Thinking out of the box
foodService India|March - April 2020
Benjamín Calleja is the founder and CEO of Livit, one of the world’s top restaurant design firms. He shares his views with us on the role of design and technology in creating restaurants that are profitable and efficient as well as great on guest experience.
Flavia Fresia

LIVIT

Livit was established in 1998. “It is currently the world’s largest restaurant design company,“ says founder Benjamín Calleja. “We are active in almost 50 countries and have designed over 13,000 restaurants. Currently, a Livit designed restaurant opens every eight hours somewhere in the world. This scale and global presence give us a level of understanding of cultural differences, trends and business models that is unparalleled in the design industry.”

Until recently, Livit had 18 offices around the world, but then they took the strategic decision to relocate everyone into one building in Madrid. “We work in two shifts, a US shift and an Asia-Pacific shift to make sure we are on our global clients’ time-zones,” reveals Calleja. “The beauty of this relocation is that now everyone gets the benefit of synergies and every team is aware of what the other teams are doing around the world.”

What do you think are currently the most interesting industry trends influencing restaurant design?

The restaurant industry is facing a fourth revolution, which is pushing restaurant companies into two big categories. The first one is ‘convenience’, and is reflected in all the concepts that focus on speed of service, delivery, technology etc. Domino’s Pizza has been spearheading this evolution over the past years. The second category is ‘experience’ and encompasses restaurants that focus on creating environments that are actually making customers want to leave their house and their sofa and go out to socialize and have a great dining experience.

What role does design play in creating the overall guest experience?

To us at Livit, the word ‘design’ has a bigger and broader meaning than traditional definitions. When you talk of restaurant design, everyone thinks of the front of the house – the tables, the seats, the lights. At Livit, we practice strategic design: How do we make a brand profitable? How do we get the right operating model? These questions are now more important than ever and are at the core of our work. As far as guest experience is concerned, the role of design is tremendous, especially if you have a broader vision of what the term design can really encompass. For us, design goes well beyond the physical aspect. The music, the lights or the uniforms are equally important.

How does Livit develop a project?

As I said, we have a slightly different approach than most design companies. Most of our clients are private equity and investors, so we are a business first design company. We always start developing a project by asking: Is this the right business model? Is it the right footprint or the right development strategy? What needs to be changed? We do a lot of work on the brand positioning, the target audience. Once we have nailed all that, we look into the operating model, the labour component, how the kitchen is going to be designed, and so on. We always build a profitable business model first, and ensure we capture all the best practices. Only then do we start designing the customer-facing side of things. We are strange animals in that we do not outsource anything, we do everything in-house, so we have a very broad scope of services. We can take you from creating a new F&B brand or repositioning a brand that has 5,000 stores, all the way to designing your playlist, your uniforms or your menu.

What do you think is key now in designing restaurants?

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