Established in 2002, Inhouse Brand Architects has become one of the most highly-regarded design consultancies in South Africa. Offering a comprehensive array of interior design, architecture and construction services, the firm has offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and London, and a plethora of hospitality projects under its belt. Here, director Aidan Hart gives his take on the latest restaurant design trends ...

What would you say are the top three trends influencing restaurant interiors at present?
Restaurant interiors are experiencing a major shift from private dining to a more integrated approach. Increasingly, visible kitchens are incorporated into restaurant design, emphasizing elements of openness and honesty.

Guests are not only exposed to the service aspect of the industry but also encouraged to peer into the culinary preparation and execution, creating an atmosphere of engagement. In our recent design for a “fast-casual” pizzeria, First Base, we included an open kitchen but integrated it in a way that it is aesthetically pleasing.

Natural materials, such as timber and greenery, are trending in the restaurant design sphere. Integrating natural and sustainable wood into interiors cleverly mirrors the newly popular culinary choice of sourcing ingredients that are both seasonal and ethical.

The acceptance of the “slow food” movement is increasing, meaning that countless restaurants are looking for a design scheme that matches this view on food. Urban-inspired elements, such as exposed concrete, steel and brickwork, are being used to counteract these natural materials and create an industrial-organic aesthetic.

Clean, white interiors are fast becoming a design staple, reflecting an honest environment. Incorporating simple, clean lines in the place of complex design elements is trending massively in the interior design industry.

What, for you, is the most critical element of effective restaurant design?
The most critical element of effective restaurant design is the management of the entire dining experience. It is beneficial for designers to apply a holistic approach to interior design, considering not just the interior space alone, but all the elements, such as cutlery, crockery and food presentation.

Creating a seamless experience and consistently considering all aspects can lead to a more effective overall design that will ultimately WOW guests.

What would you say is the most memorable restaurant project you’ve worked on, and why?
The Inhouse Brand Architects team is currently working on a retail project in Cape Town’s central business district called Villa 47. The venue houses three separate restaurants enclosed in one building, each on one floor of the building and each with a different theme and food offering.

It is an unusual project in that there is free-flow between the floors. Another unusual aspect of this design is the fact that the building has heritage status. This means that certain legislation and restrictions were put in place, but that’s not a problem as we enjoy a challenge!

Loconda restaurant on the ground floor has a light and bright appearance, mixing timber elements and a clean, white space. Stuzzico tapas bar on the second level exudes a moodier, raw aesthetic and trades solely at nighttime.

Here, exposed brickwork was selected to showcase part of the original structure of the building, which happens to have heritage status. The third and final level is still in the process of completion and will open shortly.

How would you describe the restaurant design scene in South Africa?
The restaurant scene in South Africa is incredibly vibey and definitely competitive. Restaurants are constantly opening to the public in Cape Town’s CBD and trendy fringe districts.

Johannesburg’s city centre, specifically Rosebank, enjoys a vast array of world-class restaurants. The standard of cuisine in South Africa is incredibly high, resulting in major industry rivalry and an incredible array of options for foodies.
Cape Town has been named a world foodie capital for good reason. Many of South Africa’s top chefs and restaurants are in the Cape. This level is matched by exciting interior design that is world class. Many of our restaurant designs are featured in local and international publications.

Have you got any new projects on the horizon you’re able to share with us?
We are currently working on a number of projects both in the corporate and retail sectors. We have just finished a four-storey office project in Shoreditch, London, and on our shores we have just completed an exciting new concept pizzeria, First Base, which we mentioned earlier.

We’re also thrilled to have been chosen as one of the feature designers for 100% Design South Africa in August 2016, where our work will be showcased in the 100% Office display.