FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Food For Thought
As an enthusiastic foodie I listened with interest as Russell Norman, currently fronting BBC2’s The Restaurant Man, declared that service is more important than food. This is the man who has brought delectable Venetian cicheti to the masses, the visionary who installed a negroni bar in the basement of his first solo venture on Soho’s Beak Street. And yet this seasoned professional, with years of Caprice Holdings experience behind him, is right.
Being a good restaurateur is about showing people a good time, making them feel comfortable and delivering a perfect match between expectation and experience. Design, like service, has an enormous role to play here. Food is but a part of the job.
With the best will in the world, going to Le Gavroche with a toddler is a mistake . Were you to stumble in unawares, small child in tow, it would be immediately obvious that you are in the wrong place. All that glorious tableware, ripe for mishandling and wanton destruction. A hallowed, reverential feel, rich furnishings, no colouring pencils, balloons or sheets of stickers: an unashamedly grown-up restaurant and all the better for it. Not because of the cost – in the same price bracket the River Café is ideal for families with its uber-comfortable Stokke highchairs and smaller portions in a light, pared-down, bustling room – but because of the immediate ‘feeling’ that the space communicates, one of rare vintages and serious cooking, of occasions marked and deals done.
Creating an instant emotive connection with a customer as he or she approaches a site or walks through the door is even more important in the fast casual market, where competition for custom is at a premium and operators are less reliant on reviews or reservations. This is especially true of the newest transport hubs such as Heathrow Terminal 2, to feature ‘London’s Pride’, a new Fuller’s pub concept designed by Caulder Moore. Prospective operators are competing with their peers for coveted sites and need to impress landlords with the quality of their proposition and the breadth of its appeal, without expanding the offer so much as to risk dilution. Addressing specific customers needs in a travel environment where time is imperative and large family groups are often travelling together, with all the potential stress that incurs, means that while the challenge is greater, so is the opportunity to reassure, impress and provide a positive, memorable experience.
As the fast casual market becomes more and more specialised, established players and new entrants alike are looking to experts like Caulder Moore to help identify and define their emotional territory so that they truly ‘own’ their niche and can defend it from competitors. Our work with Upper Crust helped this much-loved brand to rationalise their offer, restoring specialist status for their baguettes which are freshly baked on site and never on display for more than three hours. Positioning the baguette as the ‘hero’ product, offered for sale with minimal packaging to emphasise freshness and reflecting this in the branding and environments has impressed customers and landlords alike, with sales increasing and Upper Crust now perceived as eligible once more for prominent sites in modern and more upmarket travel hubs.
Knowing who they are and what they stand for before striking out allows operators to create the right atmosphere for their product and set customer expectations accordingly. At Plus Kitchen, recently opened in Istanbul, Caulder Moore’s branding and environment target expats and professionals looking for a healthy, fresh working breakfast and lunch. Packaging and materials - including a foldable picnic mat and glass pots and jars - are reusable and effectively communicate the brand story, making a virtue of the necessity of eating al desko. The colour palette, lighting and use of materials on site are quietly impactful, giving the feel of a stylish and contemporary home kitchen.
At Caulder Moore we work together with our clients to create emotive experiences for their customers. Such intangibles as atmosphere and ambience are notoriously hard to pin down, yet the role they have to play in enticing customers to spend their money here rather than there is legendary. Our business is founded on the belief that really successful, highly profitable brands – be they challenger or icon – are the ones that connect most immediately, convincingly and sustainably with their customers.
Sarah McKenna, New Business Manager, Caulder Moore