Listening to the Food

Emerging restaurant designers who understand the connections between menu, price, and place

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Krassa relaunched a popular brasserie at its new location at London’s Heathrow Airport. She designed the new space and also refreshed the logo and menu.

Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke/courtesy Afroditi Krassa

In 2004, British entrepreneur Julian Metcalfe asked Afroditi Krassa to help design a new Asian fast-food chain. “They needed a brand identity,” says Krassa, who’d opened her London studio just two years earlier. “And very soon I understood that identity wasn’t going to be about sushi. It was going to be about lifestyle, about eating light and healthy food.” Krassa’s first foray into restaurant design resulted in itsu, a chain of Asian fast-food restaurants and groceries with nearly 40 locations around London today. With competition between fast-food chains growing more intense, the London-born, Greece-raised designer knew contemplative Kyoto-style minimalism wouldn’t work. “We wanted it to feel like a shop,” says Krassa. “Busy and vibrant, like a London version of Tokyo.”

Café Rouge is a chain of French bistros in England. Rather than completely revamp a successful brand, Krassa chose to update the spaces, while keeping the same basic feel.

Photos: courtesy Afroditi Krassa

Since helping to create itsu, Krassa has fashioned or refashioned several fast-food brands, defying stereotypes and exceeding expectations. When Oriel on Sloane Square in London wanted to relaunch its restaurant, Krassa celebrated the art deco movement by using 1930s color palettes, geometric motifs, and train screens as dividers to revive the spirit of an age when travel was truly a luxury. At Café Rouge, an iconic U.K. chain of French bistros, Krassa decided to revitalize the existing identity instead of creating a new one. “There were a lot of good elements,” says Krassa, who’d formerly worked as an industrial designer. “Instead of tossing it all aside, we worked to make them edgier and more interesting.”

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