Roy on the Future of Hospitality Design


Life as we know it has clearly changed for the foreseeable future, specifically when it comes to dining out. And while restaurants, bars and service-based businesses make up a large part of the design industry’s clientele, the question is, how do we move forward? What solutions can the clever thinkers of our community devise to save the hospitality industries and provide people with a safe experience? We spoke with top hospitality designer Hannah Collins—founder of Roy, a full-service design firm whose work stretches across many top restaurants and bars in San Francisco—about what the future of these environments might look like.

Hannah Collins
Vera in SF.

How are you keeping yourselves and your team positive and productive?  It’s an extremely challenging time. I am telling the team to take it easy on themselves. Not everyday has to be fully effective because it really it can’t be with all that is going on. We are looking to the future. We had a huge goal retreat a few weeks before the shutdown and everything was ramping up to be an incredible year for us. The setback of Covid-19 is devastating, but like anything we will ride the wave and come out stronger on the other side with more clarity and excitement than ever before. 

Before the pandemic hit, how many restaurants/bars were you in the process of designing?  We had about 20 projects totally drop off. Some have come back, we have recovered a few new projects but the loss is/was huge for us. It’s a tough industry as is but something like this will create a long road to recovery for everyone.  

Elda in S.F. Photo by Lauren Edith Anderson

-What has been client feedback since the pandemic began?  One thing I will say about the hospitality and restaurant industry in general is that it is comprised of extremely resilient and positive people. Everyone is in this together. I had one restaurant group we work with offer our entire team four meals a week because we are considered part of their family. I have had most of our clients connect with us to say are you ok? How are things going? People in this industry are incredible and that’s why I love it so much. I hope out of all of this people and policy recognize how critical restaurants are to our life story and that if anything hospitality is an industry that should be valued more and restricted less in our communities because of what they offer to our lives.   

Magnolia bar and restaurant in S.F.

How will you shift your approach to the design of hospitality spaces now with new guidelines?  I don’t think this is a long term problem (less than 2 years) we imagine we will need to think of design for current projects in two phases; dealing with the current Covid parameters and then designing for what lives beyond the Covid climate. This will trigger automation, design efficiencies and new thinking behind how restaurants are used long term. Turns out people are totally fine ordering off a digital menu or ordering at a counter and having less server interaction. That being said I believe hospitality is the currency of the future. We long for that human connection in everything we do and so I believe long term things will go back to normal or hopefully be an improved version of what we know and think of service and the restaurant experience. 

-What opportunities do you see for other design  firms in the area of hospitality design?  In the era of shared information I think it’s critical as designers that we share our ideas and solutions for dealing with the current climate. There is an overwhelming amount of concern and fear about how we will exist in the next six months to a year and I think sharing how we are dealing with all of this together is a huge opportunity to connect and create incredible adaptable solutions to our current problem at hand. More is more. 

Mano in S.F. Photo by Aubrie Pick

More news: