Day 1 @ KODW2014: Fifty Shades of Cutlery, The Recyclable Hotel and Other Hospitality-Focused Topics
June 24, 2014
Move over, Agent Provocateur: sensual cutlery is what the cool kids wish they were experimenting with during their next play date. Today's seminar about sensory-focused dining innovation left me pondering if Nigella Lawson deserves some extra street cred (sex sells, but the fusion of food and sex trumps the age-old adage). This presentation is part of this year's Knowledge of Design Week, a five-day programme boasting a slew of conferences, seminars and workshops dedicated to exploring how design and innovation foster success in retail and hospitality.
Seoul-native, but working in Eindhoven, Jinhyun Jeon kicked off her seminar with a video of a glossy-lipped dame licking, kissing and sucking—complete with inappropriate slurpy, smoochy sound bites—and an array of unusual dining utensils called Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli, which resembled what you might imagine if the rabbit and the mad hatter from Alice in Wonderland met up to make a few new tea party tasting tools. One of the spoons had what looked like a bumpy, pimply edge and another was shaped like a nipple on a stick.
The envelope-pushing presentation discussed her research findings after conducting extensive experiments. Instead of the standard knives and forks, she presented guests with a collection of the innovative utensils and let them decide which tools to use. She found that since her designs focused on bringing other senses to the forefront (like the visual stimuli of sipping from the electric-pink bowl of a spoon) diners ate at a slower leisurely rate. 90 minutes were initially allotted but more than four hours passed during one of the cutlery tests. The experiment has been a resounding success and Michelin-starred restaurants are clamouring for her wares.
Another innovative foodie venture is Dinner Lab, a pop-up supper series launched almost two years ago in New Orleans by entrepreneur Brian Bordainick and a few pals. Bordainick led a discussion about his project, which is turning conventional dining on its head by using diner data-driven menus and one-off dinners in unique locales.
Through a very large number of feedback slips from his event attendees, he crowdsources opinions to find out what diners really enjoyed and what they didn't and curates future events based on these findings. His experiment has paid off and his data has allowed him to open a full-time restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee.
Innovation in hospitality was the theme for Day 1, and dasparkhotel is certainly that. Andreas Strauss dreamed of designing a hotel using reclaimed materials (and to be recycled afterwards) which led him to the inexpensive, concrete sewage pipe. He repurposed them into modest home-away-from-homes and let the customers pay what they wanted. The project took off, expanding from Austria to Germany, where he has a collection of the pipe-turned-cottages situated on leafy plots of public parks. Strauss continues to refashion everyday items into useful tools: his new pet project, the soupmobile, is a moveable soup kitchen repurposed from a dumpster.
A term passed around today was "big data analytics": which, in non-industry speak, is the use of a gargantuan collection of information used to fuel research and development. Stefan Geens, concept developer at Äventyret, illustrated how using this data can provide insight into how consumers think. For instance, Geens says a study used big data analytics to reveal that populations from developing countries place more of their self-worth on materialistic goods while people in developed countries place less value on how much they own.
Rounding off the hospitality-centric day, Chris Hosmer, managing director at Continuum, discussed how his team pulled off a major billion dollar rebranding of hotel chain Holiday Inn. One of the major goals was to increase the food and beverage sales among guests. By focusing on customers' behaviors, he realized that a lot of things had to be redesigned within the hotel’s lobby. Part of his consumer-focused rebrand involved changing the way guests spent their first moments after arriving at the hotel. Hosmer knew weary travellers would want to put down their luggage and browse their email, and he helped design an open-concept lobby complete with workstations that allowed customers to jump online before checking in. Turning the lobby into a versatile space, it was naturally transformed into Holiday Inn’s ‘Social Hub’.