Four of the ten food and beverage retailers appointed by The New Millennium Experience Company to operate in the Millennium Dome say they will use the project to try something completely different with their formats.
The rest are opting to roll out existing formats, despite being given a brief to provide an innovative service, in keeping with the Millennium brand as a whole.
The retailers have yet to finalise their format designs, but all submitted outline proposals to the NMEC in the tender process.
Each retailer is meeting the NMEC this week, with detailed designs likely to be finalised in the next month or so. The NMEC expects each to sign a formal contract shortly afterwards.
Judging by the proposals, the retailers are viewing their allocated spaces very differently.
Some see it as an opportunity to experiment with their formats, or to create an alternative brand experience. Others are making no concessions at all to the occasion.
Bakery chain Bakers Oven falls into the former category and has already appointed Crabtree Hall to work up a one-off format.
“It [Bakers Oven] is pretty obligated to do something different… We have lots of ideas to amuse and inform visitors to the area within the Dome,” says Crabtree Hall partner David Mackay.
Scottish seafood and wine bar chain Loch Fyne is also keen to do something completely different.
“We’re looking to do something which draws on our Loch Fyne heritage and offers a totally different experience of the brand. And we may apply some of the elements to our existing restaurants at a later stage,” says Loch Fyne chief executive Ian Glyn.
Meanwhile, AMT Enterprise, which operates coffee kiosks in railway stations and airports, has even grander plans.
“We’re going to design something that’s never been done before,” says AMT director Alistair McCallum-Toppin.
Other retailers are being considerably less adventurous.
“We wouldn’t be prepared to use the Dome as an opportunity to try a new format, that would be foolhardy. There are too many people passing through for you to make a cock-up,” says Costa Coffee business development consultant Emma Green.
Aroma chairman Finlay Scott adds, regarding his coffee company’s Dome presence: “We are using the Dome as an opportunity to showcase the brand and so we don’t want to do anything too different. Customers want to know what they’re getting and so we’ll be using our latest design.”
But surely this attitude goes against the innovational spirit of the project?
“We encourage innovation but really it’s up to the individual retailer. It’s a commercial venture, with only a one-year life and while some may choose to be revolutionary, others won’t and it’s not right to insist they are,” says NMEC head of catering services Andrew James.
“You have to remember the retailers are there to serve the customers who recognise their brands and don’t necessarily want them to be changed too dramatically,” he adds.
James says the retailers’ final designs will be vetted by freelance design consultant Alison Poole and Mike Davis, partner of Dome architect Richard Rogers Partnership, who may insist on any number of changes.
However, as innovation is optional, any design changes required are likely to be of a more practical nature.
What the retailers plan
130-strong coffee-shop chain
Will use its latest format, created by Redjacket and Jones Knowles Ritchie (DW 29 January).
New Covent Garden Soup Company
Soup company with one kiosk at London’s Victoria Station
Will translate a new shop format – currently being worked on by
General Practice and freelance design consultant Clare Fry and due to roll out in considerable numbers – into a kiosk.
58-strong fish and chips restaurant chain
Declines to comment on its plans.
Ten-strong cyber-cafÃ© chain
Will look to evolve its format, by Zachari Design, in keeping with the spirit of the Dome. It will also try out new features, such as a video-wall. The company will bring in a design group to work on the project. Elements are likely to be rolled out to new and existing outlets.
285-strong bakery chain
Has appointed Crabtree Hall to create something completely different. It is likely to incorporate the same values of education and entertainment as the Dome.
24-strong coffee-shop chain
Will use its current format, evolved over the company’s nine-year life by the in-house team, Nick Hopley Design and architect ORMS.
AMT Enterprise Cappuccino Bar
17-strong coffee-kiosk chain
Plans to build something completely different, designed in-house. An initial idea would see it build a kiosk in the shape of the Dome. The company will install its current kiosk format when the Dome opens, but will have detailed designs in place for the permanent kiosk. It will then tweak these and implement the new kiosk within 60 days, after the team has had a chance to assess the actual dynamics of the space.
Three-strong seafood restaurant chain in west Scotland
Is looking to create an alternative brand experience based on the heritage of the loch it is named after. Has created an initial concept with Richmond architect PNW Associates. Elements could be rolled out to new and existing outlets.
Part of Chutney Mary Indian restaurant group
Will appoint designers to create a 400-cover restaurant – the largest in the world, it hopes. Aims to create something that adds to and taps into the Millennium Experience, rather than strengthen and promote the Veeraswamy brand.
American Bagel Company
11-strong bagel-cafÃ© chain
Will use its existing format, by Pearsonlloyd Design Partnership.