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Writing an Interior Design Brief for Hospitality.

Establishing a project brief for your new café, restaurant or bar interior is the first step in understanding your aspirations and functional requirements for your new venture. This all-important document will enable you to prioritise the elements that are key to a successful design. It is also an important element of your business plan and will be a foundational statement against which your business success can be continuously measured.

The value of a successful hospitality interior cannot be overstated. It is often the draw-card for interested customers, before they even see the menu. The power of the often-illusive ‘ambience’ can make or break a business, but creating ambience is more than tea-lights and a good play list. Engaging an interior designer is as key to your success as engaging a chef to write your menu.

An interior designer will require your brief in order to prepare a scope of works and fee proposal for you. Once engaged, your designer will develop your initial brief into a much more detailed checklist of functional and aspirational parameters (sometimes referred to as a return-brief), assisting you to think through the finer details that may not immediately come to mind.

Your initial interior design brief should provide the following information as a minimum. Hypothetical answers have been provided to assist your response:


Business Name: CoLAB Coffee

Business Description: Specialty café offering a unique range of single origin grounds and small complimentary range of pre-prepared food items.

Business Location: Hardware Lane, Melbourne.

Target customer: Mainly tourist traffic, exploring the center of Melbourne’s iconic laneway culture, with a small local community of inner-city dwellers.

What type of experience are they looking for? Customer is seeking an iconic Melbourne ‘coffee’ experience with fast-service takeaway and short-stay dining.

Business Hours: 6.30am – 4.00pm Monday-Friday / 8.00am – 3pm Weekends.

Business Format: Predominantly take-away offering with limited short-term interior seating (non-serviced).

Brand Identity: If the business brand has been developed, please provide samples of the logo, website, menu etc.


Premises area: 30m2 total

Lease (if applicable): 5 years

Existing interior elements to be reused: Cool-room, grease-trap.

Existing services to be reused: Air conditioning, commercial cook-top/oven and extraction canopy.

Landlord restrictions: Exterior shop front finishes cannot be changed.

Local council restrictions: Heritage overlay to this laneway may restrict signage design.


  • To offer an authentic Melbourne café experience.

  • To establish a solid community of inner city dweller ‘regulars’.

  • To create an atmosphere of retreat, but also of friendly, vibrant community.

  • Create a sense of a ‘real hidden gem’ within this tourist center.

  • To make available a retail offering of signature coffee beans after the first year of trade.

  • To offer a point of difference from our competitors.


  • Coffee Counter with fixed stool seating x 6

  • Point of sale counter with integrated ambient food display

  • Operable shop front window for direct thru-window service.

  • Interior table / seating for 8

  • Small prep. Kitchen (back of house)

  • Small wash-up zone.

  • Cool room (reuse existing)


(provide detailed specifications including dimensions. Your interior designer will not specify your commercial equipment for you; that’s your expertise! Alternatively enlist the help of a commercial kitchen consultant.)

  • 2 X 3-Group Coffee Machine

  • 1 x 2 Door Milk Fridge

  • 1 x 2 Door storage Fridge

  • 1 x 900mm wide refrigerated display fridge

  • 2 x point of sale consoles

  • 3 x grinders

  • 1 x glass washer

  • 1 x blender etc, etc (notate every equipment item you can think of!)


Overall project budget (including design & consultant’s fees): $210K + gst.

Do you want to tender the project for a builder? Yes.

Project timeframe: Site Handover: 1 September 2017 / Opening: 1 December 2017

When writing your brief, try to include even the most obvious elements; this will help you paint an accurate picture of what you want to achieve and assist you to set a realistic budget. Most importantly, be honest with your interior designer: give them your true budget (not your ‘hoped’ budget). Don’t worry, their fees are typically based on time calculated to complete the job, not as a percentage of your budget. It is important to state your budget to them in writing (not as a vague dollar range), so that they know exactly what they are designing to, and where to concentrate their hours.

CoLAB Design Studio are expert hospitality designers, experienced in successful restaurant, café, fast-food, bar and hotel interior design. We’d love to hear about your project today!

Tank. Melbourne Emporium

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