ABDA scores with Manchester football project


With some keen football fans among its creative division, there was no shortage of inspiration among the team at ABDA Design when the company was handed the task of conceiving the lay-out for the National Football Museum’s new cafe and restaurant.

Having always been located at Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium, the museum recently moved 30 miles down the road to Manchester, taking up residence in the city’s iconic Urbis Building. As the curators set about transferring all manner of memorabilia down the M61, Northamptonshire-based ABDA was busy turning its foodservice designs into reality.

Although the company undertakes full kitchen fit-outs as part of its offering, the availability of existing kitchens in the Urbis Building meant the project brief was primarily focused around the interior design of the cafe and the restaurant. In the case of the cafe, it also involved specifying a complementary range of front-of-house equipment.

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Working with operator Kudos, ABDA decided fairly early on that the football theme would run through into the cafe space, with lots of random quirks, retail displays and a 20 metre mural designed by renowned illustrator Harry Malt helping to capture the mood.

One of the main objectives for those charged with running the food operation, though, is attracting customers that aren’t actually visiting the museum — another reason why the interior only makes subtle references to football rather than anything excessive.

“It was really about making it a cafe that could appeal to all types of users and attract passing trade,” explains Sean Cooksley, creative director at ABDA. “Due to its location near the train station commuters will pass the museum and there is direct access into the cafe off the street as well, so it is also trying to attract those customers in to maximise sales.”

The museum predominately wanted a set-up that would work in a similar way to the likes of Pret A Manger and EAT, where customers are provided with a wide selection of grab and go items.

“We specified the new Foster slimline multidecks because we were a bit restricted in some areas with space and they were absolutely ideal for providing a great deal of display as well as working with us in terms of the ergonomics of them,” says Cooksley. “In terms of the counters, the main severy counter was a bespoke design. We worked with Proline to create a display which features ambient and hot glass displays. Pastries and cakes are covered off in the ambient section, and then pies and hot wraps that are linked with the football experience are in the hot displays.”

As well as the three Foster multidecks, the cafe features a selection of undercounter refrigeration from Alpeninox, commercial blenders from Blendtec, a Bravilor RLX 75 tabletop coffee machine, two bean-to-cup machines specified by the operator and separate water boilers.

“We were working on the basis of having three till points, which are strategically sited by the displays with the two coffee machines behind, so that they can cope with the quick turnaround of large groups of people entering the space,” says Cooksley.

All food is prepared on the site in an existing facility located next to the counter area, but concealed from view with timber-clad partitioning and a football-themed netting design. In a similar vein, the fifth-floor kitchen used to serve the restaurant is a legacy feature of the building that the museum decided not to change.

“The idea was to make full use of the main kitchen because the equipment was in pretty good working order and not too old, so they are able to utilise the majority of it without outlaying a huge capital cost,” explains Cooksley. “From the council’s point of view, and Kudos as the contract caterer, they wanted to keep the budget more for the front-of-house experience.”

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As with the cafe, ABDA had to bear in mind that when designing the interior of the restaurant — which boasts stunning views across the city — the aim of the operators was to entice the Manchester night-time crowd and compete with the crowded local dining scene.

That led ABDA to come up with an idea based on kaleidoscopes and changing images, says Cooksley. “When you use a kaleidoscope it is about changing forms and colour and light. The restaurant space changing from being a museum restaurant space in the day to more of a dining destination at night was the basis for our theory on working on the space,” he explains. “It laid down the concept for styling the interiors — playing on the use of light, the use of colour and the use of geometric forms.”

Creating a set-up to meet the needs of a specific set of clients is one thing, but making it flexible enough to cater to another profile in the space of the same day is another. In achieving that, though, ABDA has delivered a winner.

See pictures of the project in our online gallery here.

Natural path from design to fit-out

ABDA might have established itself as one of the UK’s leading kitchen installation houses but the roots of the company have actually always been in interior design and consultancy.

Prior to becoming a design, build and equipment supply company seven years ago, it specialised in providing interior design solutions to customers in the hospitality and catering areas.

Sean Cooksley, creative director at ABDA, says that expanding its services to provide a fully rounded offering made sense given its expertise. “We had so much experience dealing with back-of-house areas as well as front-of-house that it was always a natural progression that we got into designing and fitting out kitchen spaces,” he says.

“If you look at the experience of the staff, we have got catering designers on board as well as interior designers now, so we are able to offer that full turnkey solution. We can do design and consultancy on projects or take it through from full fit-out.”

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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