Spanish & Croatian creatives supporting European hospitality businesses
Their team locations are truly the most attractive spots in Europe. Not only that, but each area of their business covers a range of creative deliverables for the hospitality sector. In gastronomy, they cover market and customer profiling, brief and menu development, food and drink creations, implementation and training and operations support. When it comes to branding, they cover everything from brand creation and positioning, visual identity and signage, uniform and menu design, and web design.
Design with a pinch of smile stands for architecture, interior design, retail and offices.
This innovative and super-specialised team brings to life a diverse range of projects, not only that, they praise themselves with delivering commercial success. We had a chat with Nataša Ivanišević, co-founder and a licensed architect in Croatia and Spain.
How was the idea born, and how did you assemble the team?
Our team members have been collaborating together almost from their student years.
We found this multidisciplinary approach and full service as an added value we could offer to our clients, whether it’s for little quick fixes for existing operations or fully-encompassing concept delivery.
While working on our very first global brand Bocca Buona, a chain of Italian restaurants where we look after everything from strategy, food & drinks creation to design of the brand and all the amenities through to implementation and operational support. We have also created our own brand A Pinch of Design as we wanted to give a recognisable image to our group of like-minded individuals.
What is the connection between Croatia and Spain?
Croatia and Spain are two countries where we have been studying, working and spent most of our lives which enabled us to create a network of partners providing specialist knowledge and additional support when needed, not only in these two countries but across Europe and beyond.
Your team consists of established professionals, how do you coordinate projects and their availability?
Good organisation is halfway to success. We always discuss the assignment first and try to define a very precise time schedule to our clients, depending on the number of projects we are working on and we stick to our planned delivery time which is always appreciated. We have arranged the internal structure of our group, although we didn’t want to allocate too strict functions as we aim to give a Pinch of fun to everything we do.
Thus, you can find a Snack Boss or Plating Manager covering different aspects of work, but we try to keep a horizontal hierarchy between our team members.
One of the projects was for the Royal Hotel Copenhagen, the world’s first design hotel, where your Jeffrey Vella was in charge of the menu styling.
Exactly, the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen was designed by Arne Jacobsen, who was responsible not only for the architecture but also for all the interior details, from the bespoke carpets to the light fixtures and even the glasses and cutlery used in the restaurant – truly our role model.
Jeffrey Vella has created the concept design, the menu, trained the staff and launched Café Royal Brasserie in this newly renovated establishment.
A colourful hotel lobby in Zürich, Switzerland, kitchen design in Antwerp, Belgium, a hotel redesign of the Radisson Blu Royal Astorija in Vilnius, Lithuania, or a restaurant and pavilion design at the Gran Canaria, Spain, sound magic. How do you manage the infrastructure and operations of your projects?
Surprisingly well. From the moment we have been selected as designers for a particular project, the implementation structure was clear. Our task was to provide a completely defined design and project documentation that is forwarded to the investors and the project manager on the site.
Of course, adjustments of designs are an integral part of the work until the project is fully approved by all responsible. Emails and e-conferencing have been our usual ways of communication for years.
Once the construction starts we keep in constant consultation with the contractors and supervise the works with regular site visits if possible.
And something different – can you tell us a bit more about the project in Croatia, Kutina, of the forest trail?
We have designed a 3 km long trail in forests of Kutina, equipped with educational info panels presenting interesting facts about the forest life and its surroundings with a design specially adapted to the younger age.
The aim was to encourage the use and further emphasize the recreational, tourist and health benefits of the woods by making them more accessible to the visitors.
This project is the result of a multidisciplinary work together with our colleagues from the Faculty of Architecture, University of Zagreb and is currently being under construction.
What is your experience of working across Europe? Are there more or less difficult locations?
In general, we have a very positive experience in all the countries we have been working mainly due to the fact that our role as assigned experts was fully respected to the point that no detail could have been changed on the site without our approval.
Naturally, there were many strugglings with the budget, clients, flight delays or language barriers but nowadays, when we are all locked down at our homes, all those locations we visited and places we designed do sound like real magic.
One of the interesting projects is Zadar Airport?
Our Head of Tasting, Nataša Ivanišević, forms part of the awarded team in the international competition for the new passengers terminal of Zadar airport. The project included the architectural design of arrival and departure terminals, administration offices, shops, restaurants and bars for the planned 2.5 million passengers. Unfortunately, Zadar airport’s expansion plans are now pending due to the current situation.
How does COVID-19 affect your projects currently?
The hospitality sector has been strongly affected which postponed many projects for the immediate future. It’s hard to predict when tourism will recover and what the new normal will look like.
Just somewhere between the first lockdown and the earthquake in Zagreb, we have been working on the new hotel brand creation for the USA market. We are now patiently waiting for international projects to start moving again and to continue discovering the globe.