Looking Ahead with Allison Cooke

January 18, 2017
Allison Cooke. Photography by Greg Powers.

Emerging F&B trends
In the DC area, [there’s] an increasing interest in food halls or multi-venue concepts. These allow emerging F&B entrepreneurs to enter the market more easily and connect consumers to their communities.
We’re seeing smaller scale spinoffs from existing brands—for example chefs with full-service restaurants entering the quick-service space—[as well as] more chef collaborations and pop-up or temporary restaurants that can stay small or be a possible launchpad for larger concepts. They let chefs test the waters, try new formats, and show investors their viability. We’ve also seen a shift for full-service restaurants to be much smaller and more intimate—between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet.

Overused concepts

Any place that is generically calling itself a craft cocktail bar. It’s the equivalent of saying you are a farm-to-table restaurant seven years ago.

Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters in Arlington, Virginia.

Dining innovation
I’m interested in the challenges of adapting fast-casual concepts to a more automated experience. How do you convey the brand experience without as much human interaction and still maintain loyalty and quality of service? I’m also interested in working more with emerging innovative developers who see the value in planning for a retail and F&B community in their projects. I love the blurring of project sectors that used to be so siloed 10 years ago. Residential buildings and offices want to offer hotel-like amenities, and the hospitality POV touches every project we work on in some way.

Outside influences
Fashion, art, and industrial design are our go-to inspirations—but travel inspires me the most. Seeing other concepts, cultures, and observing people interacting in all types of public space is so interesting. The best designers and architects are good students of human behavior.

Cotton & Reed. Photography by Ron Ngiam.

Recent CORE projects
We’ve finished Junction Bakery & Bistro [in Alexandria, Virginia] and Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters [in Arlington, Virginia]; and in Washington, DC, custom spirits distillery Cotton & Reed, the Woodley Park Pantry (at the Marriott Wardman Park), and the in-office café at the American Enterprise Institute.