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Tom Wordie on: How bars and restaurants can make better use of their space

An article from Tom Wordie, Head of Partnerships at AndCo

It is universally acknowledged that restaurants and bars make a large majority of their revenue in the evenings and at the end of the week. During their quieter periods, beautiful, expansive restaurants are often not maximising on one of the most precious assets in bustling, fast-paced cities: space. However, a number of venues are now starting to think more creatively about how they can more fully utilise their space throughout the day.

Increasingly, spaces in restaurants and bars are becoming multifunctional – helping open their doors to as many customers as possible at all hours. Bars and restaurants are often considered the cornerstone of the community, and this can and will extend far beyond evenings and weekends. A shift in mindset towards flexible use of existing space and settings is inspiring innovative ways for restaurants to establish themselves further in their communities, as well as making gainful use of their resources.

Taking a step back and looking at a venue’s assets is the first step in reprogramming the space. Recently, restaurants’ calm atmospheres and sleek aesthetics have inspired other spaces to stylise themselves like food and drink destinations. Flexible work spaces are leading the way in adopting designs which mirror hospitality venues rather than traditional offices. Capitalising on this development, restaurants and bars can turn the trend on its head by offering their own spaces for flexible workers and freelancers to use during the working day – when tables are less used. Sites like AndCo offer a subscription service to help workers find venues offering their space for hotdesking – while venues see an increase in footfall during some of their quietest hours. Many venues are already well set up for this dual use, with private dining rooms perfect for meetings, and open-plan dining space providing an excellent alternative for local workers to expensive co-working locations.

Another way venues are repurposing their space is through collaborations with artistic projects. Whilst displaying art inside restaurants – with the aim that the installation will attract a wider, more diverse audience than the venue would typically attract – has been used by restaurants for a number of years to some success, other creative collaborations can get people through the door and draw more eyes to a venue. Such partnerships include working with fashion brands to use the space in a new way, whether displaying collections or using the venue as a set for a photoshoot. Venues not only benefit from increased footfall, but from also wider marketing through word of mouth, which is still such an important tool for restaurants and bars. Successful partnerships can widen access to new demographics and grow a venue’s profile amongst the local community and beyond.

With bars, restaurants and pubs often considered the hub of local communities, engaging with communities and their activities is an ideal way for venues to make the most of their space. Plenty of pubs are letting local groups – from book clubs to amateur film screenings – meet weekly in their venues during the day. Using spaces for seminars or talks in the middle of the day is another way to establish a venue as somewhere to get a culture fix. These multifunctional uses all make the most of underused space, increase footfall during the day and further increase a venue’s profile in the community.

Quiet periods don’t have to be an inevitable outcome of running a food or drink destination. Restaurants and bars are starting to think more creatively about the space they already have and how this can be repurposed in a multitude of ways. Whether inviting in new demographics for creative collaborations, increasing foot fall by supporting local groups or enabling space-strapped workers to find a new hub, those that are doing this well are not only bringing new energy to their own venues, but also the communities around them too.

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