RDA forecasts five design trends for 2021

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The RDA design team believes a more local influence will be evident in this year’s hospitality designs.

Kitchen design house RDA tasked its design team with making some predictions about which of the pandemic-prompted changes in hospitality venue design are here to stay, and which will disappear as social distancing restrictions begin to ease.

The team members identified five key trends, as follows:


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RDA believes the F&B outlets which survived or even thrived in 2020 were those which recognised that flexibility is key, being open-minded and adaptive as restrictions and the weather changed.

Senior designer Ruth Boote said: “We saw teepees and marquees erected outside of pubs and restaurants, outdoor spaces adapted for food markets, craft sales and street food offerings, plus the key role of technology in ensuring takeaway services involved minimal interactions and delays.”

And while the demand for a space to be versatile is nothing new, operators are more attuned than ever to the need for a bar, restaurant or other events venue to be commercial in other guises, she feels: “Versatile design – flexible seating, movable screens, pop-up counters, demountable décor – will form an even more critical part of clients’ briefs in 2021.”

Celebrating local

With travel restrictions in the place and stories of small businesses on the brink, there was a shift in the public consciousness towards giving something back to local communities in 2020, the RDA team noted.

In 2021, the company predicts that this movement will be reflected in the design choices of both bona fide small businesses and big brand names. Ben Shepherd, a senior designer based in RDA’s London office, said: “Think architectural aesthetics, open frameworks, exposed brickwork and transparency – literally, as in beer kegs on display behind see-through bar fronts and taps on the back bar wall facing clients.”

The team also anticipate a rise in demand for modular design in 2021, with enterprises of all sizes keen to establish an authentic, local, trustworthy feel; something which can be suggested by the use of modular units.


After a year like last year, RDA doesn’t anticipate clients’ sustainability consciences going anywhere. According to design director Nick Bradley: “If anything, we predict sustainability elements of briefs will become even more exacting, with demand rising for closed-loop materials, carbon neutral manufacture and transportation.”

The RDA team predicts we’ll finally see an end to so-called ‘greenwash’ in 2021, with operators choosing materials and finishes for front and back of house which truly support their eco credentials and reflect their values.

Elevated F&B offerings in the workplace

In the workplace, RDA believes there will be lower-occupancy offices emerging which will look markedly different to the kinds of spaces we’re accustomed to.

The team sees flexible or ‘hybrid’ working as being here to stay for many, and employers will be under pressure to create versatile and attractive office spaces to tempt workers away from home for team projects requiring more face-to-face contact.

Designer Lucy Stewart said: “In terms of F&B provision, we think we’ll see more demand for coffee and snack bars, outdoor areas for barbecues and social gatherings and, overall, an elevated ‘home from home’ aesthetic feel. Exciting, innovative, ‘destination’ workplaces are about to come to the fore.”

Biophilic details and wellness

And finally, after a year where everyone has been encouraged to stay at home and mental health has taken a big hit, RDA predicted that designers have biophilic details high on their agendas for 2021.

Biophilic design or ‘bringing the outside in’ can be achieved through a range of different measures, including nature-inspired colours, planting, access to natural light and carefully curated artwork.

Account manager Gemma Banks detailed: “Already a big focus in 2020, we can see clients underpinning their commitment to employee and client wellbeing by taking even bolder steps in this direction in 2021.”

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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