Behind The Scenes: Visualising A Restaurant

In this series of blog posts, I’ll be talking to people involved in all aspects of the restaurant business, from the sous chefs prepping the food to the managing staff and financiers making the big strategic decisions at the top of the chain. There are many moving parts involved in creating a successful restaurant and although us diners only ever get to see the end result, I thought it would be interesting to find out what processes go into creating a food-based business that turns a profit.

This week I was able to sit down for a conversation with Jeff Fisher, an architect living and working right here in Liverpool. Jeff has years of experience working within the hospitality sector and was kind enough to explain to me a few of the thoughts that goes through his head when he’s given a new job to work on.

Firstly Jeff, the most important question of all, where is your favourite place to eat in the city?

If you’d have asked me 10 years ago, I probably would have said somewhere like 60 Hope Street (which is still good, by the way) but there are so many great new places to choose from now, that it’s genuinely hard to pick a favourite. From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, I really love what Maray have done in their three Liverpool locations – they have a lot of imitators, but they’re still one of the few brands that have managed to stay strong and expand over the last few years.

When you’re approached for a new job how do you go about visualising the end product?

I’ve always been a design-focused architect, although I’ll work in tandem with structural engineers and planners, my first thoughts are always focused on how the diner will experience the restaurant. My initial meetings with the client are basically me grilling them for as much information as possible. Take, for example, my recent work with Uniform. As much as I’m there to facilitate the realisation of their vision, I also want to create a design that I think will resonate with diners, that’s a responsibility that I have – after all, what’s the point of putting in all this work just to have a restaurant close down after a month?

What’s the next step of the process after you’ve had those initial meetings?

That’s when I hit the computer! I make up a string of 2D floor plans that offer some options in terms of seating plans and covers. Once the basic floor plan is confirmed I can let loose with the creativity and make a 3D architectural visualisation that give the client a much better idea of how their restaurant is actually going to look like. This visualisation is mocked up using computer-generated imagery and allows me to render a 3D space with a huge variety of textures, as well as factoring in any lighting that I’m changing.

Once this visualisation is complete is there some back-and-forth between you and the client?

Of course. My job is very much a creative one, as such the decisions that I make are subjective. As much as I try to balance the needs of the client with my own aesthetic choices, conflict is inevitable! I’d say 50% of the job is comprised of the discussion over the design, rather than the design work itself. Although it can be stressful, I enjoy defending my design decisions to stakeholders – it’s about me standing my ground and putting a flag in the ground, it’s why I became an architect!