MILAN, Italy – A meeting place, an agorà where the interior spaces interact with the outside and surrounding landscape, with tables set out on the square or sidewalk when the sun starts to appear.
This is essentially how Italian-style bars are run. But they need to keep up with changing demand and innovate accordingly, quite literally “catering” to the demands of a world that is changing at the speed of light, and customers who choose and indeed expect formats that are bang on trend – and increasingly that means spaces that give not just a catering service, but a pleasantly stimulating emotional experience as well.
“As the distinction between work and leisure time becomes increasingly blurred,” says Carlo Meo, POLI.design lecturer at Milan Polytechnic and an expert in ho.re.ca. formats, “free time is increasingly viewed as being extremely precious and even when consumers just have a few minutes to spare, they want to spend them in the most pleasant way possible – not just in terms of using a particular product, but also the whole experience around it.
Establishments are responding to this demand by becoming more and more multi-specialised, and this is reflected in the increasingly hybrid nature of catering outlets, which does not just mean the interior format, but also the associated outdoor spaces and the materials used.”
These include a widespread use of “natural” materials – including soil and vegetation – which create the sensation of a space midway between the open air and an enclosed indoor space, as seen at Host 2013.
These undoubtedly very interesting experiments can take on many different forms, but all of them must take into account one aspect that is more crucial today than ever: economic management.
“The business of catering,” Meo adds, “has become more difficult in recent years, both because of economic pressures from outside and as a result of growing expectations from consumers. In this sense, the recovery of the sector is linked to two things essentially: innovation in formats, to respond to the problem of changing demands, and rationalisation of the economic side of things.
The two trends can be summed up in great attention to providing value for money, something that runs across all segments. Establishment owners need to adopt a managerial approach, getting advice and backing from consultants if necessary. Every aspect of running the business – from rents to raw materials – must help ensure the economic sustainability of the concern in a clear, measurable way.
The experience being provided needs to be handled with care: it should never be forgotten that a public establishment is a business, and as such must generate profit.”
Source: Host 2015