If a restaurant chain ever considers itself an active storyteller in the art and science of serving food-lovers, why stick to one identity? So often do chain restaurants play the safe route by sticking to one branded spatial design that looks the same everywhere. That isn't the case for Chubby Girl's Noodle Shop, whose specialty, Chongqing's local dish xiaomian, captures the hearts of many Beijingers. Its latest branch is an iteration of its aspirations as a passionate restaurateur.
Though carrying on with crispness and openness, the new store is not a duplicate, and the executives returned to OFFICE AIO again for another complete design. The collaboration does not seek to adapt the previous one to the new venue, but expand on its last concept, to create a sequel.
OFFICE AIO remains committed to the multilayered verticality of Chongqing's idiosyncratic cityscape. Albeit, with a new strategy, one that deftly creates an interplay of the cyber age's connectedness and the industrial physicality of the last century.
Invisible Connections of Cyber Age
OFFICE AIO erected several columns strategically on the floor plan. Inspired by the exterior of Chongqing's high-rises, the team picked six types of tiles and adorned the slender columns in a variety of patterns. The tiles even bleed out mischievously from the column to the floor.
Though these columns do not support the ceiling, they remain as critical structural elements in a distinctive way. LED tubes do not hang from the ceiling. Instead, they extend out from the columns with custom-design aluminium joints. As the tubes change colour throughout the day, juxtaposing the tiles and concrete floor, they speak of the energy that permeates a futuristic networked city.
The columns also lock the centre table in their concave. Made by a long seamless slab of translucent fibreglass, the "floating" table gives each customer quick access to the utensils in the drawers. This airiness of industrial smoke, is further enhanced by the mirror glazed with gradience on the perimeter of the dining area. The mirrors partially opened up the space while obscuring foot traffic.
A new flow for the business
The Chubby Girl brand has evolved since its last overhaul. It has experimented with sweet delights on its menu and saw a consistent interest from the customers. To make it official, the brand designates a section that serves the sweet tooth. An ATM-like opening to the kitchen is placed at its entrance, delivering desserts and drinks without entering the restaurants.
White soft inflated tarp puffs nearby reminds one of the distinctive slits of Lucio Fontana's artworks. They give off a sense of sculptural malleability, adding another dimension to the otherwise "flat" wall and its overall neutral palette.
Inside the restaurant, these tarp puffs held together by customised stainless steel scaffolding demarcates the workspaces between the kitchen and customers. Understanding the client's need in optimizing workflow, the team proposed a solution that turns all storage cabinets 90 degrees, creating multiple recessed areas that the staff can work uninterrupted by customer traffic while remaining seen.
This new store showcases how OFFICE AIO enriches a brand without compromising clarity, expanding an idea with flexibility, which gives a young brand depth and body as it matures in serving its staff and customers.