In August I photographed the new Nando’s restaurant in Altrincham. STAC Architecture has come up with another incredible unique design concept while adhering to Nando’s heritage.
Positioned in the prime location near the station and the main shopping area, the restaurant is spread over two floors. The dining space is generous with a mixture of large and small tables, plus intimate dining booths. STAC Architecture has worked with the original architecture of the building which was designed to showcase the latest products and attract shoppers through ornate detailing and sumptuous entrances. From the outside we can clearly see the distinctive bright yellow loose chain dividers around the booths and incorporated in the chandeliers plus in a sculptural curtain hanging from the ceiling.
If we move into the heart of the space, the design transitions from bold and vibrant, to the more natural, earthy elements of African design and materiality. The centre of the restaurant is a study in basics and calm, creating an oasis to enjoy and relax within. There is an amazing spiral stair case which is morphs from steel and glass to natural wood and cork. It joins the two floors with a natural fluidity. The lighting is a mixture of spots, Edison bulbs, concrete mounted bulbs and “Pulp Fiction Lamps” by Knus. The furniture ranges from bespoke benches and booths covered with leather and Kettal and Luna chairs.
Having photographed many restaurants in my time it always interests me how designers afford space for “the experience of dining” rather than maximising the number of diners. Most observers would say that chain restaurants are in the business of selling food. A strong counterargument is often made that these restaurants sell experiences, that food plays an important but by no means the only part. From the restaurateur’s viewpoint, however, a restaurants true inventory is the availability of a seat for the duration of the meal experience. To be able to increase the volume of sales, one needs to expand that inventory by increasing the number of available seats. Owing to the physical constraints of most restaurants, adding seats is not feasible. That leaves only one good way to increase inventory: turning tables more rapidly. Methods of increasing service efficiency and thus increasing seat turnover have been explored in depth. Improved server training is one popular approach; another is using operations engineering techniques to identify and correct service bottlenecks. But little attention has been paid to the power of the restaurant environment itself to contribute to table turns.
Design is an exciting and important component of a restaurant chain's success. Building an understanding of effective design can enhance the restaurant industry by creating more successful concepts for the customers to enjoy.