Red Awards: Hayes Common Eatery and the design lessons we can all learn

Retail can learn a lot from New Zealand’s booming hospitality sector.

 Food and beverage offerings are being used more and more to attract customers and make them feel at ease, so when Hamilton café Hayes Common Eatery won the Red Awards’ Supreme Award, we jumped at the chance to share its secrets – and those of other Red Awards winners - with retailers.

It wasn’t glitz and glamour that drew the Red Awards judging panel to this suburban Hamilton café and restaurant. Instead, they cited factors like personality and character, not to mention “seemingly effortless” design features.

Lisa Quarrie owns and operates Hayes Common Eatery with her husband Brent. She says she and Brent, who are both chefs, had admired the site for some time as it’s located not far from their home.

“We’ve looked at it for the last eight years, thinking ‘We know what we’d do if we got it.’”

When the Quarries finally got hold of the site, they totally gutted and refitted it before opening their new venture in March this year.

“It was in need of a new lease of life,” Quarrie says.

Material Creative carried out the fit-out, and the shopfitter for the project was New Image. Quarrie says the updated eatery had to fit in with the context of its neighbourhood, which featured state houses dating from the 1940s.

“We wanted to make it feel like it had always been part of that neighbourhood.”

Quarrie says the focus on fitting in and connecting with the community has been rewarding.

“This place means a lot to a lot of people because it’s been an iconic site for a long time.”

Asked what retailers could learn from it, Quarrie says hospitality and retail spaces are similar in that the fit-out must reflect the product that’s being sold. She says fit-outs were not formerly as important as they now are, but restauranteurs are now putting a lot more effort into creating special experiences.

“It’s all got to kind of connect,” Quarrie says. “That’s the thing for all retail and hospitality – the message and the story you’re trying to carry right through.”

Material Creative head designer Toni Brandso provided us with more detail about the nuts and bolts of the Hayes Common Eatery fit-out. She says when the project won the Food + Drink Award and the Supreme Award at the Red Awards, her team was surprised and honoured.

“I think the Hayes Common Eatery project stood out as it draws on a lot of New Zealand nostalgia in a very subtle way,” Brandso says. “The colour palette, the pegboard, the ceramics, ply, and tiling. It’s all a nod to the post-war era. And I’m sure we have all been in a space at some point of that era.”

Tell us about what kind of atmosphere you wanted to create. 
We wanted to create an unpretentious, welcoming space. A place that would be a central hub in the neighbourhood, a place to meet, mingle, eat and drink.

Were you inspired by any existing fit-outs? 
Our clients gave us their Pinterest board they had saved for the project. That gave us insight to their preferred aesthetic. But we mostly drew inspiration from the era of the building and the story of the housing development of Hayes Paddock for the project. 

The houses in the area are founded on a colour palette of terracotta, muted blues and greens and no one house is the same. They all have patterned entries and louvre window panels. We wanted to bring materials and colours into Hayes Common Eatery that spoke of this past. 

Are there any elements to the fit-out which you’re particularly proud of? 
I love the Meranti plywood-clad bathrooms! Compared to what they used to be, the bathrooms are such a beautiful surprise.

Did you consider any part of the fit-out to be risky or adventurous? 
I would say the use of the orange in the branding and the coffee machine would be the snippet of riskiness. It was nearly pulled at the last minute, but we pushed for it… and think it paid off in the end! 

Are there any other recent New Zealand fit-outs you admire?
We love the Lonely stores by Rufus Knight. His restraint and attention to the detail and palette are incredible! 

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 746 October / November 2016