Design firm Party/Space/Design, led by Suparat “Toh” Chinathaworn, 35, and Kijtanes “Him” Kajornrattanadech, 32, are behind some of the most singular restaurants in town: Too Fast To Sleep, Hands and Hearts, Thinking Outside the Fox. The list goes on with Baa Ga Din, the street food-turned-fine-dining restaurant which was recognized at Thailand’s Demark Awards 2016, and dessert cafe Shugaa, shortlisted for next month’s UK Restaurant and Bar Design Awards 2016. Here, the founders discuss the future of Bangkok’s restaurant scene.
How did P/S/D start?
Toh: We both had experience working in design at Design Lab [a local design company]. However, when we first founded our company we didn’t only want to design restaurants. We’re a small interior company, so we can’t compete with the big guns like A49. But we’ve been lucky to have had really good clients, like Too Fast Too Sleep and Wine Republic, for whom we’ve overseen both their design and branding. The latter was a real challenge because all previous six restaurants in the same location had failed. We decided to break all the rules and tear the space down and start all over again.
What are the crucial parts of designing a restaurant?
Toh: Design isn’t everything. People always think good design equals good sales. This is completely false. Design accounts for only 30 percent. The other 70 percent is who you are: is your food is delicious? Is the seating suitable? Do you have good service? People might want to take a picture when you first open, but that doesn’t assure repeat visits.
What do you make of Bangkok’s restaurant scene?
Him: There are so many restaurants opening, but the ones who survive have a good balance between quality food and service along with quality design.
Toh: You can’t succeed with the old methods anymore. People are willing to travel wherever others say is good. Things like Michelin stars make going to a restaurant like a mission nowadays. People now have such high expectations it’s a challenge to live up to them.
How do feel about copycat restaurants?
Him: I look at this question from the perspective of someone who wants to be a restaurant owner. They’ve scoured Pinterest for pretty restaurants they like. The food is another matter. The cooking schools here don’t offer much variety. And graduates want to open their restaurant right away without learning the ropes in a reputed kitchen first. The outcome are places full of carbonara and duck confit.
So, what’s next for restaurant trends?
Toh: People are looking beyond design to develop a good story. Say you hashtag “Thai food” in your Instagram, that’s boring. But if you specifically describe yourself as redefining the story of kanom krok, that will attract people. There’s so much room to be creative.
Which neighborhoods do you like the most?
Toh: I love Thonglor, where our company is based. It’s the cream of the crop when it comes to food trends. Thonglor people may be rich, but they don’t always have expensive taste. There are people who drive Lamborghinis who will hop out in their shorts to sip a coffee at The Commons. They’ll try anything once.
Him: Sure, Thonglor and Ekkamai are trendy, but there are tons of old-school eats like guay jub, beef noodles and tam sang like our beloved Jay Nong.
Thinking Ouside the Fox
Too Fast To Sleep
Hands and Heart
See also: Bangkok restaurants with amazing decor