What Makes or Breaks a Restaurant Design in Saudi Arabia
One of the social activities that is well-acknowledged, highly considered and extremely active in Saudi Arabia is going to restaurants. Restaurants are considered one of the most highly visited places for socializing, celebrating, entertainment and social engagement among friends, families, business partners and so on. As more and more people are eating out, restaurant design in Saudi Arabia has become a crucial aspect for the developers of these establishments.
In 2018 things are changing, especially on the economical and the social front. The Saudi society is opening up to more mixed society norms, especially in the social, leisure and entertainment industries, while still respecting the privacy of the family environment. This makes restaurant design in Saudi Arabia the next big and thriving industry.
From one perspective, the restaurant industry is divided into 5 main categories:
1. Popular restaurants – Mainly used by the working class and locals. Like Shaam Nights
2. Fast food joints – Mainly visited by the younger generation.
3. Casual restaurants – Mainly visited by business employees and families.
4. Fine dining restaurants – Mainly for businesses and families.
5. Niche restaurants – The ones where a certain theme is the main attraction.
From a more technical point of view, the majority of restaurant design in Saudi Arabia is inspired by the rapidly changing consumption patterns fueled by rising disposable incomes. This is one of the key factors driving growth in the Food and Beverage industry in Saudi Arabia. Less stringent laws, leading to a greater exposure to Western cultures and traditions are leading the discerning consumer towards an appreciation of more sophisticated dining. This is one of the major reasons why restaurant design in Saudi Arabia is fast becoming a thriving industry taking on a life of its own.
Since eating out is one of the biggest entertainment activities in the KSA, the result is an outpour of potential restaurant operators and investors who want to play the F&B industry. Moreover, the rising impression of western culture and tourism in the area has led to slightly relaxed social norms that have greatly benefited the food industry. The resulting boost of sales, increased customer base and volume growth has created many opportunities for investors to break into the restaurant industry.
However, restaurant design in Saudi Arabia is not simply about treading onto untapped territory. It’s about examining the biggest factors that contribute to the Saudi Arabian restaurant industry at a micro-level. Aside from big aspects like building tourism and infrastructure, it is important to consider smaller points like the interior design, ambiance and curb appeal. Furthermore, let’s take a look at how these factors can contribute to making or breaking a restaurant design in Saudi Arabia.
1. Interior Design
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a distinctive country with its unique social norms. It’s a society that likes to enjoy the beauty of lifestyle during their outings. Especially when it comes to restaurants, people tend to enjoy the architecture, the interiors, the environment, the ambience and aroma of the place, along with the service and the food and beverages served.
Today, with the competition to get more customers to come in, restaurant design in Saudi Arabia has become cognizant of providing an interior design that patrons will enjoy. This is especially relevant if you have returning customers who appreciate the interior design time after time, tinkling the five senses to enjoy
Nobody wants to dine in a run-down, underdeveloped place with zero sense of aesthetics. People love appreciating their surroundings. They take in every detail because it is part of the overall dining experience. Whether it is the feature indoor garden or even a statement art piece accentuated by lighting, they’ll carry it around in their minds as part of the dining experience. Therefore, proper interior designing can definitely have a huge impact on the success of a restaurant design in Saudi Arabia.
The design itself has to take into consideration the uniqueness of Saudi Arabia, where there needs to be separate spaces for bachelors that are segregated from families, so each family can enjoy the space yet maintain privacy. Therefore, thoughtful interior design that responds to the cultural and social needs of the region can definitely have a huge impact on a restaurant’s success in Saudi Arabia.
While the principal concepts of restaurant design are similar the world over, restaurant design in Saudi Arabia is influenced by the Islamic culture and regional traditions. The importance of family and social generosity are highly valued – as is the privacy of Saudi women. This needs to be carefully considered in any restaurant design in Saudi Arabia. Separate entrances for men and women are customary and the principal aim is to have only the immediate family in close proximity.
2. Ambiance & Atmosphere
While the importance of good ambiance and atmosphere is vital for any successful high-end restaurant, this is particularly crucial in restaurant design in Saudi Arabia as high disposable incomes have led to increased expectations from public establishments. A relaxed yet luxurious ambiance is not a luxury, but rather an expectation, particularly in fine dining establishments.
People in Saudi Arabia often visit different places to enjoy its atmosphere. Although there are a lot of international restaurants, the KSA still has a rich architectural presence of its own. Therefore, a restaurant that features vernacular hints in its interior design is much more appreciated. It should be modified and fused with contemporary design elements to bring out the best of its ambiance for patrons to enjoy.
Ambiance and atmosphere are not simply comprised of beautiful interior design. They consist of creative lighting, stimulating colors, props and materials along with graphic design and even music. They consist of selecting the right components to create the best place to dine in. Family remains the single most important social institution for Saudis and a sophisticated restaurant that caters to the comfort and needs of the family is likely to thrive in business.
Similarly, the ambiance and atmosphere also affect the layout. Paying attention to the layout keeps you from making some of the most common restaurant design mistakes in the genre. Therefore, carefully strategies are a necessity in a successful restaurant design in Saudi Arabia
3. Curb Appeal
Curb appeal refers to the exterior design of any outlet. The Saudi urban fabric is quite contemporary, with its curbside strip malls, shops and eateries. Therefore, the exterior design has to be especially appealing if you want the desired demographic to come inside the establishment. Note that you have to carefully consider this matter in your restaurant design process. Leaving it out can result in disastrous results. A bad curb presence means nobody wanting to come inside the restaurant no matter how appealing the inside is. The idea is to make them want to come inside with the power of simple visuals. This is why any restaurant design in Saudi Arabia should have an appealing exterior façade to attract the populace. In addition, the walk-in and out, parking area and landscape will have a big effect on the experience.
4. Understanding the Context & Culture
You cannot design a restaurant in Saudi Arabia without carefully considering the country’s context and culture. Modern-day Saudi Arabia is a traditional and conservative society. The people there adhere to strong religious beliefs and customs. Most religious obligations like praying 5 times a day are deeply embedded in the social, public and business aspects.
Public establishments such as restaurants are therefore closed for prayer time – especially the Jummah (Friday) prayer – enabling employees time to pray before returning to the restaurant. However, some establishments do have small prayer areas of their own. These come in handy especially during the month of Ramadan, when residents need to immediately say their prayers after breaking their daylong fast. So while praying areas are not a must, they are always a plus especially for the few who really need to pray on the spot. It can be a small, isolated corner.
A restaurant design in Saudi Arabia must keep all of these aspects alive in its execution and operation. However, it is also crucial to remember that despite the conservative culture, Saudi’s are highly family oriented. So if you’re undecided about the genre of your restaurant, a family restaurant design can be your safety net.
Even in such a family-oriented restaurant theme, it is important to remember that bachelor and family sections are separated in all establishments. Usually, the bachelor section is for the male patrons while the family section can have single ladies, couples or families. Yet there are specific restaurants or cafés with a single-female section, but in this case, it’s best to avoid having a male bachelor section in the same location. Even if you’re aiming towards a specific demographic of Saudi patrons – like a student coffee shop – it’s still important to keep these guidelines in mind.
5. Selecting the Right Type of Concept
As mentioned above, selecting the right genre and type of restaurant concept is crucial to making or breaking a restaurant design in Saudi Arabia. Here are a few typologies you can opt for:
- Casual Dining Eateries: More accurately translated to casual cafes, such kinds of eateries are very informal. If you opt for this typology, it’s important to sort out the demographics of your potential patrons for your restaurant design in Saudi Arabia to be a success.
The casual restaurants are mostly franchises like Steakhouse, Apple Bees, Chilies and more. These types of restaurants are usually visited by young couples, families and business individuals for good food, stay and play. Thus the seating space is considered bigger. Playgrounds are provided with a bigger area than the ones provided in the fast food restaurants. The interior is more of a casual, warm and inviting family style. Patrons usually eat in a timeframe of 30 to 60 minutes. The food types are cooked, grilled and fried, with fresh salads.
- Fine Dining Restaurants: A fine dining restaurant is posh and upscale. It serves the best of ambiance, services, and atmosphere to its patrons. It’s classy and sophisticated – suited to the upper class mostly. So if your desired demographic is the upper class and upper middle class of the Saudi populace, this is the typology for you. A fine dining restaurant is usually a good place where traditional stories and background reflex in restaurants concept design. It would be better to describe that with few examples.
In order to come up with the right fine dining ambient concept you first need to know the owner’s requirements and a real understanding of what service and to whom they will provide. Only when you’ve hashed out these details can you generate a good concept that would appeal to the target audience. From there you can grow the design and become creative.
Another factor to consider while creating a successful fine dining restaurant design in Saudi Arabia is to accommodate the customs. Washing up before and after meals is a part of the ritual of sitting down to eat. So washing areas, which are often overlooked elsewhere, are an important part of restaurant design in Saudi Arabia. As is customary in the Islamic culture, generosity and abundance towards guests and family are of the utmost importance to most family patriarchs resulting in lavish, elaborate meals where you will never find a shortage of food. Dining parties often tend to be very large so long tables or stylish modular furnishings that can be adapted to larger groups of people should be considered in upscale restaurants.
- Fast Casual Restaurants: Casual and fast-food chains are aimed at getting the attention of families and singles alike. However, it is important to note that not all fast-food chains can integrate well within the Saudi culture. There are always small tweaks and trims to please a specific culture.
Saudi Arabia has fast food chain restaurants that are popular all over the world, including Burger King, McDonald’s and more. Fast food restaurant design in Saudi Arabia is based on the corporate identity of the franchise. They usually use bright colors, lights, and a small seating space. This type of restaurant is mainly used by youth and university students. You will find play areas in some of these fast-food establishments. A lot of the food is takeaway. Eating time is between 15 to 30 minutes. The fast food type usually serves processed food – mainly burgers and pizzas.
- Niche Restaurants: Niche restaurants are for the upper class. They feature high-end furniture, tableware, lighting and interior design. Eating time is usually up to 90 minutes. The food type is well selected from the top and finest. Nowadays that the restaurant business in Saudi is flourishing, it has become a serious competitive business from location to space design, furniture, food, staff, and ergonomics, which is why niche restaurants use avant-garde themes to attract their patrons.
6. Social Media Adaptation
Younger Saudis are definitely social media savvy and well-travelled. As a result, a new swarm of promotional opportunities has opened up in the F&B world in Saudi Arabia. You can even use the interior design and ambiance of your establishment to garner a whole new host of patrons for your establishment. As a result, restaurant design in Saudi Arabia has overcome a previously difficult to tackle challenge of promotion and brand boosting. For example, if your restaurant has a unique marketing element – say, the first eco-friendly establishment in the area – then it can be easily used to capture the interest of a certain populace with some strategic social media marketing.
7. Family Respect & Consideration
Since Saudis are very family-oriented, it is recommended to make your restaurants as family-centric as possible. From lighting to furnishings, everything has to be carefully considered and picked out. The layout and ergonomic design matters a lot. Most prominently, it is important to respect the traditionally patriarchal setting of the Saudi culture. This means that women prayer areas and bathrooms should be completely separate. This aspect can contribute greatly in making or breaking of a restaurant design in Saudi Arabia. However, restaurants don’t need specifically large praying areas with ablution, as a mosque is usually always nearby. But what you should definitely have a small corner to serve as a praying area when needed.
8. Staff & Respectful Behavior
As everywhere else in the world, the way that waiters in Saudi restaurants treat guests is of utmost importance. Respectful behavior by the staff is noted by the patrons. Human relations always affect us more than anything else. When you go into a restaurant and you see the outfit and behavior of the staff, you can feel respected. This is a hidden item that most restaurant owners forget about but has a great impact on the visitors’ experience because the attitude and service is the essence of the experience.
Since Islam is the reigning religion in the country and it dictates tolerance, peace, and equality between all human beings, Saudis are especially cognizant of respectful behavior. This notion may not be a solid design component, but it is definitely an intangible part of restaurant design in Saudi Arabia.
9. Bathroom Design
The importance of bathroom design should never be underestimated – especially when it comes to the Saudi culture. Before the massive impact of westernization hit the KSA, the bathroom used to be designed at the periphery of every home. So even today, what works in Europe and USA may not befit the Saudi culture.
Isolating the bathrooms is definitely a crucial part of creating an ergonomic restaurant design. Nobody wants a seat near the loo while eating. Every restaurant design in Saudi Arabia should recognize this common design mistake that would otherwise cause you to lose patrons in the future. Note that the size and quality of the bathroom will depend on the genre of the restaurant as well. You cannot have a tiny bathroom in a high-end establishment, nor can you have an overly huge bathroom in a tiny one. Moreover, the considerations of hygiene and cleanliness are one of the most important aspects of the design.
10. The Menu & Branding
The menu and branding of a restaurant design in Saudi Arabia should appeal to the local sensibilities. If you go for something completely different and out of the box, chances are that the local demographic is not going to be pleased with it. So the logo, art direction, color statement and the graphics should all be selected to leave a positive impression on the patrons. The menu should seem appetizing and appealing, while the graphics are stimulation – not off-putting.
So these are some of the most important factors that should be considered while designing a restaurant in Saudi Arabia. At CAS, we take pride in delivering a holistic restaurant design package while completely respecting the context and tradition of the region that you live in.