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Chips with everything

Supermarket lifestyles, plastic wood, timber treads, and quantum architecture. Plus the cost of design decisions Food for thought The ever-increasing number of celebrity chefs appearing on our screens reflects that we are becoming more and more adventurous in what we want to eat and, consequently, more demanding about the variety of produce we expect to have available to us, writes John Patterson.

This has been recognised by the 'big four', and shoppers are currently enjoying a bigger selection of products than ever before. Unfortunately, many store interiors have not caught up, remaining largely uninteresting with aisle after aisle of uninspiring shelving or cavernous freezer cabinets.

Supermarkets generally have transformed themselves in the past decade or so and the food revolution is the next step. To avoid the appearance of hard sell, the personalised food concept needs to challenge the vast open generic interiors and to create an individual space within it.

Now comes Safeway's 'Fresh To Go' campaign - as much a design concept as it is a retail food range. It is intended to appeal to all the senses and could be the closest we ever get to being in the audience of Ready, Steady, Cook.

A generous drive aisle and party music are intended to encourage shoppers to linger, absorbed in the various food prep 'performances' by experienced chefs.

In an attempt to bring Harrods to the provinces, a variety of communal eating areas are provided adjacent to the numerous/various food serveries. High stools and breakfast bars are strategically positioned for a quick coffee or juice; traditional tables and chairs are set out for more leisurely brunches; and huge comfy chairs are available to tempt shoppers to put their feet up with a newspaper.

The natural, warm finishes include rustic ceramic tiling to the front of the serveries with timber flooring to the raised eating area; and timber tables and chairs are interspersed with the token ficus benjamina and other greenery.

The lighting is quite subdued, with an open grid ceiling supporting pendant light fittings. This is in stark contrast to the serveries and prep areas, all canopied with curved fascias and soffits, recessed down-lighters, marble worktops, glass and chrome.

Privacy is concentrated in the raised eating areas by a screening partition to the general food sales area, but visibility is maintained throughout the store, always tempting you back to the 'Fresh to Go' experience.Maybe not architectural design at its purest, but definitely an environment in which customers will want to spend their time as well as their money - although how close we are to regarding a trip to the supermarket as an outing for all the family to enjoy remains to be seen.

John Patterson is managing architect at Styles & Wood. Contact 01625 430538

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