First impressions count, and they’re largely visual.
Whilst pubs and clubs remain prominent entertainment destinations, the days of “if we build it, they will come” are gone. There’s more emphasis on design as a differentiator than ever before in today’s increasingly competitive hospitality sector. Patrons want to experience something special.
The look and feel of the finished product will depend entirely on the location and demographic. Where the city-centric pubs appeal to a wider demographic, the majority of clubs’ (RSLs, leagues clubs, bowls clubs, sports clubs, etc.) patrons are typically mature-aged or retired. In this regard, they’re not designed to compete directly with stand-alone restaurants, yet we’ve seen an increasing trend in combining these models.
Clubs provide a means of “escape” for their patrons; to get out of the house and do something different, in a socially conducive environment. We need to create something that they can’t obtain at home – particularly in lower socio-economic areas, where some of the better-performing clubs are located.
As the scale of clubs increases – with some pushing 5000sqm – creating an external differentiation within budget is increasingly difficult. A beautiful exterior won’t necessarily encourage people to buy more drinks or food, or play longer on the pokies. It’s our job to manage the client’s priorities and expectations within their budget, and in this regard, external architecture can be seen as over-capitalising.
Instead, we must create a positive holistic experience for patrons throughout the venue, even from the moment they arrive in the carpark. Many clients will get more mileage from well-designed and well-finished interiors, than an elaborate building exterior. The challenge for us is to create a “smoke and mirrors” effect, where we get value out of cost effective materials, but still achieve spaces that look and feel high-end. To achieve that, you need to create a look that has “wow” factor.
Interestingly, AV is becoming a priority amongst patrons. The scale and number of TVs and sound quality can influence the ambience and add to the entertainment. These need to be considered from the outset, to be integrated seamlessly into the design, rather than appearing as an afterthought.
Due to the sheer scale, larger clubs typically have more revenue (primarily through gaming) and are more flexible and open to designed details and finishes. In contrast, pubs find this more difficult to justify, and therefore demand greater value efficiencies and longevity.
Where in the past, many pub operators were content with a cookie-cutter offering, they now see the potential to use design to stand out, with the constant challenge to do more with less. With buildings averaging approx. 1200sqm, we can afford to be more creative with the exterior of pubs. Not everything needs to scream and shout. There are clever ways to provide patrons with a unique, memorable experience and emotional connection.
And in case you missed my last post, learn how design can increase your operational efficiency >