The regional cuisine served in this new fast casual restaurant is steeped in local legend. Both modern and traditional, it is based around the format of the Shi Bing Tong, a festival food from Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, usually only eaten at their annual Dragon Boat Festival. While the ancient origins are a point of dispute (warriors, monks, and fisherman are all involved), the common theme is that of a classic dish from home, made portable by means of a protective, edible wrap. The Shi Bing Tong can take on many forms, but it is always a taste from home.
Our client’s inspired take on this regional cuisine involved an equally inspired plan: To create a portable concept that would allow them to roll-out over 100 locations in just 4 years.
Before any design occurred, we led an immersive marketplace study to evaluate how this relatively new concept might adapt to the tastes of the American foodie culture. The key to this approach was to balance the desire for adventure and discovery with the new health paradigms currently driving the fast-casual space, and to shed some common misconceptions around Chinese cuisine in general.
Our approach to any food & beverage concept starts with the menu. In the case of this offering, our early investigations took us to the ancient city of Taizhou, in China’s Zhejiang Province, and the origins of this cuisine. While influence of the traditional Chinese home, the Siheyuan, was a fundamental starting point for inspiration, our approach to this concept led our studies toward strategically modernizing (as opposed to sanitizing) traditional space through material juxtapositions.
Classic clay brick and wood, the dominant regional materials of the Siheyuans, was abstracted to newer modern forms and proportions, giving the space the color and texture of a traditional space but with a distinctively modern edge.
The centerpiece of each location is the communal table, visually anchored by a custom pendant light inspired by the roof forms found throughout the ancient and disappearing Hutong neighborhoods of China. These centerpieces are surrounded by flexible seating arrangements of banquettes and bar seating for individual diners.
Every location incorporates a floating, modular wood trellis, devised to conceal the building systems and lighting in the ceiling, while also baffling the reflection of sound in a space comprised entirely of hard, cleanable surfaces.
The overall effect is one of partaking in a communal meal in the courtyard of a Chinese Siheyuan. Like the food, it is an intentionally modern take on a timeless experience.