Abi Perry-Jones, hospitality design specialist, says: “Although it is vital that operators are aware of current design trends, pub interiors are usually a response to current issues that affect or interest operators. It is not necessarily about the colour or material that is ‘on trend’.”
Ultimately, it’s the interior design that should make the customer feel at ease and reflect the authentic pub experience. While keeping an eye on the latest trends can help operators be innovative and creative, will this minimise the pub’s unique personality? Here are a few things to think about when thinking of refurbishing your pub:
Extending opening hours mean pubs are no longer venues that are solely focused on wet sales, food plays a crucial part throughout the day. From breakfast all the way to dinner, there are distinct parts of trade. The interior design therefore has to reflect that day-to-night transition that can attract different waves of customers, from the mums who come in for coffee mornings to the younger clients in the evening.
Perry-Jones says: “Lighting is key to assist the change from day to night. A lighting system that can be dimmed is vital and great to illuminate points. Increase natural light as far as possible with roof lights and glazed screens, doors and windows to the outside area, this gives it a fresh and airy atmosphere inside.”
Food and drink
An open-plan kitchen could also boost a business’s potential if a pub is particularly proud of its food menu. If stone-baked or sourdough pizza in on the menu, an oven is an appealing design to include in the open kitchen, it creates a more unique setting. Food and drink can be ‘ornaments’ as part of a breakfast table or neatly displayed on the bar, “design and display is everything,” says Perry-Jones. Similarly, if licensees made their own craft beer, putting it on display also gives the pub more character. “Check that it’s looking its best, keep anything like microwaves out of sight,” she says.
Space plays a key role when trying to create an atmosphere for all customers to enjoy, but this is often overlooked by licensees who do not think about how to plan and structure the layout of their pub. Stephen Shaw, senior interior designer at Andy Thornton Contracts, says: “The concept is the most important part, is it going to be a modern contemporary place? Who is the customer base? We need to establish those factors really early on, because that dictates [the] layout.”
He adds: “With new clients we have to think: have they really thought about the space, the location and what they want to get out of that space?”
Licensees must think about how their design can help appeal to a wide range of customers, while being innovative and modern-looking for the younger clientele, it is important not to alienate customers from an older generation.
Include female or family-friendly designs such as botanical prints on a feature wallpaper, include pastel colours to add a softer edge. Mixed furniture can outline different areas, for example, high stools at the bar placed next to a big sofa and armchairs help fill more space. “Cover everyone’s preferences,” says Perry-Jones, creating the right atmosphere for all will draw more customers through the door.
Pubs that have an outdoor space should treat it with the same importance as the indoor space. What draws customers in the pub is from the outside, where they can see what kind of a pub it is and what its offer is, says Perry-Jones.
She adds: “Give customers a different experience every time they come in, try to create different zones.”
Creating a secret garden area and treating it as an inside space can help create a cosy atmosphere for clients. Include features such as good outdoor lighting to create ambience, add mismatched furniture and include outdoor heating such as fire pits also make the setting extra special.
The location of a pub can have a heavy influence to the design it aims to recreate within its interiors. As pubs compete for customers with restaurants on the high street, there is a tendency for operators to adopt similar styles, such as sandblasted brick walls, open ceilings with mechanical ducting and cable trays, that do not fit within the pub aesthetic.
Perry-Jones says: “Pubs are set to like a cool new trend, but just because it will work on the high street, it does not mean it will work in every pub.
“A lot of people come to pubs because it is a pub, it’s shouting about that difference and personality.”
One pub that truly benefits from its location and interior design is the Dun Cow in Sunderland, a Grade II-listed Edwardian building that, after a lengthy restoration worth £300,000, scooped two awards at the National Pub Design Awards in 2015 in the Refurbishment and Conservation categories.
“The pub has been completely refocused on what the customer wants,” says Joe Smith, pub estates & operations director for Camerons Brewery.
Smith says the interior design is a key part for the customer to have a good experience: “It’s the type of pub you walk in and the quality is there, the furniture is so nice, it’s comfortable and people just think ‘why should we go anywhere else?’.”
Whether your pub is in a cultural quarter of a town or in the countryside, make sure you make the interior design of your pub reflects that particular location. Try to gather inspiration from the surrounding area.
-Always keep the customers in mind when thinking about refurbishments.
-Know your marketplace, you need to know what the customer wants and make it part of the offer.
-Make sure you have a thorough plan in mind before setting out to make those changes to the pub’s interiors.
Abi Perry-Jones will be speaking at the MA500 event on Wednesday 14 September at The Queens Hotel in Leeds. She will be among other experts in the industry who will be speaking about the latest trends in the sector. To book tickets, contact Joanne Horton on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01293 610403.