How to display unique experiences?

As the restaurant business is becoming more about offering a unique experience to the customer, the supplier needs to keep up with the changes and stay on top of trends. Fyra helped E. Ahlström by turning its showroom into a source of inspiration.

The current dining trends have turned restaurants into more relaxed environments offering unique experiences. This means restaurants look for ideas and inspirations for interior solutions as well as in terms of products.

This was the starting point when E. Ahlström moved and opened their showroom in Helsinki in summer 2017.

The largest supplier for the industry professionals in Finland had been in the previous location for two decades. The hundred-year-old company wanted to undergo a complete renovation.

“Since the restaurant business has changed, we, too, had to find new ways of displaying our products and services”, says Teija Sääksmäki, Sales Manager at E. Ahlström. “We were looking for a partner that could create a new kind of working approach and environment.”

Ahlström chose Fyra. The interior architects began working with different focus groups in the company gathering information and identifying the wishes and needs of the customers and the personnel. In addition to the showroom, Fyra designed also new offices for E. Ahlström.

Bring out the inspiration

Ahlström provides a comprehensive service ranging from place setting to project interiors. Buyers, chefs, team managers, restaurant managers and other professionals working with concept development come looking for solutions for varied needs. In addition to the restaurant and hotel business, the company provides services also in the field of public administration.

The showroom must be suitable for the requirements set by Michelin restaurants, operators in institutional food service as well as, for example, the needs of small day-care centres.

The wide variety of products offers an interesting challenge. The whole-sale company has over 7000 products in stock. They also represent over 300 brands importing and selling their products. A wide selection of products to order means E. Ahlström has an extensive array with which to attract the attention of clients and inspire them.

“What all our customers have in common is that they are looking for ideas. We decided that we will strive to become an even bigger source of inspiration.”

A dynamic and diverse showroom

Previously E. Ahlström would showcase their items on shelves but now they are displayed on countertops. The counters provide an easier way of creating different place settings and atmospheres for the client to imagine them in their restaurant.

The products of the project interior department were moved to be a part of the showroom whereas quiet work spaces were moved in the office section. The work spaces provide a continuum to the showroom and inspire both the clients as well as the staff.

By using different countertop materials that can be easily changed, it is possible to build different settings, atmospheres and themes. Fyra suggested reducing the number of items on display.

“The customers think our selection is bigger now though it’s quite the opposite”, Teija Sääksmäki laughs.

The displays are now divided in different segments thus decision-making is easier for the client. The customers can also make their own combinations in the showroom and study trends and different styles. The understated, minimalist Scandinavian interior provides a lasting backdrop for displaying various changing product groups.

The lighting was also a feature Fyra focused on: “Different products and creating different atmospheres were kept in mind when designing the lighting”, says Niina Sihto who was in charge of the interior design.

Fun sparring sessions

Sääksmäki is really happy with the result.

“We got a modern showroom and absolutely amazing facilities for our staff. The old building is filled with new fresh ideas. Even though we, too, work providing interior solutions, Fyra helped us by creating a harmonious ambience present throughout our offices”, Sääksmäki says.

The facility has 1374 m2, of which 650 m2 is showroom premises.

“We would not have gone for such bold use of colour but luckily Fyra were brave and wanted to challenge us. Our meetings were like fun sparring sessions.”

According to Sääksmäki the colour palette Fyra chose turned visiting the showroom into an experience. The colours also provide a setting that emphasises the products and appliances. For example, the beautiful blue shelves draw attention to the kitchen products.

Another detail E. Ahlström is happy with is the fact that the showroom surfaces can easily be painted to stay on top of current trends.

“Our and the focus groups’ wishes were realised with a success rate of at least 95 percent.”

Photographer: Sampsa Pärnänen

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