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02 Nov 2022

ABDA on designing multi-functional hospitality spaces

ABDA on designing multi-functional hospitality spaces

The Design & Décor section at HRC 2023 welcomes the who's who of hospitality professionals and leading designers to learn about the latest innovative new products and materials, hear from industry experts on the show's Vision Stage and network with peers from across the sector. 

HRC caught up with Claire Smith from design studio ABDA to learn more about business and designing for hospitality spaces.  

Tell us a bit about ABDA, how did the company first start and what do you do?

ABDA in its current guise has been around for 27 years, in its previous life ABDA was Alan Bennet Design Associates, our MD David Summers joined the business when he graduated from University and bought the business from Alan when he retired, he wanted to ensure that Alan's legacy remained, hence ABDA. We create inspired design for the hospitality, retail and leisure market. Our team of designers specialise in interior design, product design and commercial kitchen design. The wealth of knowledge in our team is aspirational, we have people who have been part if the team for 20 years, people who have worked on multiple role outs and boutique one off projects and interns joining us that have won the student retail designer of the year.

Is there anything that sets hospitality design apart from workplace/retail projects?

The world of hospitality and workplace has definitely merged since the pandemic, wellness is a big factor in both. Creating an environment that is not only inviting, but also gives a sense of calm. Both now also require and aspire to multi-functional space. Hospitality is gearing towards spaces that allow use from morning, through day part to the evening. Workplace also requires the same, as designers we have to make a space adapt to a new way of working and living. The 9-5 no longer exists and we have to design to accommodate the new ways of hybrid living and working.


ABDA install commercial kitchens, what kind of conversations do you have with chefs and business owners about these kind of projects?

This does set ABDA aside from some of our peers, we do have a specialist commercial kitchen team as well as a super talented interiors team.

Our clients want to create an integration through front and back of house, which isn’t a new thing, however those touch points of conversation, face to face relationships and synergy between front and back of house is more important than ever and key with our clients. Energy efficiency and sustainability has also become a key topic with our clients, gas kitchens are quickly becoming a thing of the past, with more and more clients focusing on using technology and induction to create a more operationally friendly (less heat) and environmentally useable space.

What inspires the ABDA team?

The ABDA team find inspiration in a wide variety of places, from true partnerships with clients to hospitality venues such as The Wild Rabbit, Hicce in Coal Drops Yard, Mercato Metropolitano in Mayfair, The Ivy, Green Room in Leeds, Ping Pong in Southbank and BEAR in Derby.


How do you approach sourcing suppliers?

We try to attend as many industry shows as possible, including HRC and the Independent Hotel Show. We, as a collective, aim to attend as many as possible to stay on track with current suppliers but also meet new. We have CPDs bi-weekly with current and new suppliers to ascertain the best fit for not only the business but also to ensure we know what is best for our clients. We also have developed a ‘Green List’ which is questionnaire we send to new suppliers to ascertain credentials.

Lastly, how important is sustainability to modern design projects?

Sustainability is key at the moment, however it’s not always a priority with all clients. Some feel there is a cost associated with this and it’s become vital that we as a business try and educate. Sustainability takes on many forms, from energy efficiency,  product source, cradle to cradle, circular economy, we take every project at face value and ascertain what is important to them as a business. Then we adapt that to their business and their project, what is important to them and also us as a business.

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