Flexible space for eating, meeting & socializing

How dining rooms have evolved to meet the expectations of today’s travelers.

With hoteliers paying closer attention to their F&B outlets, interior designers have to devise new ways to ensure their dining spaces attract even the most discerning travelers and locals. We’ve noticed the most successful hotel restaurants have evolved into more than just restaurants, becoming flexible spaces that accommodate the changing behaviors of today’s hotel guest and restaurant patron. For the patron, these spaces can be additionally utilized as private dining rooms, meeting spaces, living rooms, or just casual hang outs.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a trend toward a more communal dining experience, which has been greatly influenced by the way people now work and live. Open-office environments and shared work spaces have become the norm, and open-floor plan kitchen living spaces are much more common. This has translated into other areas where people interact, work, play, socialize, etc. Naturally, the flexible dining space has evolved in response, and we see more people having dinner at a lounge chair and side tables, or having a meeting over coffee and croissants.

Southern Art and Bourbon Bar at InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta Hotel.

82 Fifty Restaurant & Bar at DoubleTree by Hilton Dallas - Campbell Centre.

Eating has also become more social than it’s ever been for many reasons, and one catalyst is people are more aware of what they are eating, where it comes from, and the natural farm-to-table trend. Food is a topic of lifestyle conversation and has developed into an art; especially as top chefs have primetime television slots showcasing the art of eating. Obviously, as lifestyles and workstyles have become more flexible, so in turn has the way we interact, naturally leading us to eating in a less formal and traditional way.

Understanding the chef

Texas Spice at Omni Dallas Hotel.

We employ a design process called “spatial mythology,” our original platform created specifically for each project, connecting human emotion with interior architecture and design by absorbing information, highly collaborative and spirited dialogues, and months of research and exploration. We use our spatial mythology as the guiding principle throughout the design process, keeping us grounded as we explore the driving aesthetic. This includes understanding the chef’s menu to achieve a design narrative that extends to the table design, from the plate color and flatware selection, to the napkin color and table linen. For a truly thoughtful and successful collaboration, designers must set the chef up for complete success. In our experience designing restaurants in collaboration with top chefs, and luxury spaces in general, we feel the interior of the dining space must feel as good as the food is to eat.

For the Southern Art and Bourbon Bar restaurant at InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta Hotel, we collaborated with Executive Chef Art Smith to bring his menu, “a blend of southern cooking heritage and a strong commitment to serving traditional classics,” into th design of the restaurant interior. One example of expressing his cuisine through design came to life in the private dining room, where our carpet design reflected recipes he had tastefully perfected.

Eating has also become more social than it’s ever been for many reasons, and one catalyst is people are more aware of what they are eating, where it comes from, and the natural farm-to-table trend.

And most recently, we conceived contemporary inspired interiors for the newly renovated DoubleTree by Hilton Dallas – Campbell Centre’s 82Fifty Restaurant and Bar. Executive Chef Jose “Paco” Chavez offers a modern twist on comfort foods and homemade favorites like chicken and waffles with the brand’s famous DoubleTree cookie baked in the batter. The private dining spaces add modern city amenities with additional options for small meetings, private events, luncheons, or dinners. Hoteliers want a restaurant with a dining space that offers a high-caliber look and feel, and 82Fifty Restaurant and Bar offers an aesthetic that complements the top quality of the menu options.

Southern Art and Bourbon Bar at InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta Hotel.

Social media influencing

Social media has greatly influenced the dining experience by the immediateness and exposure of design. More and more, people are posting photos of their plated food, creative new restaurant spaces, and the ever evolving new and fresh inspirations around the world. As designers, we are therefore pushed to think ahead of the next idea and trend so our exposed guest feels they are experiencing something new. Instagram exceeded 700 million monthly active users last year and is outpacing Facebook in generating interest from American teens. Instagrammable moments have become crucial for creating brand awareness for hotel restaurants and bars.

CURRENT at The Westin at The Woodlands.

We took this into consideration for the design of CURRENT, an all-day dining venue at the Westin at The Woodlands in Texas. This hotel sits along the northern bank of the Woodlands Waterway, a treelined canal and path system. Through the precise lens of a camera focused on the landscape, a design evolved that seamlessly transcends into the interior architecture and flows harmoniously throughout the entire hotel. The design concept of blurring the lines between the outside and inside carries into CURRENT, which features a structural column inspired by a deconstructed tree trunk. This sculptural focal point also serves as a canopy and a memorable social media opportunity.

Creating a vibe

Restaurants with successful vibes have as much to do with the lighting, music, and menu as they do with the overall design. Lasting impressions stay with people when the smallest detail has impacted their experience, and we always consider those details ahead of time.

When considering materials, lighting, and finishes for dining spaces, often it’s not about using something unique but about using a common material in a unique way. We love finding new ways to use stone, wood, and other natural materials. Dining spaces are great opportunities to be bold with pattern and color, incorporate dramatic art and lighting, and playfully mix three dimensional objects into the space.

Texas Spice at Omni Dallas Hotel.

When designing Texas Spice, a farm-totable American restaurant at the Omni Dallas Hotel, we drew our inspiration from the brand story, which captures the true flavor of Texas with an emphasis on local ingredients and Southern style that offers a twist on hometown classics. The design of the main dining room offers guests a space to feel connected to the history of Dallas while enjoying the comfort of a home-cooked meal. The dining room’s rustic interior was designed with repurposed materials that include red brick walls, “garage” doors, and wood details.


Waldrop+nichols studio is a Dallas, Texas, based interior architectural and design firm that specializes in luxury hotels. The studio is led by Reggi Nichols and Andrea Waldrop, who speak the same design lexicon and have accomplished success within the hospitality industry for more than 30 years. Continually shifting its focus, waldrop+nichols studio orchestrates bold design aesthetics that engage intelligently with guests through an edited study of interior architecture, materials, technology, and art.

With diverse backgrounds encompassing two hemispheres, Reggi and Andrea declare design as a lifestyle and define success as continually collaborating and authoring new hotel experiences with notable clients and brands, including Westin Hotels & Resorts, Omni Hotels & Resorts, and InterContinental Hotels Group.

Images courtesy of waldrop+nichols studio.

By Reggi Nichols and Andrea Waldrop, waldrop+nichols studio