Spaghetti 360, Jump provide diverse challenges for Clifton Yeung

Scrabble, spaghetti, carnival lights, whips and silks are all elements Hong Kong designer Clifton Yeung has drawn on to create two very ambitious dining-space designs in the city.

Yeung, who heads the design consultancy bearing his name, led the development of a store concept for Cafe de Coral Group’s Spaghetti 360 in Tseung Kwan O, creating a template that is being progressively rolled out across the chain in Hong Kong. He has also overseen the creation of Jump Cafe for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, at the Shatin racecourse.

Specialising in retail stores and dining concepts, the designer whose portfolio includes the Bosch and Siemens appliance galleries in Central, took time out to explain the inspiration behind two vastly different projects.

Spaghetti 360 is based on a Japanese/western dining concept, its name referring to the promise to provide customers with a 360-degree total dining experience involving “high-quality food, impeccable service and comfortable environment”.

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A twist with words

A big fan of both cooking and eating, Yeung called on his culinary passion when designing the space.

If you take a bird’s-eye view of the Spaghetti 360 concept, the tables appear like spaces on a Scrabble board. Add letters and numbers, and you can spell out the restaurant’s name as well as culinary phrases, adding an element of fun to the dining experience.

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“It’s sort of like a themed restaurant, so I want people to experience more instead of the usual wood chairs and tables,” says Yeung, who has added spaghetti-like strings to add a pasta theme.

“Spaghetti is a very long pasta, so I used a lot of LED lights to create a spaghetti effect throughout the shop – on the ceilings, the walls and some other areas, like windows. People can see strips of spaghetti going up to the ceiling. That’s how I started designing the restaurant – Scrabble and spaghetti.”

Reflecting the blend of western and Asian food, Yeung chose bright red colours for “a bit of punch”, saying it is an iconic colour that is easier to remember.

Patterns silk-screened on the cushions and seatbacks represent strands of spaghetti. “Consistent design from furniture to fixtures to the graphics make for a theme-driven restaurant. Theme restaurants are easier for people to remember, especially for the mass market.”

To appeal to families and to encourage mums to meet for dinner or lunch, Yeung created a play zone for children. Bench seating is used to make it easier for families to control children.

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For ‘young rookies’

Over in Shatin, Yeung faced an entirely different challenge: creating a dining destination in a former public space with white walls, plastic chairs and television screens beaming betting odds and live racing feeds.

Jump Cafe was conceived by the Hong Kong Jockey Club as a way to appeal to “young rookies”. Deliberately steering clear of the high-end restaurant approach often found at racecourses, Yeung came up with a concept of a trendy, state-of-the-art cafe for the massive 26,000sqft space, taking inspiration from Hollywood and carnivals.

“We took a whole year to design this restaurant. It was in a concourse area with a really high ceiling. We built the restaurant from zero – there was no kitchen or anything there. That’s why it took so long.”

At the start of the design process Yeung took himself off to a weekend market to get a sense of atmosphere.

“The racecourse (and thus restaurant) opens only on a Sunday and a Wednesday, so I started thinking of a festival or weekend market. That’s why I have all these lights going on, little sparkles. It’s a big carnival space. It’s happy. It’s about the weekend and relaxing.

“I originally came up with a merry-go-round kitchen, and added a horse, but then it evolved and the client wanted to be more subtle. They told me: ‘There are so many horses out there you don’t have to put a horse in the restaurant’.”

Key signage for the space is created from letters formed by light bulbs. There are wall displays styled from riding whips, art inspired by the patterns and colours of jockeys’ uniforms (known as silks), while brick walls hint at horse stables.

“It’s a racing/Hollywood theme,” says Yeung. “They branded the restaurant Jump. The name came after the design (the working title was The Colt and Filly)… It’s a great name and easy to remember. It refers to race horses jumping from the starting gates.”

Jump Cafe

Stable environment

With a relaxed environment, the space is designed to encourage patrons to linger, as long as the whole day.

When you walk into the restaurant it is like walking into a stable. There is even a race simulation machine that gives a sense of a jockey’s work environment with silks and bridles, for example. It is all evolved around the horse.

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“I want people to start to get the feel of what racing is about. A lot of people don’t know this as a sport so much. It is a good time to sit down and be educated, and you can feel what the weights are, all the gears the horses and jockey wear. You can even try it on and ride a horse simulator.”

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There is also a serious side of the business: at least 100 TV screens. It was a design requirement that every Jump Cafe patron can see five screens wherever they are seated.

“So it’s all happening – all these TVs, the lights, the posters, the gear, the colours,” says Yeung. “And each zone has different coloured chairs so you won’t forget where you are seated.”

Jump Cafe 5*

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Circle of action

Yeung started the physical design by placing the kitchen in the middle of the restaurant.

“It is a square space, but I put the kitchen in the middle because I know it is a semi self-service restaurant. You have to order your food then pick it up, so I want people to line up around the restaurant instead of being stuck at the back. I wanted them to interact more, instead of having the kitchen at the back and all the seating at the front.

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“There is no flow to a restaurant if it is a normal rectangular shape, but if the middle is round, people can go around the restaurant and they can see the kitchen in action.”

The finished space also represents a shift of focus away from gambling to a carnival experience, to the racing, to the sport – part of the design brief.

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“It has had a great impact for the club as it shows how well they are telling people what they are doing. The design tells the entire racing story. It was a fun project, very dynamic,” says Yeung.

“They want you to spend the whole day there. I’m sure patrons will bet more because it is more enjoyable, more fun, more exciting than the plain white space with plastic chairs that was there before.”

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