Stories from an Easily Distracted Dyslexic Creative … Creating a great restaurant – Why the sensory experience matters. October 19, 2015
The Art of Curating – and don’t be “pigeon holed”.
A lot of people say to me, “Wow, amazing fit out! Who is your designer?”
I say, “Me.”
They say, “The food was great! Who is the menu creator?”
I say, “Me.”
“The music rocks! I love this! Who did your play list?”
I say, “Me.”
Costumes & Uniforms?
Collateral & Graphics?
So, let’s be clear … with the last three venues I designed, I did not work alone. I had a great team of people who worked tirelessly, who understood … and delivered, my vision.
I am the “Curator“.
Yes, I am a trained chef, but throughout my career, I have also honed my skills as a manager, interior designer, graphics designer, public speaker, fitness lifestyle coach, business operator, retail owner, operation dude, wine dude … even therapist (kidding … not kidding).
See, I do more than one craft. I don’t call what I do a job … I call it a craft, as I truly love what I do … to the point of being obsessed … and make no apologies for it!
To be great at what you do, you must immerse yourself in the audience’s experience.
When I was Curating “Robert Marchetti The Plantation Grill“, I was completely embodied with the experience I wanted our audience/guests to smell, see, feel, listen to … and take away with them when they left.
To a creative, this takes incredible discipline. As a good friend of mine, Jesko says, “it’s only hippies that say they are an artist – but without discipline to realise this art, you have nothing.”
See, creative people don’t really love it when people say they are really gifted, even though it’s meant as a compliment. It suggests they were given a gift, or that it all came naturally – not that they worked … and worked … and worked for it.
It takes practice, failures, discipline, passion, hard work and more failures to realise a vision, and make it into reality … like a great film.
I see designing restaurants, a little like a Woody Allen film set. They need to have the right genre – and feed the right message.
Robert Marchetti The Plantation Grill in Bali had one simple brief.
Think great Gatsby meets Hemingway, Raffles, & Shogun. Pure theatre. To transport guests to an experience outside the normal day, and make them feel better when they have left, than when they arrived. Romance … Social … Fun and Entertaining.
Sound like a film set yet?
For example, the lighting at Robert Marchetti The Plantation Grill is low, so everyone looks like they have a tan, and feel and look healthy. Hell they are on holiday … why not? Plus it hides their sunburns and they look great. I want them to be saying to each other across the table, “You look great … and really relaxed.” Lose themselves … and time.
The toilet lights are low, and the room smells fresh, looks spotless, feels crisp, cold and clean. You can easily measure a great venue – by their toilets! Imagine what the kitchen and food fridges are like, if the toilets are dirty!
It’s also important for the staff to look great … and a well thought through ‘costume’ sends a message of style, professionalism and warmth. But you also have to keep in mind the culture and feel of the destination. For example, if a man walks into a restaurant for dinner whilst on a tropical island holiday in shorts and flip flops, he shouldn’t feel out of place.
Our male wait staff in Bali wear white jackets and bow ties, but with Balinese black fitted shorts and ‘Great Gatsby style’ shoes … get it? They are well dressed, but they look like your server – not better dressed than you – just well presented. The staff shouldn’t go over-board on their perfume or cologne either … smell is everything … and you want your venue to provide this as a lasting memory.
Know your target audience … see, mine is quite young to quite old. So I choose music from the 70’s and 80’s, with an up-beat tempo … like The Rolling Stones, or Van Morrison … but albums they released before they were famous. That way the older generation say, “Wow, that song is great … it sounds familiar … who is it.?” The younger audience like it for the up-beat tempo … but need to ask who it is … Why you ask? It creates conversation and interaction.
Now – back to the senses. I wanted the grill to be ‘front and center’, so when our guests arrive, the first thing they see and smell, is the wood burning grill and the theatrical flames we added to highlight the grill.
So – to the food. I like to take the classic dishes and give them a modern twist. This brings familiarity to people, but does not alienate them with words and cooking styles they may not understand … which makes them feel uncomfortable … and us, pretentious. I need my 2-year-old God Son, my 84-year-old Mother, and everyone in between, to see there is something for everyone … yet maintaining the integrity of what I want to deliver.
The overall design needs to fit the brief.
Like a BMW, it needs to be built from the consumers’ view from the driver’s seat first and foremost …
It all starts with the chairs and tables …
How high does the table need to be so a woman can comfortably cross her legs?
Can a man hide his little ‘man belly?’
Is the back of the seat close enough, but far enough way to sit back and relax?
Does the seat pillow not leave marks on a woman’s legs if she has a dress on.
Is it real leather so to not sweat and feel uncomfortable?
Can they get out of the chairs gracefully? (Assuming they haven’t had too much wine?)
And that’s just the seat.
So you can imagine with over 1,114 pieces of custom pieces in Robert Marchetti The Plantation Grill, detail is everything.
Integrity of design means everything.
So, what do I do … I sit at every seat in the house.
I don’t want to be sitting near toilet doors.
I don’t want to see the wash up area in the kitchen.
I don’t want a cold chill from the air conditioner down my back.
Like a great film set, this all adds to building a great experience. You only get one chance – which is the biggest difference between a Restaurant and Film/Motion Picture – we don’t have the luxury of a second take … and we cannot edit mistakes.
We wear them on the chin, so to speak, and work through them. That’s why everything matters … not just the food, service or wine. One day you will have an average run, for example … average food or service. But if you have given your guest enough reason to come back – they will forgive you. But only if you deal with mistakes you make – honestly and professionally.
Human error occurs everywhere – even at NASA (yikes!)
I’m not building a Temple for me to preach…
I am building an escape to stimulate your sensory experiences and entertain you.
I want you to leave feeling better than when you arrived.
If you would like one-on-one advice or mentoring from Robert Marchetti, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Marchetti – Founder and CEO