A decade of design: Hospitality

May 3, 2011

With the Australian food and beverage industry growing exponentially in recent years, hospitality design is now big business. Designer Paul Kelly discusses the transformation of this local sector.

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The hospitality industry has matured rapidly over the past decade, mainly due to media and a perception of wealth and success that an association with a venue can bring. The industry has increasingly become one of the outlets of the mass consumer, with a complete disregard for the rest of the world, but with a love for rare wines and expensive meat. The spaces have almost become disposable as the thirst for the new and ‘better’ rapidly surpass the ability of operators to come up with the funds. But the strangest thing about the industry is that it is growing with the quantity of spaces that are being produced, (you do see the odd space that has gone out backwards), but essentially the market for food and beverage just keeps on growing.

The last decade has seen some big ‘perceived’ risks, the Establishment and The Ivy for example, with designers crossing their fingers for the success to finally prove that yes, good design can seriously sell more. For this operator, the spaces have become more elaborate, the budgets bigger and the designers have really had a good chance to create spaces that are internationally unique.

Working within this sector, the only problem is that the more you know, the more you are expected to perform (and it’s exponential). Gone are the days of producing a ‘concept’ for a bar and working together. Now it’s big business. People invest a lot of money, and the expectations are massive. This makes it more professional, but it also places more pressure on the ‘art of design’.

The current trends in food and beverage are as vast as the pages of Grazia magazine; the designs are either really tight and specific or mass market (without seeming to be). Food is going through a big transformation and Sydney is really coming to the plate (pardon the pun) to create some great concepts. The reason for this is that Sydney has finally worked out how to make money out of food.

The Australian design scene on an international level has definitely identified itself as a unique viewpoint to the rest of the world. Our style and creativity has true direction, we are becoming relaxed with ourselves and we are maturing to a higher level of understanding. Meaning, our work is becoming as important as the F and B spaces we used to follow out of NY and London. Our work is on an international benchmark, and come the next 10 years, locally based Australian designers will be called on more regularly to work on the ‘cool’ international projects.

The hospitality design market is a very challenging one, it is not for the faint-hearted, but at the end of the day you get to enjoy the space as a customer (which, with the assistance of a good pinot, softens the pain). It has produced some of the best work in the industry and we all look forward to the work continuing into the next decade.

Specialising in hospitality design, Paul Kelly has worked successfully throughout Australia and Asia for more than 14 years, since first establishing Paul Kelly Design in 1997. His recent award-winning projects include the redevelopment of Macquarie Hotel, Polo Lounge and the Peach Tree Hotel, and the practice is currently working on two signature restaurants at Star City.

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