A Beacon Quay Landmark: The Below Decks Restaurant Refurbishment

When gutxi was approached by Below Decks to help refurbish their restaurant, we were delighted. In this case study, we look at the challenges and unique opportunities that helped to transform this space from quayside café to bustling Torquay community hub.

We spoke to Mark Green, to understand how this well-loved local establishment was transformed. It was important that the community of local customers came along for the journey.

A well-used space

“I’ve been a regular customer there for the last 12 years and had a good understanding of the customer base. The restaurant is used all day from breakfast through to the evening, so you need to understand how people use it at different times of day, and for different functions.”

A deep understanding of client needs

“It’s important that the bar area was given enough space to function and adapt to changing trading patterns throughout the day and through the seasons. In the summer, the far outside seating area is busy with servers walking back and forth across the road.”

“The one of the important features of the interior is the acoustics. The products we used on the walls and ceiling make the bar and restaurant a really nice place to sit and talk. We find that cafés with hard ceilings and hard floors can sometimes be a bit loud, which can make you feel tense. And if you’re working in a noisy environment all day you’re going to be exhausted at the end of your shift.”

An opportunity presents itself

Mid-design, Below Decks came to you with a project scope amendment – they had purchased the restaurant next door. Can you talk through what that change meant for this project?

Interestingly, the expansion into the adjacent unit has made it much more successful as a destination restaurant. They now have more space for functions, and parties. If there is a change in the weather, there’s plenty of room inside as well.

Technically, the expansion wasn’t difficult to design; It meant we needed to give more space to the kitchen since the covers had doubled. There was alot more seating to put in place, more signage to commission, and dealing with the massive folding glass shop front doors. The expansion wasn’t necessarily a design challenge, but it did make a big difference to the budget overall.”

Creating spaces for customer occasions

The restaurant has several distinct areas, snugs, banquette, bar – what went into creating these areas?

“We’ve created space in front of the bar where people can happily stand and have a drink. We’ve created more secluded seating places, so you can gather in small groups, and we’ve designed the most flexible kind of main dining room. All of these spaces are nicely separated enough not to impact on each other – but still feel connected enough to be part of the same ambience.”

I always like to have some kind physical separation between the bar and restaurant areas, so someone’s not overbearing you while you’re having a meal. It is important that you try and keep those two zones separate. Banquette seats are a great way of helping with the acoustics, but they also tie the layout down so it can’t be deconstructed.

A perfect set of spaces

Group dining is obviously an important part of the restaurant offer, and you need places where people feel that they can create their own little bit of space to come together and celebrate.

The snug area is elevated and it’s quite good for people watching, and you can see the hustle and bustle of customers coming and going.

The bar area has a long counter to set your drink and meet people after work or after a day on the water. It’s the perfect place to come in for a drink now and then, stand and enjoy the company of your friends and colleagues, while still looking outside at the boats and the people going past.

Designed to withstand wear and tear

Below Decks is incredibly busy with regulars, tourists, sailors, ferrygoers and many more. We wanted to know about the design and materials choices for such a busy restaurant on Beacon Quay.

Walls and floors

The walls feature timber slat panels, which gives lovely acoustics and it comes prefinished so you can wipe it down – it’s a great product. The parquet flooring is luxury vinyl tile (LVT). You need something that’s hardwearing, and will stick to a concrete base that is essentially the old harbour with latex on top of it! We couldn’t use timber because the moisture content would be too high; we could use ceramic tile, but it would be really noisy. In a restaurant, you know anything falling onto a ceramic tile floor would be gone. Although luxury vinyl tiles are not particularly environmentally friendly, they are the go-to product for high traffic hospitality and retail areas.

The walls are bevelled edge brick bond, ceramic tiles. They’re hard-wearing and they’ll take a knock or a bash. The tops feature stained solid ash trim capping on the low level walls.

Bar area

In terms of design, we wanted to give the bar area a distinct visual appeal with hexagonal tiles in a clamshell abstract. The client insisted we retain the distinct and memorable boat-shaped bar. The overall effect says “seafood” without being a novelty. The lovely dark blue colours of the matte tiles and the lighting offer a great contrast to show off the sparkling bottles of spirits on the back bar.

Above the bar is a large bulkhead with loads of storage designed right in, over the coffee machines and running the entire length. It’s essential to have storage to hand with such a busy restaurant.

The Below Decks aesthetic

Below Decks has a maritime look without going over the top. We designed to create a modern abstraction of materials, colours and details that are visually associated with maritime trades. We used a French Riviera colour palette that is refined and understated.

Fulfilling a promise to the Beacon Quay community

Below Decks has triggered the renaissance on Beacon Quay, and a great deal of consultation went into the refurbishment to bring all the various traders on board with the expansion and refurbishment.

We worked closely with the other tenants in a collaborative and cooperative sense. It’s great to see the community come together behind it. We provided the design proposals, so people could see with their own eyes there was something good about to happen.

All the shopfront soffits and fascias have been upgraded and painted dark grey with wood panelling. Even the harbourmaster has been quoted saying the refurbishment along the quayside has been fantastic. He loves all the positive energy and initiatives to upgrade the properties along the Quay, contributing to the local community and making it’s people incredibly proud of where they work and play in Torquay.

The end result

The end result is a light, airy and welcoming space that feels like you’re sitting on the edge of the water. gutxi are proud to have been hospitality designers on such a fulfilling project in our local area. When your restaurant is in need of refurbishment, an expansion, or a redesign, you can depend on gutxi to create a bespoke hospitality design that is perfect for your business. Get in touch for a free on-site consultation at hello@gutxi.co.uk.