Thoughts & Insights /

Looking forward to the future of hospitality

25th August 2021 — By Lee Roberts, Creative Director in London

The past year’s experiences act as a strong beam of positivity.

The past year has been a huge test for us at Zebra – as it has been for the whole country and indeed the world. There’s no denying the pandemic’s impact on hospitality. As we look ahead, the past year’s experiences now act as a strong beam of positivity, guiding us as we participate in and help shape the future fabric of the hospitality industry.

Hospitality is at the heart of us as humans

In the short term, Covid-19 has altered the guest perception of hospitality; guests want to feel comfortable around other guests, are much more aware of their surroundings and are willing to question a venue’s safety standards. Looking forward, I think we will all be more health and safety conscious in general – and considering the local and global impact of Covid, this can only be a good thing.

The lack of hospitality experiences over the past year or so has been hard and has highlighted just how important the industry is on a very personal level. Hospitality connects us – it is at the heart of us as humans, providing environments for socialising and interaction. It is the warm welcome, the amazing atmosphere and the space to meet friends and family. These venues are settings for moments of joy, fun and celebration – things we have all missed this past year.

The connection we have with one other and our need to socialise and interact will pull the industry through adversity. We will find ways to experience past norms – and we’ll continue to do this, even with an altered perspective.

The new normal is about respecting the past

As a worldwide community we have embraced technology perhaps quicker than we might have done; online shopping, delivery, takeaway and drive-thru have made wonderful additions to many people’s lives.

At Zebra, we are focused on delivering Design that Connects. This is our approach to design transformation; how we connect brand, guest, location and space through sensory design that communicates with the five senses. Technology will play a part in how we make these connections more meaningful and memorable, using it to enhance and benefit the guest experience, but never to replace real human interaction.

Future hospitality spaces should fuse the uptake of technology with more typical ways of integration that answers the human desire for emotional connection. Here at Zebra, we plan to take our success stories from the past year and bring them forward in a way that feels right for the client, the experience and the customer journey.

Spotlight: Integrating technology into Shake Shack’s first drive-thru

One of those success stories is our design concept for the inaugural Shake Shack drive-thru in Orlando, Florida.

Shake Shack is a Zebra client of many years and we’ve created some fabulous projects with them globally. An often-discussed topic was a drive-thru – a new avenue for the brand in 2020. Working seamlessly across our four offices we explored a new blank canvas, diving into all the aspects of the customer journey, exterior and interior architecture and integration of smart technology.

Welcome to the next generation Shake Shack.

We’ve designed what is heralded as the Next Generation Shake Shack where the customer journey and concept of community are major design focal points. Layers of connection synchronise the brand across different touchpoints; arriving for a first visit, ordering on the Shack App for Shack Track pick-up, curb side pick-up, delivery and of course the traditional option to order instore, either by kiosk or at the counter.

We are very excited to see the new concept launch in Florida and variations are to follow across the USA. You can drive-thru more information on our Shake Shack design here.

Flexibility is the future

This past year has been a huge learning curve for all businesses. Being able to adapt and be truly flexible has been an immense asset for us. It is important to keep this mindset going forward.

With the ever-changing goalposts of modern society, one thing remains constant: connecting with the customer or guest. Hospitality spaces need to become destinations people want to visit again and again for the warmth, the stunning environment or the cuisine. Technology supports this, great design enables this and brands can deliver this unique experience.

I look forward to us all re-connecting with our family and friends in our favourite spots as we ease into a brave new world. Throughout the pandemic, I believe we have learnt to truly respect and embrace our local communities and businesses and supporting local venues both in hospitality and retail will be crucial for the success of many.

On a personal note, I cannot thank the Zebra teams in Arizona, London, Dubai and Hong Kong enough for their resilience, bravery, understanding, effort, drive and positive outlook. Through exceptional teamwork and commitment to our clients, we’ve delivered as a seamless, synchronised global family and our bond has never been tighter. Your concepts, ideas and designs are the future of hospitality – and it looks very, very bright.