As pubs constantly try to keep up with changing consumer demands, from experience-led entertainment to ever increasing ranges of craft beer and spirits, it could be difficult to know where to go in terms of décor.
Last year, experts predicted that theatre, entertainment and escapism would be big trends for pubs in 2017.
For 2018, the trend has moved towards celebrating a pub’s history, while adding rich colours and comfort in contrast to the previously popular industrial look.
Jeremy Scarf, group managing director of interior design company Keane, says some of its recent work in pubs has focused on “celebrating heritage” and restoring “pride and grandeur”, while Cheryl Duerden, from Fusion by Design, says people are now looking for pubs with a “personal touch”.
Look back to comfort
“This time last year, we predicted that the pub industry was on the cusp of a seminal moment, deciding whether to go back and reclaim its roots or look forward and find a brave new way, and 2017 was indeed the year that many operators finally set out their stall,” says Scarf.
“With Brexit-based doom and gloom potentially affecting public consciousness, we have seen a shift to looking backwards fondly.
“This is inevitably filtering into pub design trends, with many designers using more traditional finishes, delivering grand public house cues on a post-Brexit budget.”
Scarf says the company’s design work for Greene King’s urban pub estate gave its traditional city pubs a “fresh face” that celebrated its history and heritage, restoring “pride and grandeur to pub externals”.
Scarf believes these more traditional stylings are likely to continue in 2018, with traditional or retro finishes “making a comeback”. He also says this will provide comfort and cosiness “in a way that only a proper pub can”, allowing pubs to regain some lost ground on the casual-dining restaurant sector.
“Pubs with plush, comfortable furniture and cosy corners to gather and unwind will continue to provide a welcome antithesis to the stripped-back industrial restaurant designs that consumers are growing so tired of,” he says.
Duerden agrees and says Fusion by Design is seeing a “definite shift” away from the industrial aesthetic and towards a more “refined and personal touch” within its hospitality projects.
“We also foresee a continued move to the more decorative styles, with the Art Deco influence looking to be very strong in 2018. Opulent, rich colours, deep textures and overt patterns are set to make a comeback,” she says.
“Whether this is a move against the austerity of recent years or a desire to have finishes that provide more richness and luxury, we will see.”
Philip Harrison, managing director of Harrison, a hospitality concept creation consultancy, says he too believes pubs will look back to the past for their interior design inspiration next year.
“We have seen a little bit more of a move back towards decoration, in other words, away from the hard industrial feel, to a richer, more eclectic environment,” he explains.
“A couple of things we have done recently for Young’s is draw a lot on the history of pubs and their function in the community.
“Pubs [decor] will continue to become richer and warmer, with more enveloping personalities. They will still be in the casual-dining space because I think that’s what people want – less formality, that’s what pubs have always been.”
These days, a consumer’s pub experience doesn’t stop at a pint and a packet of crisps. As publicans offer delicious meals, consumers look for more ways, at any time of the day, at which they can enjoy them.
Duerden says: “We are witnessing a continued move, through all levels of the brands, towards creating pubs, bars and restaurants that offer more than just a place to drink, delivering the
all-day experience with service is a very strong drive.
“Brands want people to use their spaces throughout the day; be the place to go for breakfast and a coffee in the morning; somewhere to work and connect with other people through to dinner and evening drinks.
“This creates a challenge to us as designers. The interiors need to be flexible in the design, furniture needs to offer all options from formal seating to casual; lighting needs to be adjustable to create the correct atmosphere while all the time maintaining a personality and brand message that continues to attract the demographic.”
In terms of food and interior design, Scarf believes the world of barbecuing has hit the pub industry in a “major way”, as operators bring amazing flame-grilled meat to the masses, with all its “alluring sizzle, sounds and smells”.
He explains: “At the forefront of this trend has been Hickory’s Smokehouse, which we will be continuing to work with in 2018, to turn tired community pubs into authentic southern US states smokehouses complete with theatrical front of house features, including fire pits, open kitchens and bustling bars.”
Harrison says: “Without a doubt, and I am not saying anything new here, food is going to continue to play a big role in interior design in pubs.
“Diversity and beer range is also going to play a big part no doubt, with the vast array of microbreweries in the market now.
“While that’s an operation side of the business, it feeds through into the approach that you are going to take with the design of a particular pub.”
For example, he explains this could affect decisions from having a dedicated food area to providing casual dining all the way through.
Scarf predicts that plants and living walls will continue to appear in pubs more prominently in the coming year, having dominated restaurant interiors over the past year, which directly correlates with the ever-increasing consumer demand for wellbeing and freshness.
“The instagrammability of pubs will also evolve as people tire of gimmicky, ubiquitous neon signs and look for more interesting and theatrical things to snap,” scarf adds.
“The more connected these are to the pub concept or food offer to bring integrity, the better.
“Front-of-house cooking platforms, fresh design focused around plant life and natural materials and unexpected, vintage elements will all do it.”
Duerden agrees and adds: “The botanical continues to be a popular theme bringing elements of the outside, inside.
“We have seen the desire to provide more and more alfresco eating and drinking spaces during the past 12 months, which we are sure will continue to thrive.
“The spaces provide seating and combine planting and heating so that they can be used throughout the year no matter what the British weather brings.”
Scarf believes it will very much be a case of ‘less is more’ when it comes to pub design in 2018.
“This will be brought about by both necessity, as capital expenditure continues to be squeezed for many operators, but more so by a demand for authenticity and craftsmanship,” he says.
“Designers will be more inclined to embrace the architecture of buildings and not oversaturate pubs with lavish and elaborate design schemes.”
Harrison agrees, and believes pubs don’t necessarily need to follow a specific trend.
“Society changes, lifestyles and habits change, and you need to stay in touch with those, but you need to do it in a way that is appropriate to the pub, and what the culture of what a pub is, and has always been.
“If you try to change it into something else, what’s the point? Pubs have a unique place in our heritage, and they continue to resonate and have a value for people.”
Paul Nunny, director of Stay in a Pub and Cask Marque, says 2018 is a great opportunity to increase revenues by sprucing up accommodation.
The Pub Accommodation Report 2017, from Stay in a Pub, says 21% of pubs intend to increase their number of rooms, and 64% will refurbish in the next 12 months, as staycation figures continue to rise.
“This new growth area is of particular interest to rural pubs that may, over the years, have struggled with driving and changes in consumer habits,” says Nunny.
“Pubs for 2018 should look to spruce up their offer both in customer service and how it is marketed, especially as 81% of consumers now book accommodation online.”
He adds: “It is not costly to give your rooms an upgrade with a lick of paint and to pay attention to details within the room.”