Designing a restaurant is about much more than pretty fabrics and original art. For a restaurant to be successful, not only should it be aesthetically pleasing, but the layout needs to be designed for ideal flow and efficiency. The kitchen and wait staff need to be able to navigate the floor with ease, and the bar and seating areas should be placed thoughtfully for optimal use of space and overall ambiance. “These critical components can make or break your space,” according to Avni Pathak, a local designer who specializes in restaurants.
What Avni loves most about working with restaurant owners is bringing their dreams to life. “I get to be the one that puts all of those inspiration photos and ideas into a vision and turn them into an actual space. It is an ever-changing landscape, and I get to change with it. I work with so many brilliant people with whom I get to collaborate. Walking into that finished space and seeing a client’s joy is indescribable!”
Jackie Mau and Kurt Mullican were inspired to create Grey’s Fine Cheese and Entertaining after a trip to Paris. “Our vision was to create a warm, inviting shop for customers to come and enjoy cheese and wine. We wanted the restaurant to have an international flair, so our customers would feel transported to Europe when they walked into our space.” After researching fromageries, Avni was able to incorporate custom-designed shelves and cabinets and a hand-crafted bar that turned Jackie and Kurt’s vision into a reality. With Avni’s help, Grey’s Cheese provides the Memphis community, and soon Nashville as well, with a unique opportunity to learn about and enjoy artisanal cheese and support small creameries throughout the world.
Avni worked with Stephanie Upshaw, owner of Bluff City Toffee, to turn her small space into a European-style confectionary, complete with a commercial kitchen, fulfillment and storage areas, and a retail store. Branding is very important to Stephanie, and Avni was able to take Bluff City Toffee’s existing colorful, striped packaging and work it into the overall design concept. The floor tiles mimic the products’ colors, the dots from the gable boxes appear on an accent wall, and decorative art and a hand-painted Memphis skyline all reflect the Bluff City Toffee brand.
The Tashie family, owners of Ciao Bella, hired Avni to help make their move to the Sanderlin Centre seamless. They told Avni, “We want to grow, but we don’t want to lose our foundation.” Avni was able to creatively incorporate elements from their existing restaurant to stay true to their Memphis legacy and loyal customer base, while adding new spaces, including a speakeasy and bakery, and custom lighting and acoustics.
Avni designs unique spaces for each client by getting to know them and understanding the story behind their concept. She makes it her job to listen and tap into the unique experiences clients discuss and incorporate those into the design. “Avni spent lots of time with us making sure she understood what we wanted for our cheese shop. She took our vision and brought it to life,” says Jackie. Stephanie adds, “Avni was delightful to work with and wanted to really understand the process of how toffee is made and how we move throughout the space.”
Avni works with a variety of different clients and all of her designed spaces have turned out completely different. Avni says, “I tell my clients early on that when the project is completed this space needs to be yours, not mine. I ask my clients questions throughout the process and design a space they fit into.”
Avni makes sure that each designed space reflects the owners; however, she brings her expertise in creating custom lighting and furniture to every project. She enjoys every aspect of the restaurant design process, including graphics, signage, menu design, art selection and flooring. Working on the restaurant’s overall theme and style, while curating all of the incredible details, is where Avni shines. With a bachelor’s in Interior Design and a master’s in Interiors and Architecture, Avni is well prepared and excited to take on any challenge!