- New 280-seater restaurant at the heart of CAMPUS Reading offering a varied menu for all cuisine styles
- BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and WELL ‘Platinum’ rated development with the latest in energy-efficient equipment
Described as “unlike any other building outside London” and located near the start of the new Elizabeth line, the recently transformed CAMPUS Reading International development now proudly stands out as one of the largest business hubs in the region. CAMPUS International boasts over 375,000 sq. ft of modern, efficient, and wellbeing-focused office space for corporate and collaborative tenants.
With aspirations for the building to achieve the prestigious BREEAM Excellent and WELL Platinum rating for sustainable projects that promote high standards of well-being, ifse were invited by the onsite caterer, Baxterstorey, to take part in a competitive design and build tender to put forward a proposal for the entirely new restaurant, café, and commercial kitchen space in the heart of the building.
By putting forward a modern, open, and bold design focusing on natural elements that complement the existing building fabric, the ifse design was selected for the space at CAMPUS by the client team Alchemy Asset Managers and the project management team, Quartz.
David Hughes, Director of Alchemy Asset Managers said of the design:
“On the day that they [ifse] presented, they had the best proposals in terms of the quality of the product, they demonstrated that they fully understood the brief, they had a price for the entire works that was within the budget set and their experience and track record in the market was substantially better than the competition”.
Our design ethos was to make the freshly prepared food front and centre of customers’ eyelines.
As the new CAMPUS Kitchen restaurant is now positioned next to ‘The Street’, the main thoroughfare connecting all areas of the building, our design focused on enticing users by featuring a tiered cake and pastry section, styled on Gail’s Bakery, to display an array of freshly made products.
Opposite our tiered bakery, the feature Green Bar sits proudly in the centre of the servery with an additional tiered section to display bountiful salads, fruits, and healthier options for diners to grab, add a protein at the main section and then travel through to the self-pay till.
Identified early as a popular menu item, ifse designed a stand-alone pizzeria section for freshly prepared pizzas using the dedicated double-deck LLK pizza oven.
Adding theatre and connoting that all food is freshly prepared, our rusted-metal-clad hot food counter hosts a Libero Theatre cooking suite, ready for the chef to finish meals in front of the customer. The wider counter also features ifse’s flexible hot system with removable hot ‘Ceran’ cooktops for seasonal menu flexibility.
In consultation with the onsite catering team, ifse introduced a pop-up section for authentic local street food and independent operators to cook, prepare and serve to the CAMPUS audience, ranging from Indian and Italian cuisine and everything in between.
With speed-of-service at the forefront of our scheme design, ifse worked with Baxterstorey to develop 4 separate self-pay stations. These allow diners to grab a bite from the hot section, pizzeria, bakery, health bar or grab-and-go space before paying for the items and heading out into the seating space as efficiently as possible.
With flexibility at the heart of the design ethos, the central Green Bar was designed to be easily converted into an evening drinks reception space, complete with an ice well and bottle fridges, ready for a town-hall meeting, product launch or awards event accompanied by a glass of champagne.
The main goal was to design a sustainability-focused commercial kitchen using the most energy-efficient equipment available on the market. The kitchen would feature Class A Electrolux refrigeration, high-efficiency Rational iCombi Combination ovens and iVario Cooking Suites for maximum menu and operational flexibility, whilst the cook line featured heavy-duty Electrolux induction technology.
To provide hospitality as well as serve the restaurant, the team designed an open centre island kitchen with clear lines of sight throughout the entire area, divided into defined zones to maximise the space and communication between each section.
For dirty returns, a heavy-duty conveyor dishwashing set-up was installed to ensure a rapid speed of washing for the vast number of covers expected in the restaurant. This high-efficiency unit was also consistent with the sustainable BREEAM requirements of the facility.
Striving to create a varied and inclusive space with a premium feel, the restaurant seating was designed to be open, airy, and modern with natural finishes and pops of colour throughout the various seating zones.
Catering to a diverse range of seating group configurations, the space hosts a combination of traditional dining tables, large ‘U’ shaped banquette seating, 6-seater ‘cave’ booths, plus linear banquette seating carefully installed around the curved ‘living’ planter wall.
Another exciting feature of the space was the bespoke wheel banquette option with seating on the outer ring and an interior circular booth for up to 5 people.
With natural light flooding the space from both sides, it was important to ensure that the furniture complemented the natural exposed finishes of the building fabric. To achieve this, our designers proposed a mix of natural leathers and earthy green materials across the soft seating area, effectively juxtaposed against contrasting wood tones to balance the scheme.
As the prominent meeting point in the building next to the reception, passers’ interest would now be grabbed by the vibrant, 1.5m neon ‘CAMPUS Kitchen’ sign, inviting users into the newly established café space.
Connected to the reception, the ifse team designed a stand-alone café, equipped with two barista-style coffee machines along with ample space for a range of grab-and-go products. The café, designed in a similar style to the reception, featured rusted metal counter fronts with a dark grey one-piece Corian countertop.
With employee and user wellness at the forefront of the development philosophy, it was paramount to our design to bring the outside, inside. Therefore, the scheme featured a unique 10-meter curved living wall at the centre of our environment, overflowing with growing foliage and dangling plants.
In a large open space like the restaurant at CAMPUS, resounding noise was an issue identified early on by the team. To reduce the potential for noise travel, acoustic rafts were fitted around the high-traffic seating areas, near the kitchen and above the booths to ensure that the noise remained at a harmonious level for all users.
Learning from the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, the new restaurant not only promotes an inclusive space for customers and guests to interact but in the interest of futureproofing, it also harnesses the power of technology to create a contactless environment. Digital signage and marketing now play a pivotal role in front-of-house service as well as behind-the-scenes, with the restaurant providing options for online ordering, click-and-collect, delivery, scan, pay-and-go and self-service.
With the project working towards a firm open date, the project was initially set with a tight 12 weeks turn-around time for the full refurbishment.
Receiving the scheme from shell and core, ifse were responsible for all aspects of the project from building modifications to FF&E specification and installation.
Steven Hussey, ifse project lead said:
“As with any project of this size, there were always going to be challenges, mostly around the availability of products and supply chains. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work through options with Alchemy and put forward alternatives when required”
David from Alchemy, summarised:
“We were very pleased with the way ifse delivered the project on time within the tight programme”.
Launching to rave reviews as a new ‘pioneering era’ in workplace dining, David from Alchemy provided the final comments on the successful fit-out:
“Feedback from the tenants has been fantastic, they acknowledge that the offer that we have here is a major step up when compared to what was there before. We now look very much forward to filling up the rest of the vacant space and bringing a lot more customers into this wonderful new restaurant”.
Michael Cunningham, Operations Director for the onsite caterer, Baxterstorey added:
“The whole project was managed with great professionalism by the ifse Team. Communication throughout the project was excellent at every level and the end results were breath-taking and delivered within the project timeline.
I am delighted that ifse has helped demonstrate the quality of BaxterStorey’s preferred supplier partnership on this critical project.”