Restaurant & Bar Design Awards Q&A

Speaking to Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, creative agency FormRoom’s MD, David Roberts talks stand-out F&B concepts, social media design influences and the brief behind the multi-award winning project, Milk Train.

We’re a multi-discipline design studio, based in London working across the F&B, hospitality and retail industries.

The company was founded in 1979 but today the team is a global melting pot of brand strategists, concept designers and project managers all with an eye on the future of our industries. This mix also means we can take ownership of a client’s project from start to finish and we really enjoy becoming a brand guardian for our clients, especially as they scale and evolve over time.

Milk Train, Covent Garden Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2019, Winner of ‘Best Café Design’

Q. Where have we seen you before?

Our stand out project in the F&B world is undoubtedly Milk Train, which won ‘Best Café UK’ at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2019, among other industry awards. This was a huge moment for us as it was one of the first projects we completed in this industry and we were just in awe of all the other incredible projects in the awards selection. To be a winner amongst them was a great reward for all our ideas and hard work.

Plus, of course, it opened up our client list so we’ve now had the opportunity to work on cafés, restaurants, bars and even hotel concepts all over the world – a real dream come true.

Milk Train, Covent Garden Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2019, Winner of ‘Best Café Design’

Q. Why do you think Milk Train won?

Milk Train is very much of the moment in F&B concepts. It has a clear point of view and isn’t afraid to push a branded experience to its consumer. We took inspiration from classic Art Deco design and TFL graphics but twisted it so that it felt entirely contemporary.

Our confidence to take design nods from a wide variety of sources – fashion, art, design, architecture – and bring them together to make culturally relevant concepts.

The relevance to consumer is key. For Milk Train being primarily Millennials and Gen Z who want more than just a good food or drink experience.

Q. So, is Instagram killing the design industry?

I get asked this question a lot, usually by other designers who have very well-established (and incredible) design practices rooted in traditional methods and design cues.

For us, it really is about being humble enough to evolve with the customer. Hospitality designers always wanted to create spaces which people travelled home and told their friends about. Now that same ‘shareability’ factor is just made exponentially more efficient through social media.

It only makes commercial sense to maximise that free marketing potential by adapting at least some of the interior to suit these platforms. Dyce is a good example of interiors built for moving interaction, perfect for emerging video platforms like TikTok.

Kailo, Restaurant Design Concept

Q. So, what does 2020 look like?

It’s an ‘evolve or die’ time for all our consumer industries. It’s obvious with our retail clients but the same is true for F&B. Rethinking the experience and looking at it from your target consumer perspective is key. Standing for something as a ‘brand’ that people can buy into, beyond great food/drink and service, of course.

Finally, being responsible in everything we design and produce from a sustainability angle. We developed our concept space, Kailo with the view to show how sustainability can be luxurious, adaptable, exciting and contemporary.

There are some incredibly exciting manufacturers of eco and sustainable materials out there and it’s our role as designers to guide our clients in this direction without sacrificing the bottom line.