July/August 2022

Canadian Interiors July-August 2022 – Welcome! The Table is Set.

The hospitality industry suffered greatly as a result of COVID-19, and while complementary forces — an easing of pandemic-related uncertainty and restrictions coupled with pent-up demand — make it appear that recovery is underway, the truth is a recuperation of the restaurant and leisure industries is still an uphill journey. Which is why in this issue of Canadian Interiors we happily celebrate new restaurants — and the studios that envisioned them — who by their very existence are a show of impressive resilience. For example, we showcase Dialogue 38’s approach to crafting organic and sensual spaces inflected with Asian influences in three beautiful new dining venues: Yu Seafood; Konjiki Saryo; and Machi Machi Bubble Tea. Completed during the pandemic, these projects are not only complex yet carefree, but they are also ambitious ventures for their established dining brands that have eyes on expanding in the Toronto market.

Speaking of brand, Ontario has one of the most undeniably impressive natural icons in the world with Niagara Falls, which is why it is exciting to see how Johnson Chou Design together with The Ventin Group Architects were able to re-energize Table Rock House into not just a destination restaurant energized by the iconic view, but also an elevated retail and welcome centre experience that re-connects visitors to both the history and the surrounding natural wonders of the location.

With a return to normalcy on the horizon one thing is certain: people will want to travel. In this issue, the global consulting firm Turner & Townsend examine that topic and discuss the strategies airports should consider to accommodate changing demand while diversifying income streams. This thought leadership article is supported by examples of three airports where design teams had the challenge of creating elegant new architectural and interior identities to guide the look and feel of future expansions while also addressing immediate concerns.

As doors both literal and figurative continue to re-open, one sign that has reenergized the design community is the revival of international design show mainstays. Numerous events emerged as the winter season receded and, in this issue, we highlight eye-catching standouts from Clerkenwell Design Week in London; and major exhibitions that were turning heads during Milan Design Week, particularly Salone del Mobile.

We bookend the issue with another wonderful example of the importance of experiencing things in person: the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art’s new exhibition of work by Yayoi Kusama, including two iterations of the famous Infinity Mirrored Rooms to dazzle visitors in Montréal.

Editor’s Notes: Table Service

It is no secret that the hospitality industry in Canada took a shellacking during the pandemic, with the restaurant sector bearing the brunt of the pain. With summer now ahead of us and a collective feeling that the worst is behind us, one would think that all restaurants need to do is open their doors to accept the flood of pent-up demand. But the evidence shows that a return to normal for dining establishments is sadly further down the road then most would like. According to survey conducted by Restaurants Canada in February, 80 per cent of restaurants have taken on debt due to COVID-19, and nearly two-thirds of these businesses need at least a year and a half to recover.

To their credit, the federal government showed support for the tourism sector in their new post-pandemic Federal Tourism Growth Strategy, which is “intended to help the sector plot a course for growth, investment, and stability.” Gestures towards that plan were made in April when the Federal Budget was announced, but naturally many insiders are saying it is not enough. “We appreciate that the government has listened to our industry on several of our key issues, including the elimination of the punitive alcohol excise tax on certain products,” said Restaurants Canada vice president, Federal and Quebec Affairs, Olivier Bourbeau. “This represents a first step, but it is still the foodservice industry that was the hardest hit by the pandemic, with operators taking on enormous mountains of debt to survive.”

After over two years of either losing money or barely breaking even, foodservice operators are naturally asking for monetary support in the form funding programs, extensions on loan repayments, tax credits and/or other sources of funding to defray the astronomic costs incurred from pandemic safety expenditures. But they are also asking the government to take a “do no harm” approach with regulations, particularly when it comes to the prohibition of certain single-use plastics in 2022. To many, single-use plastics are the backbone to takeout and delivery, which kept much of this business afloat. But to many others, single-use plastic is the bane of the environment.

This feels like a design opportunity. We are already seeing companies integrate recycled plastic into the manufacturing of products used within a restaurant, from furniture and lighting to packaging and toiletries, but there is also an opening for design firms who service hospitality clients to employ design thinking to steer clients away from its use when sending food out of the restaurant.

Peter Sobchak
Editor in Chief
Canadian Interiors
[email protected]