Twickenham Stadium, the home of English rugby, was looking to upgrade the customer experience at its food and beverage retail offers in order to be truly world-class across all areas of its offer in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which England is set to host after winning the 2009 selection bid. At the same time, the stadium's owners - the RFU (Rugby Football Union) - had changed a number of its core branding elements and these also had to be incorporated into any new designs. The result is the Twickenham Experience - a joint venture between the RFU and operator Levy Restaurants.
SHH worked as the design partner for Levy Restaurants on the new project, tasked with creating completely new designs for the bar and food servery areas, which are located all around the stadium (numbering 40 units in total). Twickenham Stadium is made up of four stands (north, south, east and west) with lower, middle and upper tiers for each stand.
"This was a very exciting opportunity for Levy Restaurants as it really allowed us the chance to bring our retail philosophy into play, which we have spent a long time creating," commented Roy Westwood, Creative Director of Levy Restaurants. "This is based on how a bar can best function efficiently in this kind of concourse environment, through the creation of multiple levels of customer interaction, which ensure that a really different customer experience that is memorable, unique and much more open and welcoming than traditional kiosk operations."
The brief to SHH for the concourse food and drink offers was to integrate all practical and operational requirements in a visually-impactful environment that would improve customer experience, forming part of a much more developed design approach than one would normally find in a stadium environment. The specific criteria were threefold: speed of service, ease of processing and visual clarity in terms of queuing, choosing and paying.
"The bar and food unit redesign came with a lot of challenges," commented SHH Creative Director Neil Hogan. "Although the units are located under cover on each level, they are also exposed to the elements because of the open access from the stadium seating areas. They therefore had to be engineered as if they were outdoor bars in order to contend with the cold and the damp. Usage before, after and during matches - especially at half-time - can be incredibly frenetic with huge queues and massive time pressures for serving, so everything had to function incredibly tightly."
The simple words for the re-designed offers - 'Hunger' and 'Thirst' - came from the new RFU brand guidelines, but SHH chose to use them at superscale on huge red façades for maximum impact and visibility. As the base units themselves were fairly unforgiving - cold, hard and made of concrete - the strong use of colour, graphics and lighting was important to enable them to stand out as much as possible. Wherever possible, the height of the units was used in full to open them up and play with proportions and scale and to make the units feel more welcoming and enticing for customers.
"SHH have really played on the material palette and scale of these outlets in their designs," added Roy Westwood, "choosing to complement the industrial, rather brutalist feel of the core shells rather than concealing or working against them."
Digital screens at two scales (large in the exterior corridor area and smaller for behind the counters) are used to alert, direct and inform customers, as well as to underscore RFU Twickenham's brand values. The graphic language for the screens was created by SHH and offers the operator and the RFU flexibility as to which brands are advertised, as these can change according to games and individual sponsorship deals. Special offers and prices are also flagged up here.
"As a subtle reflection of the location, we photographed the famous wall of bronze statues of famous former players at Twickenham," explained Neil Hogan, "and then used elements of those images in shadow form on some of the more generic digital images to add a sense of place."
Customers see the well-lit façades and digital screens from a distance as they approach, helping them make the choice of which bar or food servery to queue at. Small white cubes mounted onto the red facades help delineate queues according to payment type - cash or cash & card - to improve speed of service. The right place to queue is subtly underlined by vertical red lighting strips set into the black bar fascia, whilst high-level shelving helps those queuing to make their choices before they arrive at the counter and give their order.
The design of each bar is layered, with industrial pendant lights at the front for the 'Hunger' counters and a material palette that includes chunky mesh, black steel fronts, stainless steel counters and red waterproof laminate; a 'hardy and masculine' overall look according to Neil Hogan.
The new designs for this first phase of the masterplan are all now completed, open and functioning very well, helping to keep people moving - and in good tempers! - during the full-on rush of the interval. Later phases of the overall hospitality masterplan are still to be implemented.
"This project shows just how effective the teamwork is between the Levy Restaurants' Innovations Creative Team and SHH,'" Roy Westwood concluded. "Our relationship goes from strength to strength and finds expression in the delivery of unique client experiences that are totally aligned to individual venues."
Photos: Gareth Gardner