lamps line the bar to give extra lighting for guests. Even the inevitable television monitors disappear into smoky mirrors when not in use.

In the cafe, a bright palette creates an airy, daytime feeling. White marble counters and a fluted barista station with a glass display case heighten luminosity. Discreet rows of pendant lights hang over the harvest table and add to the guest experience.

Photographer: Lisa Petrole

Throughout, fabrics and materials were chosen for their ability to absorb and reflect light, including bronze accents, natural stone, warm wood shelving and millwork, plus playful patterned concrete tiling in the cafe floor, soft sage green tabletops, and serpentine banquettes upholstered in tufted, peacock-blue waxed leather.

Interior design is key to expressing the brand experience

The design for Picnic Food’s first street-front shop had to reference previous iterations, in subterranean concourses, in a refreshed experience.

Interior Designers: Ashley Rumsey, ARIDO; Stanley Sun, ARIDO

Design Firm: Mason Studio

Design Team: Marti Hawkins, Intern ARIDO

With more expansion in mind, an adaptable design needed features that would be both easily replicable as well as physically identifiable as key symbols of the brand experience. Repeated linear woven wood textures recall textiles commonly associated with picnics and become an iconic design element for future locations. The communal dining table returns on a trestle base while the lime and watermelon brand colours are present via with greenery in terracotta pots.

History and place dictated the eclectic redesign of an East End icon

The new Broadview Hotel has come a long way from its former lives as a factory, a boarding house and then “Jilly’s” – an infamous seedy nightclub. Now, the landmark in Toronto’s east end is a chic 58-room boutique hotel boasting a restaurant, cafe, an indoor/outdoor event space, and a rooftop bar.

Interior Designer: Allen Chan, ARIDO
Design Firm: DesignAgency
Photographer: Worker Bee Supply

The building’s historic architecture, its varied uses over time, and the surrounding neighbourhood character inspired the design team to explore and reference its different phases and styles. They mixed styles and periods to reinforce the eclectic layers built up over time, using an array of bespoke finishes, furniture, and lighting, mixed with a pastiche of industrial, vintage and contemporary pieces. Furniture and lighting by Canadian designers including Coolican & Company, Anony, were incorporated along with custom art from a local curator.

Elegant bar area with stools and gray marble flooring.

A magnet for both guests and neighbours, the airy ground-floor cafe invites guests to sink into leather banquettes or gather at the white marble and brass bar under a halo of pink neon – an installation by the son of the creator of the original Jilly’s sign. Custom-designed wallpaper replicates designs found during demolition, and an “eroded” floor mixing wood and tile nod to the building’s history. The main-floor restaurant has the richness of a classic tavern, with surprising elements like drapery with lemurs smoking hookah pipes.

The guest rooms, the most spirited spaces of all, mix Victorian-style floral wallpaper and upholstery with deep blue ceilings, red velvet drapery, brass lighting, and even a brass rail to create a playful, modern boudoir ambience.

Bedroom at the Broadview Hotel with maroon curtains and lush white bedding.

The hotel’s treasure is found in the building’s tower, where guests find an intimate space for private dinners. The exposed brick and wood beams of the tower’s vaulted ceiling contrast with wood dining tables, leather chairs, vintage mirrors and a symphony of chandeliers – a magical space unlike any other in the city.

Interior dining room with decorative chandeliers.

The hotel has won numerous awards and the seventh-floor restaurant/bar has been voted one of the top patios in Canada, delighting guests with its stunning 360-degree views. With the redesign, the hotel is now a key catalyst in Toronto’s eastward expansion.

ARIDO Award Winner: McMichael Canadian Art Collection Cafe

Growing up in the surrounding region, we have fond memories of visiting the McMichael Canadian Art Collection on school trips. My great grandfather studied painting under Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson; which provided a personal connection to the Gallery’s original focus. This emotional investment was the departure point to redesign the café into a meaningful, empathetic space.

Category: EAT STAY

Interior Designer: Dyonne Fashina, ARIDO
Design Firm: Denizens Of Design Inc.

Photographer: Scott Norsworthy

What are empathetic spaces? It’s partly about being empathetic to the space in the way we redesign; while renewing the space in a way that makes it empathetic to its intended users. Reinventing the café space at the hearth of the Gallery’s entrance hall required a respectful and deeply researched approach; considerate of the heritage architecture and mindful of the indigenous land it sits on. Rejecting the Eurocentric preferences among global design elite, the space is a showcase of Canadian-made products; celebrating Canadian craftsmanship, local materials, and time-honoured tradition.

A painting in the Woodland style sits over the Corian clad reception desk at the entrance of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

The design solution is characterized by the legacy of the Gallery’s original founders, Signe and Robert McMichael. The building itself literally grew out of their home and personal art collection. The heritage architecture remains untouched, while new pieces are integrated into the design to give the feeling of a fixed-in place restaurant and the flexibility of a multi-purpose space.

Inspired by the founder’s vision, the interior design takes inspiration from the artwork inside and outside the gallery. Prior to the renovation, the café space felt like an afterthought; with worn out tables and chairs that were only useful during restaurant service. The new design considered the vast expanse of hard surfaces within the gallery, integrating flexible soft seating and modular felt partitions to divide the space into zones and address acoustic comfort. In the restaurant configuration, the space has a clearly defined boundary through the positioning of the banquettes and divider screens; allowing visibility from within the café to the rest of the gallery, but defining a path for traffic through it, as to not disturb restaurant guests.

The modularity of the individual elements is aesthetically appealing and useful for event setup; creating a new revenue stream for the gallery. Prior to the renovation, third-party rental companies outfitted events. Furnished with a new kit of parts, the gallery will be able to benefit from the ease of turning over the space between services and an increased venue fee, accommodating in-house rentals, which will provide additional funds after renovation costs are recuperated. The increase also benefits the patron who will no longer have to pay double for outside furnishings. Once events can pick up again, they will see the profitability benefits of the design; in the meantime, the flexibility has come in handy with pandemic uncertainty and the ability to reconfigure on the fly.

Demonstration of cafe breakdown process.

The kit of parts includes Canadian-made modular furniture and moveable screens. The existing Corian counter, was re-clad in walnut and white oak and then expanded with two new modular service bars that can be used together as one continuous service counter for the restaurant; or individually as three separate food and drink stations for events.

It was very important for this project to celebrate the traditions of Canadian craftsmanship by focusing on local makers, products, and materials. The slatted divider screens are inspired by Indigenous architecture, gathering circles, and the concept of placemaking. Their undulating inner layers incorporate felt design that references the artistic language seen in Group of Seven landscapes. Each piece has a different maker, and each bringing the maker’s individual story to the design intent. The idea was to create a collection of Canadian-made objects that are independently beautiful but collectively meaningful.

The cafe at the McMichael Canadian Art collection has several seating options with pale wood tables and white chairs.

Prior to the renovation, the space was completely open; set up with individual chairs and tables set on a diagonal. It created a large area with no defined pathways for diners, staff, or gallery visitors. The new design uses modular furniture, positioned carefully to offer glimpses of the gallery’s collection while providing a physical barrier to define boundaries without impacting the views and vistas through the space. The divider screens have a slatted structure with the top portion remaining open so that visitors can see through at standing height, but diners can benefit from some privacy at seated height.

Two screens demarcate space in the cafe area at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

A mix of dining tables, lounge seating, and bar height furnishings create different zones to accommodate more patrons. At the front of the restaurant, bar seating is useful for patrons that just want a quick coffee and pastry; while still providing views outside, over the heads of full-service diners seated closer to the windows. Most importantly, these pieces give the appearance of a permanent restaurant but are creatively designed to quickly reconfigure in various event setups. This is the unique approach to the space, in that nothing is completely fixed to the structure; and the space can evolve as needed.

Two staff members roll the moveable screen into place at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

For this project, like all of our projects, we start with empathy. Empathy for the users, the staff, the stakeholders, and empathy for the physical structure (its past, its founders, and the indigenous people who had inhabited the land). We worked with the gallery team to ensure the space was welcoming and accessible for its members, many of whom are older adults.

As mentioned, the divider screens were a key element of the design, they define the boundaries of the café space, but remain open both in position and in the slatted structure, to create definition without being oppressive. They offer privacy within the space, while their inner layers of felt dampen sounds bouncing. But most importantly, their form and positioning reflects indigenous placemaking structures of the past, to respectfully acknowledge the design ideals of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe people and their land on which the gallery sits. Unlike many restaurants that cram seats in, the space has large tables and a wide central path of travel with furniture that can easily adapt to patrons with mobility aids, giving them opportunity to sit in multiple locations within the space and not relegating them to a hidden or forgotten area.

By working with local suppliers from small-batch furniture makers to large Canadian manufacturers, we not only celebrate the vast talent our country has to offer; but we also reduce the environmental impact of transporting items from overseas. Many of the pieces were made from locally sourced materials, such as wood products native to the area, including a tree felled just outside the property.

Two wood chairs opposite a wood slat bench at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

In today’s world, the meaning of wellness has expanded to include concepts of identity, cultural sensitivity, and inclusivity. The new McMichael café embodies empathy for the comfort of its users, consideration for the heritage architecture, and remains mindful of the indigenous land it sits on. We took great care to ensure the new design offered views from all vantage points within the cafe to both the landscape outside and the Gallery’s collection of Canadian art inside.

Wooden chairs are placed opposite blue sofas in the cafe of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

In a statement from Ian Dejardin, the Executive Director indicated, “The McMichael Canadian Art Collection markets itself as ‘Home to the Art of Canada’, a phrase that we feel captures a dual truth about the place: on the one hand, it is literally the only major museum mandated to celebrate solely Canadian art, and on the other, the building grew out of, and retains much of the feel of, the home of its founders, Robert and Signe McMichael. And not just any home – the Gallery is a huge statement about Canada in itself, a vast modernist take on the log cabin idea built of huge recycled logs and fieldstone, with direct views of the unspoiled Humber River with its 12,000 years of history as the location of the Carrying Place Trail. Designing a café for such a place, in the Gallery’s massive and imposing Entrance Hall, had to reflect all of that. The design team came up with the perfect response, a mix of natural materials, blending tradition, comfort, and modernity. Carefully avoiding a mass-produced, one-size-fits-all approach, they instead commissioned individual and brilliant Canadian artisans to design to produce a series of beautiful one-off pieces of furniture in natural wood in a layout that is welcoming, with home-like touches, and comfortable for our visitors, while also being clean-lined and modern in feel. The McMichaels would have been proud – and we are delighted.”

Project Details:

Project Location: Kleinburg, ON
Project Completion Date: September 2020
Project Square Footage: 2,000 square foot restaurant setup; 5,000 square foot event setup

ARIDO Award Winner: Nando’s Woodmore Towne Centre

Located in an endcap of a busy shopping centre in Lanham, Maryland the Nando’s Woodmore location was a great location to place what would become a busy restaurant and takeout spot. The design brief was to create an intimate environment and sense of place; a celebration of South African colour and craft. The existing space was devoid of character.

Category: EAT+STAY

Interior Designer: Sarah Stafford, ARIDO
Design Firm: stré studio
Photographer: Greg Powers

The space feels like a jaunt to Johannesburg, with a constant play between raw textural finishes and saturated hits of colour and pattern. Taking inspiration from the raw earthiness found in the South African landscape and the rich colour and pattern of local fashion and design trends.

The client was clear that the eclectic and vibrant brand was front and centre, provide ample room for circulation as well as 90 seats for in-person dining. With over a thousand locations in 35 countries, we needed to create a one-of-a-kind identity while still maintaining the Nando’s soul and brand. It also needed to attract shoppers from the adjacent mall, drawing the attention from the outside without impacting the view for customers sitting inside – all while adhering to strict tenant guidelines.

In order to complete all this, while respecting a firm budget, the interior design team selected a few feature elements to maximize their impact. Custom window screens, a custom patterned brick layout on the walls, and custom beaded light fixtures overhead draw the eye while in a carefully planned restaurant space.

The intimate sit-down setting is integrated with the potential capacity of a busy take-out location. Seating areas are located along the windows to showcase the energetic dining experience and encourage patrons to come inside.

The interior design team created a deliberate arrival path and lineup area along the rear of the main dining area banquette which leads to an open takeout waiting area and bench. Take-out patrons can exit through the secondary exit door or, if dining in, can access the main dining areas from the order counter area. As much as possible, the main circulation does not flow through dining zones, but remains integrated with the restaurant experience.

The condiments counter and hand wash areas are visible and easily accessible, without creating too much traffic through the dining areas. To avoid congestion at the main order counter, we also introduced an online order pickup shelf at the secondary access point for delivery companies to gain access quickly.

Playful African-inspired textiles, colours, and textures were layered over these three elements to celebrate the richness found in South African design. These finishes were offset against the exposed brick, natural leathers, contemporary styled furnishings and bespoke details and accents.

Supporting and promoting the work of designers and fabricators from South Africa is extremely important to Nando’s. An online portal of artisans and artists provides eases the sourcing process and utilize their specialties as much as possible given the distance constraints.

Alongside the materiality, collaborations with these fabricators enabled us to create a space with authenticity at the forefront. Handmade screens line the windows, a fresh take on traditional African weaving and referencing the decorative metalwork found in the streetscapes of Mozambique. It was the reinterpretation of this craft and pattern, by using modern scale and materials, that drove the concept; reinterpreting rather than reproducing was key. A collaboration between the interior design team and fabricators The Urbanative from South Africa yielded this eye-catching element.

The custom beaded light fixtures were a design collaboration with mashT design studio, based in South Africa. This studio supports a network of artisans, and the owner of the studio is a previous winner of a Nando’s design contest held every year which helps expose up and coming designers. Each lampshade is handmade by one of the studio’s artisans, this method of manufacturing introduces the artisan’s hand making each shade slightly unique.

In addition to the online sourcing portal, Nando’s has an extensive inventory of furniture and lighting from project relocations, renovations, and closures. It is mandated to access this inventory before specifying anything new for furniture and lighting, which promotes reusing these resource-intensive elements before purchasing new.

Creating this Nando’s experience was not about achieving one uniform story. Instead, the challenge was to create multiple experiences in the space through unique dining zones defined by furniture, lighting and subtle finish changes.

Project Details:

Project Location: Lanham, MD
Project Completion Date: September 2020
Project Square Footage: 3,180 square feet

Whisky and whimsy reform luxury hospitality design

Situated in the former Trump Hotel in the heart of Toronto’s business district, the design team was tasked with removing associations with past ownership, while introducing Canadians to the historic St. Regis brand. Inspired by Toronto’s vibrant cultural heritage, the redesigned lobby, lounge, and restaurant express an enduring quality, setting a new standard for luxury hospitality in the dynamic city.  

Interior Designer(s): Allen Chan, ARIDO
Design Firm: DesignAgency
Photographer: Brandon Barre

Aligning the design with the elegant spirit of the St. Regis, we carefully selected materials in the lobby and Astor Lounge that exude artistry and craftsmanship featuring authentic woods, leather, and brass. An array of custom elements convey a sense of quiet excellence, while abstractly paying homage to a myriad of inspirations from the region’s geology, history, mapping, and urban architecture. The bronze fireplace in the lounge was inspired by the brick character of Queen Street West, while bespoke furniture pieces throughout echo the unique colours and textures of the Ontario landscape. 

The lobby and Astor Lounge are defined by a soft, earthy colour palette, customized furnishings and lighting, and authentic materials and textures which inspire a sense of calm by balancing the energy of the inherently urban location. A key challenge presented to the team was to establish a new environment while retaining character-defining elements like the floors and alabaster walls in the lobby, which were too valuable to remove. By adding elements that worked to shift emphasis away from the floor and walls we were able to redefine the space. A gilded topographical ceiling mural, oak reception cabinet, and an impressive totemic sculpture enhance vertical sightlines, prompt curiosity, and act to draw guests deeper into the hotel. 

The 31st-floor bar and restaurant are established as the jewel of the hotel, setting a tone of quality and luxury that draws guests to the restaurant as an inspiring new dining destination for the city. Prior to the redesign, the hotel restaurant was dark, intense, and dated. As a contemporary homage to historic precedents, the new signature restaurant feels transformed, elegant, and enduring.

Drawing inspiration from Canada’s history as manufacturers of distilled whisky and spirits, the design evokes the warm amber tones of whisky, and sparkle of refracted light through the cut crystal glass of a tumbler. The restaurant shimmers and glows as light bounces off the oak walls inlaid with golden beveled mirror detailing.

A 30-foot long marble bar, inspired by France and America’s grand hotel bars sets the stage for a dramatic yet intimate design, as sculpted bronze and smoked mirrored shelving displays backlit liquor bottles. Tailor-made furniture and fixtures such as soft leather stools, playful fringed lamps, bespoke billowing crystal chandeliers, and a custom ceiling mural in a whimsical combination of metallics and golds — the artist’s interpretation of whisky swirling in a tumbler — create a visually rich environment, bringing together culture, architecture, ecology and landscape in single space.

Elements of Chinese architectural history are key components of this restaurant’s design

Now opening its seventh location, Congee Queen wanted to incorporate elements of Chinese culture to reach out to new customers while maintaining their iconic brand for existing ones. The seating layout maximizes seating while providing a stunning visual experience from any angle of the restaurant. 

Interior Designer: Joe Cho, ARIDO 
Design Team: Long Wu, Derek Yeung
Design Firm: J.Cho Design
Project Photographer: AZ Photography 

Customers entering feel the vibe of a traditional Chinese restaurant but are greeted with a modern ceiling that emulates one of China’s most iconic and traditional buildings, the Temple of Heaven. Dissecting its architectural features, we were able to create key interior components that recall this important building and its architectural markers.  

Two columns were added to the layout, to balance two existing load-bearing columns and place greater emphasis on a centralized ceiling sculpture in the space. The columns are a visual cue that leads the eye to the massive sculpture composed of glowing curved elements. The design team tried several different configurations before finding the perfect angle for each suspended piece. An inky graphic of a dragon, an auspicious symbol of power, strength, and good luck in Chinese culture, done in a swirling indigo welcomes customers inside.  

The focus on traditional elements is emphasized with architectural details such as traditional Chinese rooftop edges on the ends of millwork dividers, and black lacquer and bronze accents found in traditional Chinese wooden doors at the host stand. The dragon visual element is recalled in the striated blue marble tables and continues around the surrounding walls, each element extending the customer’s impression of being amongst the clouds. 

9 tips for Resilient Restaurants

2020 has taught us all a lot of tough lessons—even ones we couldn’t have possibly prepared for. When it comes to restaurant owners, one of the biggest takeaways from 2020 is the importance of having the flexibility to adapt to situations as they arise. Many restaurants throughout the industry have shown a great ability to do exactly this by incorporating resilient design into their restaurant layouts. During a time that has made it tough for even the most stable businesses to stay afloat, restaurants have surprised us all with their creativity and drive. And in return, communities have come together to help support these businesses.

Over the past year we’ve seen restaurants adapt in order to succeed, by doing things like:

  • Switching to a delivery/takeout-centric model.
  • Creating outdoor dining spaces
  • Making changes to their interior design to meet guidelines and promote safety
  • Finding creative ways to sustain their revenues and business
  • In this post, we outline some restaurant interior design tips that will help you create a beautiful space, while still giving the flexibility to adapt and change depending on what’s thrown your way.

1) Create flexible seating & displays

This one is pretty standard, so it’s likely you’re already doing this if your restaurant layout allows for it! A great way to create a resilient interior design for your restaurant is to incorporate flexible seating and displays. The need for this flexibility has been highlighted more than usual with social distancing being a requirement in restaurants and commercial spaces for the foreseeable future, however, it’s important to make sure this is a part of your restaurant’s design at all times.

Flexible seating options of four top tables and bar seating in a bright, plant-filled space.

When design is done well it should have the flexibility to change and adapt to accommodate whatever new situations arise.

2) Make designated areas for takeout and delivery

Image of exterior cafe takeout window open with a white fabric awning above.
Source: Katrín Björk

With takeout and delivery currently on the rise, the restaurant industry is seeing the importance of having a designated area for the pickup of these types of orders. Yes, this will help with the current need for social distancing, but that’s not all—this is a form of resilient design that is applicable at all times. It can help to reduce crowding at the front of your restaurant while people wait for their orders, and it also makes for an overall better experience for your patient customers.

If your restaurant layout allows for it, one of the best options is creating an actual take-out window like the one pictured. Turn a regular window into a space where people can easily pick up their online orders or make a quick purchase as they’re passing by. It can even be used by outdoor diners as a spot to place orders to speed up the ordering process.

3) Make use of moveable partitions or moveable glass dividers

The use of moveable glass dividers is a great way to ensure social distancing and give peace of mind to both customers and employees of the restaurant. They give a clear separation between diners without making them feel boxed in. The ability to move these glass walls /partitions is key as it will allow for flexibility—if tables need to be pushed together to seat a large family, the barriers can be moved to fit around the new seating arrangement. A great way to achieve this flexibility is to install tracks or wheels at the bottom of the glass dividers for ease of movement.

Glass divider partitions in a retail space.
Source: Satkartar Glass

And who says partitions or dividers need to be boring? For example, you can be creative by using fluted or reeded glass to create more of an architectural statement. In addition to being beautiful, these glass partitions create privacy for diners while still giving a more open feeling by allowing light in.

4) Be creative with your restaurant’s empty space

Implementing social distancing in your restaurant doesn’t have to be boring. Try doing something interesting instead of simply having six feet of empty space between tables. This can be as simple as putting a plant or a prop in between tables, or something more out of the box such as having mannequins seated in between. If you’re looking for more creative ideas and strategies for your space, hiring an interior designer will definitely help! Just look at this fun and super cute example of restaurant Maison Saigon and their stuffed pandas.

5) Add a display for impulse buy items at the entrance/waiting area

Shelves of take home items and prepared food in a restaurant.

With limitations on the amount of people allowed in a restaurant at a given time, along with the increasing amount of people resorting to takeout, it’s likely that people will be waiting at the entrance of your restaurant for longer than usual. Why not take advantage of this by creating a display to show impulse items such as take home meal kits or sauces, gift cards, branded merchandise, home and kitchen goods, snacks or treats.

If you’re looking for more creative ideas and strategies for your space, hiring an interior designer will definitely help! The ideas are endless and you can really have fun with this one.

6) Hand out free samples or coffee for those waiting in line

We’ve all experienced this before—the waiting game for one of our favourite restaurants. With capacity restrictions and social distancing in place, many restaurants, coffee shops, boulangeries and alike are experiencing long wait times. One way to keep those loyal customers in line is to hand out free samples.

Heck, you can even offer your restaurant guests a cup of coffee or tea while they wait outside—this will be especially appreciated during Toronto’s cold winters! Not only does this help them enjoy their time in line, but it also may assist in line drop off (keeping people around for longer than they’d usually like to wait).

7) Utilize social media to get traffic to your store

Hand holding iPhone about to take image of food.
Source: Paprica Burgers in Brazil

Social media is often where people go to learn more about your business. Well, that, and Google. One way to draw more foot traffic to your restaurant is by hosting flash deals, giveaways, and even fun window display shows or activities. For example, you can say the first 15 people at your restaurant on a given day will get something free. This can also help to spread the word about your business, grow your social media presence, and in turn increase your profits.

8) Infuse touches of the story around the store

Unless you’re a local mom and pop shop that has already grown roots in your community, most restaurants need to stand out with their interior design. This doesn’t mean every restaurant needs to have wacky colors on the walls, but it does mean that your interior design should be intentional and reflect your unique brand.

Remember, the design of your restaurant has to tell a compelling story. The best way to improve your restaurant’s interior is by infusing your story into the various elements, finishes, spaces and create moments of awe.

9) Provide pods or dedicated zones for “private” nooks

Dining booths with small laters and bench seating.
Source: Restaurant Fabbrica in Bergen

A great solution for implementing social distancing in a restaurant setting is to provide pods, or create “private” nooks for diners to eat. Not only will this separate diners from one another to help stop the spread but it will also provide a more intimate dining experience for them to enjoy. Yes, creating pods, or “private” nooks can help with the current need for social distancing, but this type of resilient design is beneficial in many other ways as well. This type of seating is a great way to create some privacy, and promote a more intimate dining experience. Below is obviously an exaggerated example of what pods can look like in a restaurant, but you can still have fun with your layout to make it feel more safe and cozy for your visitors.

2020 has been a tough year for everyone, but Covid-19 has been especially difficult on the restaurant industry. Through all this, one thing that has been amazing to see is the resiliency that restaurant owners and workers have shown, and their ability to adapt to a difficult situation.

By incorporating some of the above tips into your restaurant’s interior design, you’ll be able to safely welcome restaurant-goers in style, no matter what life throws at you. If you’re based in the Toronto GTA and are looking for some restaurant design assistance, we’re here to help!

Sansa Interiors was born out of a passion to create spaces that are comfortable, functional, and inspiring. We take a holistic approach, which enables us to study and explore each interior space differently. Every client is unique, and every design should be unique, too. If you’re interested in learning more, send me a message, and let’s find a way to help improve your space.

Nothing strange about the design for this java joint

Strange Love Coffee is a growing Toronto-based coffee shop focusing on providing a unique coffee experience by utilizing specialized treated water and one of a kind roasts which are hand picked by a Coffee Sommelier. The intent was to create a space that communicates Strange Love’s obsession with quality coffee experiences in a setting that helps drive revenue. Our client leased a humble corner in a busy section of Toronto’s PATH Network, off the main corridor sandwiched between dental offices. 

Interior Designer: Tatiana Soldatova, ARIDO
Design Firm: Syllable Inc. 
Photographer: Revelateur Studio

The site was awkwardly shaped and hidden from view to the people passing by during their busy commutes to and from work. The two key challenges were to fit a complex coffee production program within a triangular 275 square foot space, as well as drive passerby attention to an easily overlooked spot. We were required to integrate a 26’ counter space into an 8’ storefront where five staff would seamlessly produce 1,500 coffees per week. We chose not to fight the existing site and insert a traditional linear counter. Instead, the team used the shape of the site to inform the design. 

The counter follows the main feature wall and bends inward to extend counter space –this approach maximizes linear workspace and, functionally, breaks apart the baristas from cashiers while creating additional space for patrons to order. The cafe’s production line was carefully studied and barista equipment was arranged to minimize travel and movement for all staff. This counter was also mounted on hidden wheels to allow easy access for workers. 

The second challenge was drawing customers, corporate professionals with stressful jobs, to the cafe. Located below a main staircase with a staid wall, it’s easy for potential patrons to miss. 

Our team diligently built a positive relationship with the landlord to convince them to permit a floor-to-ceiling sign by the staircase wall to entice patrons. A loud and inviting custom wallpaper adorned with tropical plants introduced a biophilic experience into a small space with a restricted budget, and Strange Love Coffee became a tropical retreat within the PATH.  

As a sophisticated re-engineered mineral water is one of the secret ingredients behind Strange Love Coffee’s award winning recipe, we celebrated the filtration system by creating an illuminated display that showcases the raw industrial beauty of the system itself. 

The shop has a weekly rotation of custom roasted coffee, which is placed at the front counter where the Baristas can proudly introduce the different roasts. Additional products on open display atop custom wood shelving with brass hardware are available for purchase.

From the bold material finishes, a flexible counter which snakes through the awkward site, water filtration and produce showcases, we created a space that puts the client’s story on display and entices passersby to stop and smell the roasts.

The vibrancy of South African visual culture informs this Nando’s location

Every Nando’s location is unique, and with over 1,200 open around the world, it proves to be an exciting challenge for any designer to create a one-of-a-kind identity while maintaining the Nando’s soul and brand.

Interior Designer: Olga Evstifeeva, ARIDO

Design Firm: Stoa Design Collective

Photographer: Steve Tsai

This 70-seat Nando’s location is a celebration of South African colour and craft layered within an already charming building on Queen Street East. Stoa Design Collective wanted to create a laid-back atmosphere which would welcome beach goers and the close-knit community that makes up the Beach Village in Toronto.

This restaurant project was an exploration of colour and pattern blocking, along with interpretations of traditional African weaving techniques while reusing the raw identity of the envelope. The design team preserved the existing historical raw brick walls of the space as a backdrop to the overall design, layering on new tin ceilings with vibrant South African personality.

Local collaborations with artists and fabricators, as well as the incorporation of South African-sourced art and products, enabled us to create a space with authenticity at the forefront, where wood is wood and leather is leather, and most importantly, craftsmanship and detail is cherished.

To create multiple experiences in one space, the design team created distinct dining zones defined by furniture, lighting, and art – each offering something special. Leather tufted banquettes run along the exposed brick walls and are complemented by custom copper light fixtures and wall art respectively. Along the storefront, tall windows open to the busy street allowing for indoor/outdoor bistro style dining in summer months. Curved bench seating pods, each with a stunning South African-made beaded light fixture, occupy the central space, while a counter height round table with an oversized custom dome pendant hangs front of the open kitchen.

Playful African-inspired textiles, colours, and textures reinforce the vibrancy of South African visual culture while attaining a level of sophistication for the brand that is reminiscent of their European ventures. The carefully selected materiality and thoughtful planning throughout the restaurant creates a well-balanced aesthetic and flow and retains the eclectic and vibrant attitude of the brand.