As the founder of the Design Partnership, Callie van der Merwe began his career as an architect in the early 1990’s before changing over to hospitality architecture in the early 2000’s.

Since then, he has completed multiple award winning and successful hotel and hospitality interior spaces all over the world with a signature philosophical approach of design for predictive behaviour.

In this interview, he reveals the secrets of designing a successful and vibrant restaurant.

He says when it comes to design people commonly talk about layers, volumes, textures and balance rather than focusing on the behaviour of the people who will use the space. “Design is not a painting, design is for people” he said.

This signature approach of putting people’s predictive behaviour at the heart of hospitality design has seen Callie van der Merwe and his team create many award-winning commercial interior spaces across the world. 

“We spent a lot of time on it and started observing. We looked at security footage we just spent more time in restaurants looking at what people do. We realised there are things people do 80% of the time and we were able to bank those behaviours. We know where people like to sit, how they like to move, how they like to be served” he said.

He said there are specific seating behaviours most people like in hospitality settings, such as sitting at bench seating along the perimeter of a restaurant or choosing slightly raised seating that allows them to scan the space and feel safer. They also discovered that the length of the stay in a venue is equal to the weight of the chair. If it’s a very light chair people stay for a shorter time, if it is a heavier chair they feel like it’s a better experience and tend to stay longer.

“We are all wired in a very similar way so if you get that right every single time then you make the space the kind of space where you want to linger longer and a space you go back to repeatedly.”

While van der Merwe and his team can predict many human behaviours in the hospitality space, he admits the science is always evolving.

“Every single restaurant we learn something new and we bank it”.

Listen to the podcast: Episode 171: Callie van der Merwe from Design Partnership reveals the secrets of designing a successful restaurant

Authored date: 22/08/2023