Restaurant Development & Design

JAN-FEB 2019

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 4 5 nuances of the dining experience that the Hawkers team was after," says Justin Fong, principal and director of design at GDP Designbuild. "I'm glad they stuck with us for a while because it has given us a good chance to explore what they want and what works as they fine-tune the brand." From a concept and culinary stand- point, they had a pretty good idea of what works: When the foursome opened their first unit in Orlando's Mills 50 Dis- trict — a bootstrap endeavor for which the founders handled most of the design and construction themselves — lines extended around the block. The carefully researched and curated menu of Asian street food favorites and multigeneration- al family recipes, served small-plates- style in a full-service format, struck a chord with consumers hungry for casual, authentic ethnic dining experiences. From a design standpoint, Hawkers continues to evolve, with each unit bring- ing a blend of what have become iconic brand signatures and locally influenced elements to the party. "Where we've landed as our brand has developed is that we want authentic- ity, both in our food and in our environ- ments," Harrell says. "It's a central part of our brand promise. Are we going to be exactly like what you can get from traditional hawkers on the streets of Asia? Probably not, as we have limited capabilities to source certain ingredi- ents. But it's as authentic as is practical for this market." The commitment to authenticity translates to the materials Hawkers uses in its design and to the team's approach to using objects and art for storytelling. It's also the driving force behind the basic layout and flow of the restaurants, in which a large open kitchen, central bar and indoor-outdoor elements are mission critical to creating the type of high-ener- gy, street-fare vibe the owners envisioned. The Streets of Windermere When the team expanded to Windermere last year, a few miles southwest of the original downtown Orlando location, it entered new territory in more ways than one. The unit occupies a corner space in a newly built strip center at a high-traffic intersection. It is Hawkers first entry into a more upscale, suburban environment. "Internally, we joke about it being the Streets of Windermere, because it's a very upscale community compared to our other locations," Harrell says. "But it was a great opportunity. Initially, our big challenge was to figure out how to take this idea of street food, which is a bit gritty and about as casual as you can get, and translate it into something that fits the neighborhood without los- ing brand integrity. We did that largely Ceiling materials, art and other wall coverings help to create a variety of experiences within the open space. Painted woks serve as light fixtures, and neon Cantonese characters above the kitchen translate to "let's eat!" Fun and kitschy brand messaging extends to the restrooms, where guests enjoy 1960s Chinese opera music and custom wallpaper made from vintage Asian comics.

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