Hotel restaurants are evolving into gathering spaces that can dynamically adapt


Hotel Lounge area with table and chairs in background

By Denise Deveau

Over the past few years, there has been a marked shift in hotel restaurant design. Whether the restaurant space is large or small, in the lobby or on another level, hotel restaurants are evolving into gathering spaces that can dynamically adapt depending on the time of day and guests’ needs.

Activating common spaces, including food-and-beverage operations, can be important revenue drivers, according to Zébulon Perron, founder and creative director, Atelier Zebulon Perron in Montreal. “In approaching restaurants from a design standpoint, you have to make sure the spaces are conducive to attracting not only guests, but locals. You can’t really sustain food-and-beverage operations with just hotel guests.”

Restaurant spaces need to able to work all day, he adds. “Spaces don’t live the same way from the morning to the evening. They should be able to transition seamlessly from one part of the day to another. Achieving that involves a subtle alchemy in the way of finishes, ergonomics, lighting, and colours.”

Revenue is not the only drawing card. A restaurant in a dynamic setting can serve as a meeting place for every person and purpose, says Perron. “There’s a real advantage when someone travelling can mingle with locals. The key is treating spaces as opportunities for people to strike up conversations.” 

Perron’s team has worked on multiple food-and-beverage projects, each of which has its distinct flair. The Honeyrose Hotel Montreal, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel’s chic, brasserie-inspired Commodore Restaurant for example, brings the Gatsby era to life with its classic art-deco details, rich surfaces, and custom lighting. The area also includes a cafe that converts to a wine bar at night.

“The feeling is of being on a beautiful luxury ship,” says Steve Lavergne, general manager. “The wood on the walls, the smoked mirrors, leather furnishings, and natural plants add warmth and richness to the atmosphere.” Features include terrazzo floors, leather banquettes and a colour palette that seamlessly combines muted earth tones. Custom lighting which evokes the 1920s can be adjusted throughout the day. 

“There are many elements in the design that people have never seen except in the movies,” says Lavergne. “It’s unlike anything else in Montreal.” Connecting with the city was a vital consideration in the design, says Lavergne. “Since we are a 143-room hotel, the restaurant would not survive if we could only count on the hotel guests. It was really important to have an open door on the street.”

Connecting with the street is a compelling focal point for the re-designed Le Boulevardier Restaurant at the Hôtel Le Germain Montréal. The only hurdle was the restaurant was on the second floor.  “The challenge was figuring out how to connect the restaurant with the lobby and create a sense of excitement for visitors,” says Marie Pier Germain, vice-president of Sales and Marketing for Germain Hotels in Montreal. “We had to find a way to make a negative a positive.”

The answer was replacing the lobby staircase so that it would lead visitors to the restaurant rather than to the back of the building. “Now when people walk in, they can hear what is happening and smell the food,” says Germain. The renovations were inspired by the ’60s, when the building was originally built, and feature a mix of curved lines, chrome highlights and velour coverings for a warm tactile feel. Custom lighting by Montreal-based Lambert & Fils sets the stage for any occasion.

The restaurant bar is integrated with the kitchen area and can be closed for more intimate gatherings. “It’s nice for solo travellers to sit at a bar and chat with the bartender or people next to them,” says Germain. The cityscape is constant part of the dining experience. The restaurant has a distinct cultural advantage in that it directly faces an iconic wall mural across the street, she notes. “No other place on the street has such an unobstructed view.” 

For diners not facing the panoramic window, the mirrored ceiling allows them to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of people walking on the streets, while people outside the hotel can glance up to view the bustling activities within the restaurant. “Allowing people on the street to see the reflection of people eating is a small gesture that really makes a difference,” says Germain.

For the Trio Restaurant at the Simon Hotel in Sydney, N.S., the 2,500-sq.-ft. restaurant is a welcoming tribute to the Cape Breton cuisine and lifestyle. “It’s in a great little location on the waterfront,” says Garth Ruggiero, corporate director, Food and Beverage for Atlific Hotels. “Trio was always a celebratory place to go for special occasions rather than a chain restaurant or local pub.”   

While it always had the look and feel of an upscale restaurant, “We wanted to take the decor up a notch,” he says. The latest design by Jolanta Lukus of Royal Design Inc. in Toronto started with removing walls to create a more open environment and extending the patio to take advantage of warmer weather. 

Opening the space made the restaurant a real hub for the community, says Ruggiero. “We don’t believe in doors. We don’t want to tell people they can’t sit here and enjoy a coffee. Now it’s a place where people want to be seen. Rather than being closed in, there are windows all around.” 

The design replaced the original brown and dark colour palette with an mix of vibrant blues, greens, and lemon yellow. Light grey tile, bright wine-coloured leatherette chairs, and wood-grain fronting on the bar adds to the upscale ambience. Versatility also came into play. Additions include a captain’s table in the back area with sliding panels that can be rented out for private functions. “When the doors swing open, they can see a live cook line,” he explains. 

When it comes to design of public spaces, it’s all about making buildings — including restaurants — a welcoming place for the public, says Germain. “When people travel, they like to get a sense of who lives and works in the area. Today’s hotel restaurants are becoming cool places to have a drink and meet people.”


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