Motta Caffè Bar Milano 1928

It’s a question I’ve been asked repeatedly in recent years because it seems everyone in the restaurant design community — indeed, the design community as a whole — goes to this annual global furnishings and design event for inspiration, to see what’s next and to share their love of good design.

While Salone del Mobile is a bit outside my scope of coverage as it relates to this magazine, I was lucky enough to go to HostMilano this fall, one of the largest hospitality-focused trade shows in the world. It was my first visit to Milan, and it was great to get a taste of what so many readers of rd+d have expressed about the city — that it’s filled with design and cultural relevance, grand architecture, glamour and history.

HostMilano featured a huge selection of foodservice equipment and furnishings as well as enough coffee and gelato to keep one going through the twenty-plus exhibition halls on a mix of caffeine and sugar that powered through the jet lag.

While in Milan, I kept thinking about what it means to have an authentic design. Authentic design is a topic that has come up again and again when talking to restaurant designers.

I’ve found it hard to wrap my head around the idea of authenticity in design. It’s easy to see in people. We all like people who appear relatable and are fans of celebrities who seem to be “just like us,” but when it comes to spaces, what defines authenticity?

Designers describe authentic design in several ways, from unadorned simplicity that showcases craftsmanship and function to defining a brand’s messaging and then ensuring that every aspect of the design carries that message home.

I’ve come to think of authenticity in restaurant design as an effort to create a sense of place where the target demographic feels at h      ome. Oddly enough, this appears to manifest itself in literally recreating residential atmospheres via smaller, more intimate zones, residential-style furniture with heartier upholstery and even retro rec rooms. At Maddon’s Post in Chicago, the private dining room even features a vintage stereo and records for guests to play.

Creating a sense of place and, even more important, a sense of belonging to a space is a way to get guests to linger, to come back, to become friends and fans of the restaurant.

Of course, HostMilano is not the only trade show our team attends. We spend the trade show season seeking new trends, meeting designers and developers, and picking up press kits that outline new products along the way!

Five times a year, rd+d publishes Solutions Center to keep readers up to date on the latest products, and once a year, we go a step further by taking a deeper dive into specific product categories. This is that issue. The products curated here are a mix of the best and the most interesting things our editors have seen, and we hope they help you create authentic restaurant designs in 2020.

See you in the future and maybe in Milan,