Tue, 12th Dec 2017
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CODE Special
Eat. Drink. Design.

 

 

Over the past several months I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside Duck & Waffle and their team on the opening of their new restaurant Duck & Waffle Local in St James’s Market. The no-reservations restaurant features a duck driven, fast-causal menu. Whilst it shares many similarities with its exciting space in the Heron Tower, it represents a completely different experience for the customer - and the team.

 

I caught up with Dan Doherty, Chef Director of Duck & Waffle Local, to discuss his experience of working with a branding agency this closely.

 

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First up, what was the experience like working closely with a design/ branding agency on your latest project, Duck & Waffle Local?

 

It was the first time that I’ve been as hands on, right from the start, with that aspect of a restaurant opening. Having spoken to lots of different agencies in the beginning, it was fascinating to see how different people interpret your thoughts and ideas for a project. Whether they were right or wrong, just going through the process helped us clarify what exactly was the direction we were going in. It opens your mind to so many different ideas, even if they aren’t totally relevant.

 

 

Duck & Waffle Local isn’t just a new restaurant but a new concept on a number of levels for London, being fast-casual but chef curated, and with a duck-centric menu. How much work went into the theory behind this, before the design and style could be approached?

 

Well, we had the soul of Duck & Waffle, if you like, and we knew that soul would be at the core of what we wanted to do, but to develop the fast casual, duck centric side of it took a while. Food wise, I had to make sure the offering was balanced, not too in-your-face-duck. What I mean is rather than trying to push too many boundaries, I wanted to use duck as a foundation but to make the dishes familiar enough that people got it, but interesting enough to make people come. It’s a different crowd in Piccadilly, and that brings different challenges. It took time, there’s no question about that and it’s not by any means perfect, but we are happy with where we are at.

 

 

One of the challenges was to take a well established high-end restaurant and make it more accessible. How do you feel branding and design has helped with educating customers of this change?

 

Branding and design was key to achieving this. Separating the two very different styles of restaurants was the main challenge for us, especially when 75% of the name is the same (with the only addition being ‘local’). Using design was the only way to create a new identity whilst maintaining the DNA that means so much to us.

 

 

How important do you think the branding has been in the launch of Duck & Waffle Local, and how important do you think branding and design is in general for new restaurants now?

 

The branding has been hugely important; without a clear message we would have had a big problem with people visiting and being confused about what we were offering and how we were serving it. Being as the two restaurants are so different we just couldn’t run the risk of having that issue. If you’re opening a restaurant I’d really recommend spending time and energy on it, because its very hard to tackle this down the line. It helps focus your mind on exactly what you want the restaurant to be. Perception is reality and good branding can help get your message across.

 

 

Have you noticed a difference in the customer and the experience of working at the new location?

 

Being as the two areas of London are so different, we always knew the demographic would represent that, but we were surprised at how tourists aren’t so open to restaurants away from the West Ends typical power houses that really aren’t very good. They are heaving morning, noon and night and the prices are punchy, but I guess they are familiar in some way that people trust them. There are so many great restaurants in the area now, and with that comes a lot of choices, so there’s no need to have awful, overpriced steak in ‘that’ steakhouse.

 

 

You have a great aesthetic quality to the dishes at Duck & Waffle Local (and your cooking in general) is this an important part of the process for you?

 

Well, as the old saying goes, you eat with your eyes - I actually don’t agree with that saying, but I do enjoy making things look nice. If food doesn’t taste good, it’ll rarely look good, so starting off with great food is half the battle to making it look aesthetically pleasing. I think its just part of the process of cooking well.

 

 

With your experience working with design agencies, what similarities do you see between their thought processes and approaches and yours as a chef?

 

Its very similar, as are a lot of creative industries. Its exciting, approaching a new project, and I could feel that with Shop Talk. The energy was and still is great. The hard thing is finding the right person to get what’s in your head and get that on paper or a computer screen. I don’t think its means one agency is better than another, but there will undoubtedly be a creative designer who is the right fit for you.

 

 

How important do you think the branding has been in the launch of Duck & Waffle Local, and how important do you think branding and design is in general for new restaurants now?

 

The branding has been hugely important; without a clear message we would have had a big problem with people visiting and being confused about what we were offering and how we were serving it. Being as the two restaurants are so different we just couldn’t run the risk of having that issue. If you’re opening a restaurant I’d really recommend spending time and energy on it, because its very hard to tackle this down the line. It helps focus your mind on exactly what you want the restaurant to be. Perception is reality and good branding can help get your message across.

 

 

Have you noticed a difference in the customer and the experience of working at the new location?

 

Being as the two areas of London are so different, we always knew the demographic would represent that, but we were surprised at how tourists aren’t so open to restaurants away from the West Ends typical power houses that really aren’t very good. They are heaving morning, noon and night and the prices are punchy, but I guess they are familiar in some way that people trust them. There are so many great restaurants in the area now, and with that comes a lot of choices, so there’s no need to have awful, overpriced steak in ‘that’ steakhouse.

 

 

You have a great aesthetic quality to the dishes at Duck & Waffle Local (and your cooking in general) is this an important part of the process for you?

 

Well, as the old saying goes, you eat with your eyes - I actually don’t agree with that saying, but I do enjoy making things look nice. If food doesn’t taste good, it’ll rarely look good, so starting off with great food is half the battle to making it look aesthetically pleasing. I think its just part of the process of cooking well.

 

 

With your experience working with design agencies, what similarities do you see between their thought processes and approaches and yours as a chef?

 

Its very similar, as are a lot of creative industries. Its exciting, approaching a new project, and I could feel that with Shop Talk. The energy was and still is great. The hard thing is finding the right person to get what’s in your head and get that on paper or a computer screen. I don’t think its means one agency is better than another, but there will undoubtedly be a creative designer who is the right fit for you.

 

 

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James Wood @designedbyjaw 

 

James Wood is co-owner of agency ShopTalk London. shoptalklondon.com

 

This article was first published in Issue 11 of CODE Quarterly. 




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