Roy Addyman is the director of Restaurant Design Associates (RDA) – a design and installation firm which specialises in the catering, hospitality and retail industries. Roy set up RDA in the North-east with his wife Judith in 2007. The couple had both worked in construction for more than 20 years before setting up the business in South Tyneside to focus on the catering side of the industry, and they haven’t looked back since – turning over £1m in their first year. Now, seven years on, the company employs 14 people and installs cafes and restaurants for a wide range of clients across the UK – from large contract caterers and tourist attractions to hotels, universities and hospitals.
How did you forge a career in the industry, and what was it that first drew you to working in this sector?
My initial career was in accountancy, then I started in construction, after participating in a group self-build housing project in Huddersfield in my mid-twenties. Various jobs in project management culminated with the opportunity to start Restaurant Design Associates in 2007. I have always enjoyed working with architects, designers and creative people.
Who was inspirational to you early in your career – and why?
No one in particular – I am better at listening than talking, so have picked up a lot from observing successful entrepreneurs, colleagues and competitors.
What would you say are the defining philosophies of the practice?
Hard work is at the core of everything we do. We encourage creative thinking and innovation in all aspects of the business. Keep moving – don’t dwell on failures or spend too long patting yourself on the back for successes or else you will be left behind. Keep lean and hungry and always have a plan B.
How do these philosophies complement your own?
I don’t expect others to do what I’m not willing to do myself, so like to lead from the front and by example. I am very choosy in selecting new members of staff and like to engage both experts and novices who ‘feel’ right.
What inspires you, personally, in your work?
I am inspired by the opportunity to provide an exciting and stable workplace for all our staff which enables them to express themselves and develop their potential – hopefully for the continuing benefit of RDA.
Which hospitality project are you most proud of to date?
We have worked the length and breadth of the country – for many blue chip companies as well as in the public sector – providing improved facilities for people to enjoy both at work and for leisure – all have given satisfaction.
What are the elements that you feel are critical to effective hospitality design?
Understanding the needs and desires of guests is most important. Know your audience. Customers are increasingly expectant of very good service so we see our job largely as providing a facility equipped with the right tools to enable its operatives to deliver that.
There are a lot of ergonomics within any good hospitality design, such as a logical flow of any given space into the next, that aren’t necessarily noticed by the customer but they’re there nevertheless pulling the experience together.
This, combined with a carefully chosen aesthetic, and providing the facility is operated correctly, will always provide the end user an unforgettable experience.
How do you feel hospitality design has evolved over the years?
As time goes by, life seems to become increasingly fast paced. People work longer hours and take shorter lunches and ultimately have less time to themselves.
At the extreme end of the spectrum this is most noticeable on the high street with the ‘grab and go’ concept where any catering orientated retailer you can think of offers some kind of sandwich, crisps and drink meal deal because, as much as this is a cost saver for their customers, it plays on their need for speed and convenience.
Throughout the hospitality industry I think customers priorities are more and more focused around speed, efficiency and convenience and we as designers need to be just as aware of that as executive chefs and hotel managers.
What architectural or design themes do you envisage becoming more important over the next few decades?
The green issue is going to become very interesting in the near future, certainly in the next couple of decades at least. Obviously there are already a lot of high profile eco friendly buildings in existence which utilise clever technologies in sustainability. The trouble is the initial capital cost of such a building is usually far higher than a more conventional one and, as such, is built more out of romance than for any economical benefit. Like so many things, as we figure out how to make it cheaper, the popularity will increase.
In terms of interior themes and trends it is difficult to predict as they are changing every year. One interesting idea among current interior design discussion is the idea of bringing the outdoors in. So we might well see increased usage of live and artificial trees and plants in interior spaces. We have ourselves already specified a large ‘living wall’ on a past project and even an indoor herb garden on another. And these ideas obviously work well with any building that strives for an environmentally-friendly, green ethos.
Have you got any new projects in the pipeline that you’d like to share?
We are fortunate to have a very healthy and varied pipeline with potential projects across all hospitality sectors. I am also currently working on the Passport to Export scheme with UKT&I investigating design opportunities in the Middle East.
On a personal note, my wife and I have recently acquired a Grade II* Listed property and are working with an architect, conservation consultant and English Heritage on an extension and new build project (the last one!).
How do you envisage the practice evolving over the next 25 years?
I’m hoping to still be around – observing a successful third generation family business.
I would like to see our company grow in a controlled way and become more multi-disciplined so that we can offer a wider variety of services.