Philip Harrison's Top 6 Pub Design Trends

Philip Harrison, Founder and Managing Director of Harrison is recognised as one of the most influential people in the leisure industry, with a highly successful design career spanning over four decades - and he isn’t slowing down anytime soon with an array of upcoming projects up his sleeve for 2022 and beyond. Here he gives his thoughts on design trends for pubs, which will elevate the customer experience whilst improving your bottom line. 

There’s no doubt the pandemic has forced pub brands to take a forensic look at everything they offer – and this is one of few positives to emerge from a tough 18 months for the hospitality sector.

Why? - Because it will make them better.

1. Comfort and style

As well as safety, think how you can create an inviting welcome for your customers when you reopen.

We’re talking rich, warm interior colours, comfortable furnishings like deep, fabric Chesterfields and dining height tables. Lighting will be key, too, alongside something else they’ll be striving for – a sense of community.

So, try adding pictures and artwork that tell the story of your venue or the local community in which its based.

How we do it…

The White Bear in Kennington, South London, winner of a Restaurant and Bar Award, has existed since 1780 – that’s 240 years of history. We worked with Young’s Brewery’s brief to create a traditional pub that worked as a modern venue but held on all of that rich and varied heritage.

We created an interior framed around eclectic, layered artwork and weathered bric-a-brac, as well as a number of discreet ‘snug’ areas for extended comfort.

2. A theatrical approach

Your venue should be one that creates memories for the people who drink and dine in it. And the best way to create that lasting impression, and ensure your customers talk about their experience, is through a sense of ‘theatre’.

Drama and theatre should ooze from your interior, with focal points to capture your customers’ attention at different touch points.

Themed interiors that reflect a venue’s history and story will be everywhere in 2021, but creating genuine ‘theatre’ goes even further than that

How we do it…

At the White Bear in Kennington, Young’s wanted to stimulate their customers at every point of their visit, from entering the venue and deciding where to sit, to ordering a drink at the bar and purchasing food. We created a dedicated dining area with an open kitchen, where customers could watch their meals being prepared and breathe in the sights, sounds and smells of a busy kitchen service. 

Not only that, with outdoor spaces so crucial to reopening during the pandemic, the venue’s large beer garden now even includes three beehives that produce honey used in a number of dishes on the pub’s menu.

3. Tell your brand’s story

Make your customers feel part of something more than simply a place to eat and drink by introducing them to the story of your venue. Cold, soulless venues that focus on style over substance will be overtaken by pubs and bars that offer a deeper emotional connection in 2021.

Showcase objects from your venue’s past, like old brewing barrels or distilling machinery and put heritage at the forefront of what you do. All of those things allow your customers to immerse themselves in your brand and their love of what you do and what you stand for will keep them coming back time and time again.

It’s honest, it’s authentic and it’s what people want.

How we do it…

We worked with Fuller’s to create the stunning Sail Loft venue in Greenwich, London. The clue is in the name and the venue’s views over the River Thames were at the forefront of our design thinking. But even a new venue can have a history – in the Sail Loft’s case, from the historic maritime location around it. So, we created a warm intimate interior by linking the venue’s two floors and using rich, characterful timber, deep brass, lobster pot lighting and an aqua colour palette.

4. Embrace technology

Technology in hospitality is always a delicate balancing act between the desire for customer convenience and removing the human connection we’ll all be striving for post-pandemic. The fact is though, hospitality tech can be a great way to create the theatrical experience we mentioned earlier and capture your customers’ attention. Mobile phone ordering and pre-payment was brought in to limit social contact in pubs during the Covid-19 restrictions and won’t be going anywhere soon.

But it’s self-service and take away we expect to see even more of in 2021, alongside a switch to targeting workers during the daytime in the same way coffee shops do – which means super-fast Wi-Fi and charging points integrated with work-friendly table design.

5. Thoughtful sustainability

Choice is becoming more and more essential and much of that will lie in the stables of all pubs – food and drink. Non-alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and sustainably sourced, local ingredients in a varied menu will set many pubs apart from their competitors and this is a trend that is set to stay. Customers, too, want to feel they’re part of something that promotes sustainability and are consistently looking for options that allow them to feel as if they’re playing their part. Everything from homegrown food and cutting down on waste, to energy-saving interiors and healthy eating are important, socially responsible movements that your brand needs to be part of.

6. A sense of community

Events and ideas that bring people together have never been more called-for after a year that has seen people pushed apart more than ever before. Your customers will be seeking that sense of community with like-minded people, and this could come from the events you hold at your venue, to how you work with other local businesses. Think ‘camaraderie’ and you won’t go too far wrong. 

In conclusion

The landscape for pubs and licensed venues has changed – but only in part because of the pandemic. Those who were already adapting their brands to cater for a new generation of customer are the brands who will get stronger faster as we move through the Covid reopening process.

About Harrison.

Harrison is an award-winning, global strategic architecture and design consultancy renowned for creating successful new hospitality concepts, transforming existing brands and operations, and designing distinctive spaces that deliver memorable guest experiences. With offices in London, Birmingham, Dallas and Melbourne, Harrison has partnered with major global brands as well as local independent businesses to deliver 6,000+ projects. The company’s approach focuses on the guest journey; enhancing their experience through a unique storytelling process which differentiates brands from their competition. Harrison is built on a reputation for creativity, passion and vision which is expressed in the breadth of its extensive portfolio built over the last 31 years. For more information, visit and follow Harrison on Instagram.