When was the company launched and What inspired you to launch the company?
Dover Design was launched in 1995. Before that, I had been a partner or a director in design and architectural businesses, which helped me gain a lot of experience in how to run a design company, how to suit a project to the client’s needs, and how to complete it within budget.
What is the process involved with Designing your project?
There are several stages in the design process. First, the client gives us their vision, the brief of what they want, and the budget. Then we do a fair bit of research – we look at the clients’ business and their competitors, and think about their customers’ wants and aspirations. We aim to make each project individually and reflect the client’s personality and targets, and something their business can use to thrive. Also, the locality plays a key part, and we have to make sure our proposal fits with the area and its demographic. One solid design in the south might just not work in the north of the country. Typically a project takes around 6 months – The early feasibility work followed by the ‘look and feel’ scheme, the detailed drawings, and getting competitive costs occupies the first 3 months, followed by manufacturing time and then 4 to 8 weeks of building on-site, depending on size and complexity. Listed Buildings take much longer, usually 15 to 18 months. A big challenge of the design process is making sure you are not rushed by the client, resulting in mistakes, a loss in quality, and always more expense.
What is your Favourite or most memorable project?
That’s a tough one because I’ve done so many during my long career. As all our designs are unique and client-specific we have a lot of really satisfying projects, particularly in the restaurant, bar, and hospitality sector. High street chains like Zizzi, Prezzo, ASK, and Ed’s Easy Diner all had their star sites, some in Heritage buildings. At airports we have done upscale Giraffes, Garfunkel’s, and many other brands – competition there is rife, and it’s extra important to get it right! The relationship with smaller entrepreneurs like CrepeAffaire and Caffe Concerto is very close because they run a very tight business, and give it their undivided attention, always seeking to improve and staying sharp amongst the competition. Well-established national businesses like Pret a Manger are very disciplined, have a clear concept and a smooth delivery system. Everyone knows exactly what they are doing, and it’s a pleasure to be part of such a team, being part of another successful restaurant. Many of my favourite projects are the harder ones because they are more challenging and therefore more satisfying to complete. It’s like climbing a tall hill – a complete pain to do but once there you have an amazing view and that sense of achievement. A thank you from the client means a lot to me, and it really feels good to create something that the client and their customers are happy with. Positive feedback is great in any sector, but when it’s something you have designed and created out of an abstract idea, that gives a huge feeling of accomplishment.
Do you have a specific target market?
We have designed for a variety of different sectors. Restaurants is one we have a lot of experience in but we have designed projects from 3-star hotels, Bowling venues, and pubs to 6-star casinos. Hospitality would be my favourite because it’s very much about making the experience for the consumer. With boutiques and retail, they use the design to promote the product on the shelf, whilst with hospitality, it’s about making the guest feel relaxed and comfortable. I am very much a host myself and love having people around to cook for them so that very much relates to my day job!
Where would you like to be in both the short and long term?
Our main aim is to continue to offer long-term reliable service. Some design companies continue long after their founder retires, and I would like that to happen with my business. Meanwhile, I enjoy training our young designers and hopefully passing on some of my knowledge. Our USP is the professional service and reliable design solutions that clients recognise. We don’t indulge in design for its own sake but look to find the right solution for the individual client, at an affordable price. Fashion is very influential, but I’m careful not to be led by it because we need to protect our clients’ investment, and fashionable interiors often become outdated very quickly. I prefer to find a ‘classic’ look that can be refreshed easily, and which will look good for longer.
How would you say the business has evolved?
The environment has radically changed over the last ten years – people have swung away from having long sit-down meals and enjoying that easy vibe and table service, to a much faster-paced experience, quick service restaurants, take-aways, and the ease of delivery in our instant online world. So the designs have to reflect that. When customers are in a hurry, the place has to get its message out in a glance, but when staying for longer, the place needs to offer more depth, atmosphere, and interest. The business has evolved me as well, when starting I was very much in control of the design, but now I am both training and trusting my colleagues and this reflects into our work. While I bring my deep experience to the table, my designers often bring fresh ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of. The Hotel sector interests me because there they embrace all the needs of the traveler, and the cafes, bars, and restaurants should be a big part of that welcoming hospitality and experience.