Expertise / Hospitality / Designer insight

Sensory design and hospitality venues

The world of hospitality is competitive. Thousands of new restaurants, hotels and bars open their doors each year and so too, many close. So what is the key to creating a thriving hospitality venue?

According to HASSELL Principal Susan Standring, the secret lies in a venue's ability to evoke a strong emotional response and develop a true sense of connection with its guests.

"For a new venue to be embraced, it must be more than just a place where people can stay or that has a great food and beverage offering," says Susan.

"It needs to make guests feel at ease and comfortable and deliver a sense of theatre and engagement that will create a lasting memory."

For designers, the starting point is to develop a deep understanding of the operator's brand identity and culture and translate that into the local context.

"It's only when a designer understands the character of the brand and community they are creating the space for that they can design a space that is functional, emotive and socially relevant," says Susan.

One such example is the Ovolo Hotel in Melbourne. A boutique hotel for young, tech-savvy guests, Ovolo speaks directly to its target audience by stepping away from the corporate feel of many inner-city venues and offering a quirky, fun experience full of surprises.

"Designing a hospitality venue that stimulates a sense of curiosity and discovery is vital to ensure guests will want to return," says Susan.

"At Ovolo, the journey starts as soon as people walk through the door. Guests are greeted by a playful lobby space that uses a rich and contrasting palette and quirky lighting to emphasise unexpected elements of the design.

"A sense of curiosity and discovery continues to build as they move down dim corridors lined with brightly coloured doors and illuminated custom artwork.

"In the bedrooms, guests are greeted with fun details including chalkboards and pinball machines, continuing the sense of playful adventure and individual experience," says Susan.

Another important element is acknowledging and embracing the surroundings of the venue - creating a strong connection with its architecture, landscape, climate and culture.

The PARKROYAL Hotel Darling Harbour has been designed to reflect its location. While complementing the existing hotel brand – already well established in Asia – the light and airy interior embraces organic, curved forms and a vibrant fresh colour palette to reflect the natural Sydney surrounds of beach and bush. It evokes a sense of place, connecting with the locale and waterside location.

"The hotel caters to a diverse range of guests travelling for both business and leisure, so it was important to deliver a world-class hotel experience, that also reflected the sense of excitement and adventure people have when exploring a new city for the first time," explains Susan.

"We were keen for the venue to be adaptable and offer a range of spaces that meet a variety of needs, ensuring it doesn't lay dormant."

Underpinning all the creative and surprising design approaches, Susan emphasises there is one element that remains fundamental to the success of any venue.

"Regardless of how breathtaking the design is, it must always be functional and practical," says Susan.

"It must support a smooth and seamless service offering and equip staff with the facilities they need to exceed customer expectations and ensure the experience measures up to the surroundings and respective brand offer."